Bench expunges disparaging remarks against Om Prakash Chautala

The Supreme Court on Friday cautioned High Courts against making disparaging remarks against high constitutional functionaries like the Chief Minister, without giving them an opportunity to defend themselves.

Reputation is nobility in itself which a conscientious man would never barter, not for all the tea in China “or, for that matter, all the pearls of the sea…When reputation is hurt, a man is half-dead. It is an honour which deserves to be preserved by the downtrodden and the privileged,” said a Bench of Justices Anil R. Dave and Dipak Misra

Writing the judgment, Justice Misra said reputation “is dear to life and on some occasions it is dearer than life. And that is why it has become an inseparable facet of Article 21 of the Constitution.”

In this case, a judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court commented on the conduct of the appellant, Om Prakash Chautala, former Chief Minister of Haryana, in a case of suspension of an employee and further directed recovery of the interest component awarded to him from the appellant though he was not party to the writ petition. A Division Bench refused to expunge the remarks and the appeal is directed against this judgment.

The Supreme Court said: “The duty of restraint and the humility of function have to be the constant theme for a judge for, the said quality in decision-making is as much necessary for judges to command respect as to protect the independence of the judiciary… a judge is not to be guided by any kind of notion. He is expected to be guided by the established norms of judicial process and decorum. A judgment may have rhetoric but the said rhetoric has to be dressed with reason and must be in accord with the legal principles. Otherwise, a mere rhetoric, especially in a judgment, is likely to cause prejudice to a person, and courts are not expected to give any kind of prejudicial remarks against a person, especially so, when he is not a party before it.”

The Bench said: “Disparaging remarks, as recorded by the single judge, are not necessary for arriving at the decision which he has rendered…The appellant was not a party before the court and he was never afforded an opportunity to explain his conduct. On a studied scrutiny of the judgment in entirety, we have no hesitation in holding that the observations made by the learned single judge were really not necessary and we expunge these remarks.”

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