The Supreme Court has yet again deprecated the practice of summoning public officials to court, stating that “a practice has developed in certain High Courts to call officers at the drop of a hat and to exert direct or indirect pressure.” (State of UP vs Manoj Kumar Sharma)
A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said that courts have to command respect and not demand it and respect towards the Court is not enhanced by calling government officers to the court.
“The dignity and majesty of the Court is not enhanced when an officer is called to court. Respect to the court has to be commanded and not demanded and the same is not enhanced by calling public officers,” the top court said in its judgment.
The Court further noted that the presence of public officer comes at the cost of other official engagement demanding their attention. Sometimes, the officers even have to travel long distance, it added.
The observations made in a judgment delivered on a plea by a medical officer who was posted from Uttarakhand to Uttar Pradesh. However, the person did not join the service at Badaun in Uttar Pradesh and instead insisted on being posted at Bijnore or Ghaziabad.
After a addressing a letter seeking to be posted somewhere else, he did not join service in Badaun in 2003. Thereafter the circle of litigation for back wages, contempt and non-joining of services began.
In one such plea before the High Court, when an action against the appellant was stayed, the authorities had initiated contempt action against him since he did not join duty.
The Allahabad High Court had then called Secretary, Medical Health and sought his attendance “in person.”
This, the top court, noted was “disturbing.”
It said that a practice has developed in certain High Courts to call officers at the drop of a hat and to exert direct or indirect pressure.
“The line of separation of powers between Judiciary and Executive is sought to be crossed by summoning the officers and in a way pressurizing them to pass an order as per the whims and fancies of the Court. The public officers of the Executive are also performing their duties as the third limbs of the governance,” the apex court said.
It further stated that the actions or decisions by the officers are not to benefit them, but as a custodian of public funds and in the interest of administration, some decisions are bound to be taken.
“It is always open to the High Court to set aside the decision which does not meet the test of judicial review but summoning of officers frequently is not appreciable at all. The same is liable to be condemned in the strongest words,” the Bench said.
The Court, therefore, reiterated that public officers should not be called to court unnecessarily.
The Supreme Court also upheld the decision of the State to not pay him back wages since the medical officer “could not have dictated the place of posting without even joining the place where he was first posted.”