New Delhi, March 11 The Supreme Court has said it was not proper for high courts to routinely summon government officials just to satisfy their egos. The court said that it should only be done in rare and exceptional cases.
The court said that judges should have "modesty and humility" in exercising their power, otherwise it may play havoc.
"If we do not respect each other (the judiciary and the executive) the system will collapse," the court said.
"We are pained to observe that despite our decision many high courts are persisting in summoning executive officials where it was not absolutely necessary to summon them," said the apex court bench of Justice Markandey Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Misra in their order Wednesday.
The court said this while setting aside the interim order of the Allahabad High Court Nov 13, 2003 and Dec 18, 2003 summoning the principal secretary, Finance, along with principal secretary, medical and health, of the Uttar Pradesh government, respectively.
"We are coming across many orders where high court judges are summoning the executive officials routinely, casually and sometimes even at the drop of a hat. This is not proper," the court said.
The high court had asked these officials to appear in person to answer the non-compliance of the High Court judgment of November 15, 1989 and December 13, 1989.
The order said: "We are constrained to make these observations because we are repeatedly coming across a large number of cases where such orders summoning high officials care being passed by the high courts and often it is only for the ego satisfaction of the learned judge."
"Judges should not have any ego problems. In particular, members of the higher judiciary (high court and Supreme Court) should have a great modesty and humility. This is because the higher one moves in the hierarchy, the greater becomes his power," the order said.
"Hence, unless one has modesty and humility, he may play havoc. High court judges have tremendous powers, but the beauty lies in not exercising those powers except where absolutely necessary," the court said.
"Flaunting these powers unnecessarily only brings judiciary into disrepute."
The judges said that "it is only in some extreme cases where the high court is convinced that deliberately the orders of the court have been ignored in the spirit of defiance that it may summon the officials to explain why the orders of the court have not been complied with."
"If high court finds that its order has not been complied with, it shall first see whether the order can be complied with without summoning any official and for that purpose it can ask the advocate general, additional advocate general… to communicate to the concerned official that there is some order of the court which has not been complied with."
It said that, ordinarily, this will suffice "because we see no reason as to why the executive authorities will not comply with the orders of the court".
"The system functions on mutual respect between the judiciary and the executive. While the judiciary must respect the executive, at the same time, the executive must also respect the judiciary. If we do not respect each other the system will collapse," the court said.
The court said that the copies of its order should be sent to the registrar general of the high courts who in turn would circulate the copies to judges.
The judges said that the chief justices of the high court will bring the judgment to the notice of the judges with a request that it should be followed both in letter and spirit.
The court said that a copy of the order should also be sent to union cabinet secretary and chief secretaries in states.