Thursday, 10 July 2014

Whether judge can alter Judgment after it is signed?


Holding that any addition, deletion or modification of the contents of a judgment will tantamount to alteration of the judgment, the Madras High Court Bench here has held that judges are not entitled to make such alterations after affixing their signatures in the judgments and pronouncing them in open court.
A Division Bench of Justices V. Ramasubramanian and V.M. Velumani passed the ruling on a writ appeal filed by former DMK Minister N. Suresh Rajan of Nagercoil.
The appellant had challenged administrative instructions issued by the High Court’s Registrar last year to a lower court judge hearing a disproportionate assets case against him.
The Registrar had instructed the lower court on July 23, 2013, to speed up framing of charges in the case. The instruction was issued on the basis of docket orders passed by a single judge after he disposed of in open court on July 10, 2013, a criminal revision petition filed by Mr. Rajan against interim attachment of his properties.
Writing the judgment for the Division Bench, Mr. Justice Ramasubramanian said: “Every word, every letter and every punctuation mark in a judgment is of significance. A single fault on the phonetics committed by King Pandia resulted in the execution of Kovalan in Silapathikaram (one of the five great Tamil epics).
“An alteration may be a material alteration or an immaterial alteration or insignificant alteration. But nevertheless, an alteration in relation to a judgment is always significant. This is why the law recognises suo motu power of review only in relation to insignificant and immaterial alterations such as correction of clerical or arithmetical errors.
“The very fact that the insignificant and immaterial changes are expressly allowed by law to be carried out would show that the general rule is that every material or immaterial change will tantamount to alteration of a judgment. Therefore, even an addition to a judgment would tantamount to alteration.”
He said: “Directions issued on the administrative side in a manner that is likely to instil any psychosis, fear or otherwise, on the part of the trial Judge or administrative directions that may give room for an impression that the High Court is monitoring the progress of the case, cannot be issued behind the back of the parties. “This is on account of the fact that the bedrock of administration of justice as it stands today, is based upon the premise that justice should not only be done but should also appear to have been done.”
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