Legal Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has asked the High Courts to exercise caution while summoning senior government officials to be present in the court for certain lapses.

“A large number of cases have come before this court where we find that judges of various High Courts have been summoning the Chief Secretary, Secretaries to the government [Central and State], Directors-General of Police, Director, CBI or BSF or other senior officials of the government.”

“There is no doubt that the High Court has power to summon these officials, but in our opinion that should be done in very rare and exceptional cases when there are compelling circumstances to do so. Such summoning orders should not be passed lightly or as a routine or at the drop of a hat,” said a Bench of Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice Markandey Katju.

Writing the judgment Justice Katju said, “Judges should have modesty and humility. They should realise that summoning a senior official, except in some very rare and exceptional situation, and that too for compelling reasons, is counter-productive and may also involve heavy expenses and valuable time of the official concerned.”

In the instant case the Gujarat High Court by an interim order dated April 11, 2007 summoned the State Chief Secretary and Law Secretary in relation to the steps taken in a criminal case. Aggrieved against this order the Gujarat Government filed the present appeal.

Setting aside the impugned order, the Bench said: “The judiciary must have respect for the executive and the legislature. Judges should realise that officials like the Chief Secretary, Secretary to the government, Commissioners, District Magistrates, senior police officials, etc, are extremely busy persons.

“If they are summoned by the court they will, of course, appear before the court, but then a lot of public money and time may be unnecessarily wasted. Sometimes High Court Judges summon high officials in far-off places not realising that it entails heavy expenditure coupled with public money and valuable time.