The Supreme Court on Tuesday slammed Justice Shylendra Kumar for using intemperate language in the Karnataka High Court questioning the administrative authority of Chief Justice P.D. Dinakaran in posting cases.
A vacation Bench of Justices Deepak Verma and K.S. Radhakrishnan, while staying the interim orders passed by a Division Bench headed by Justice Kumar, said: “We are of the considered opinion that it would be inappropriate for any judicial matter to be discussed extra-judicially, that is, apart from hearing it in the court.”
The judges made it clear that at present Justice Dinakaran (who is facing allegations of land-grab) was not taking up judicial matters “but continues to function as Chief Justice for all purposes on the administrative side including fixing rosters, which, according to us, is exclusively his prerogative.”
“Since the matter pertains to judicial discipline, we direct the Registrar of this court to bring it to the notice of the Chief Justice of India [Justice S.H. Kapadia]. The Registrar is further directed to convey this order to the Registrar-General of the High Court telephonically as also by fax.”
The controversy arose as a Bench headed by Justice Kumar asked the Registry to post before it a tax referred case (TRC) on a particular date. When it was not listed for that day, the Bench sought an explanation from the Registrar-General and also the Registry. The Registrar-General told the court that the case was not posted for that date following the orders of the Chief Justice. The Bench questioned the decision of the Chief Justice and passed four interim orders, which were challenged by the High Court in a special leave petition before the Supreme Court.
When senior counsel Uday Holla, appearing for the High Court, said “it pains me a lot,” Justice Verma orally observed: “I am part of the system and I have tears in my eyes. Let us hope good sense will prevail on him [Justice Kumar].”
On Mr. Holla's submissions that various details were sought by the Division Bench from the High Court Registrar-General and the Registrar (Judicial), the judges said: “We have critically gone through the interim orders passed on different dates. Several queries and details are being sought for by the Division Bench, which in our considered opinion, prima facie do not appear to be relevant and germane to the facts of the main matter which is being heard by the Bench.”
The 1998 judgment
Earlier, Mr. Holla read the 1998 judgment in the case of State of Rajasthan vs. Prakash Chand and others, which said: “By casting aspersion on the judges personally or using intemperate language against them, the critics, whoever they may be, strike a blow at the prestige of the institution and erode its credibility. That must be avoided at all costs. The foundation of our system, which is based on the independence and impartiality of those who man it, will be shaken if disparaging and derogatory remarks are permitted to be made against brother judges with impunity. It is high time we realised that the much cherished judicial independence has to be protected not only from outside forces but also from those who are an integral part of the system.”
The judgment further said: “It needs no emphasis to say that all actions of a judge must be judicious in character. Erosion of the credibility of the judiciary in the public mind, for whatever reasons, is the greatest threat to the independence of the judiciary. The administrative control of the High Court vests in the Chief Justice alone. The Chief Justice is the Master of the Roster. He alone has the prerogative to constitute Benches and allocate cases to the Benches so constituted. Puisne judges can only do that work as is allotted to them by the Chief Justice or under his directions.”
The vacation Bench held that the orders passed by the Division Bench of the High Court were in complete defiance of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in the1998 judgment, wherein it was stated how puisne judges were required to conduct themselves while dealing with judicial matters. “The said directions have not been taken into consideration by the Division Bench,” the judges held. While issuing notice to the parties concerned in the special leave petition, the Bench posted the matter to the fourth week of July.