Monday, May 16, 2011

Only CJ can issue circulars to lower courts

AHMEDABAD: A division bench of the Gujarat high court has held that no judge of the high court, except the chief justice, can direct the registry to issue circulars regulating functioning of lower courts.

Justice M R Shah had earlier set a deadline for a lower court in Surat to dispose off certain civil suits.

However, the court could not complete proceeding within stipulated time, and the high court was approached to seek more time. This irked the judge, who expressed pain at non-compliance with the high court orders by lower judiciary.

In May last year, Justice Shah issued directions under the Article 226 of the Constitution that the high court registry should issue a circular to all principal district and sessions judges asking them to maintain separate registers to check and monitor development in cases every month, wherein the high court orders speedy trial. Justice Shah ordered for this arrangement to see that high court's directions are strictly complied with.

However, the registrar general of the high court challenged this order before a division bench on the ground that issuance of such directions by a single judge amounts to usurping the powers of the administrative side of the high court and the chief justice. The registrar general wanted to get the instructions regarding issuance of circular deleted.

During the proceeding before the bench headed by Chief Justice S J Mukhopadhaya, high court's standing counsel Shalin Mehta contended that such power lies with the high court in its administrative side under the Article 235 of the Constitution. Such matters are usually taken up by the high court it its meeting in chamber, which means full court.

Justice Shah cannot issue such direction thereby taking away the power of the administrative side of the high court, he added.

It was also argued that the high court registry and registrars are under direct control of the chief justice and remain in his exclusive domain as envisaged under the Article 229 of the Constitution.

Advocate Mehta cited earlier orders by the Supreme Court and high courts stating that issuance of such directions by any brother judge would amount to usurping the constitutional powers of the chief justice resulting in judicial arm-twisting of the chief justice and would constitute a serious inroads in the exclusive administrative powers of the chief justice.

After hearing the case, the division bench decided to delete the paragraphs from the order in which directions were issued by Justice Shah to issue a circular.

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