Sunday, 8 September 2019

Supreme Court: High court should not impose costs on Judge of subordinate court

Having held so, the High Court made certain observations against
the appellant questioning his bona fide and casting aspersions on
his integrity and also accused him of favouring Mr. R.M. Singh.
The High Court also directed on the judicial side that the matter
be referred on the administrative side for an appropriate action.
As far as the remarks are concerned, we are clearly of the view
that all the adverse remarks in the judgment made against
appellant, whereby his integrity has been questioned or whereby
aspersions have been cast on his character, judicial orders or
otherwise are bound to be expunged.
This Court in a number of cases has cautioned that
remarks against judicial officers should normally not be passed in
judgments. We follow a system where the judgment of a Court is
subject to judicial scrutiny by Higher Courts. The judgment may be
right or wrong, but the Higher Courts should not pass scathing
remarks against the presiding officer of the lower courts only
because they do not agree with the point of view of the Trial
Court.

In the present case, the remarks especially those in para 15
cast aspersions on the integrity of the judicial officer. Even if
the High Court felt as strongly as it did that action needed to be
taken, then the proper course was to place the matter before the
Chief Justice on the administrative side with a request that action
be taken against the concerned judicial officer. In this case, the
High Court did that but in addition passed the scathing remarks
which virtually meant that the appellant stood condemned even
before any disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him.
The High Court can definitely say that the order passed shows
total lack of knowledge of law. But when the High Court went
further and virtually castigated the judicial officer as an
unworthy and corrupt person then the High Court, in our view,
over-stepped its boundaries and such remarks need to be expunged.
We, accordingly, expunge all such remarks and direct deletion
of para 15 of the judgment.
We also set aside the order in so far as the imposition of
costs of Rs.10,000/- on the appellant is concerned. Normally,
costs are not imposed on the presiding officer of the Court and
this practice should not be encouraged.
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOs. 6634 of 2019

SURENDRA PRASAD MISHRA Vs  SMT. RAMAWATI & ORS. 
Dated: August 16, 2019.

Leave granted.
The appellant, a judicial officer, was holding the post of
Motor Accident Claims Tribunal at the relevant time. A claim
petition was filed before him in which vakalatnama was filed by two
counsel Mr. R.M. Singh and Mr. D.K. Saxena. The matter was settled
between the claimant and the Insurance Company and the settlement
petition was filed and signed by Mr. D.K. Saxena. At that time,
Mr. R.M. Singh raised an objection that his fees had not been paid
and that the compromise should not be recorded. The appellant
herein accepted the request of Mr. R.M. Singh and held that the
compromise petition could only be filed through Mr. R.M. Singh and
not by Mr. D.K. Saxena. He came to the conclusion that since
vakalatnama bears a sum of Rs.10/- for the Advocates Welfare Fund,
one lawyer can only be authorized and not more.
This order was challenged. The High Court rightly set aside
the order. It is not for any Court to settle the dispute between
the lawyers with regard to payment of fees. If there is any

misconduct on the part of the lawyer in taking up the brief of
another lawyer, normally it is for the Bar Council and not for the
Court to settle the dispute. It was rightly held by the High Court
that the claimants in the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal should not
be made to suffer because of the dispute between the lawyers.
Having held so, the High Court made certain observations against
the appellant questioning his bona fide and casting aspersions on
his integrity and also accused him of favouring Mr. R.M. Singh.
The High Court also directed on the judicial side that the matter
be referred on the administrative side for an appropriate action.
As far as the remarks are concerned, we are clearly of the view
that all the adverse remarks in the judgment made against
appellant, whereby his integrity has been questioned or whereby
aspersions have been cast on his character, judicial orders or
otherwise are bound to be expunged.
This Court in a number of cases has cautioned that
remarks against judicial officers should normally not be passed in
judgments. We follow a system where the judgment of a Court is
subject to judicial scrutiny by Higher Courts. The judgment may be
right or wrong, but the Higher Courts should not pass scathing
remarks against the presiding officer of the lower courts only
because they do not agree with the point of view of the Trial
Court.
In Ishwari Prasad Mishra v. Mohammad Isa [(1963) 3 SCR 722],
this Court observed as follows:
“No doubt, if it is shown that the decision of the
trial court in a given case is a result of a corrupt
motive, the High Court must condemn it and must take

due further steps in the matter. But the use of
strong language and imputation of corrupt motives
should not be made light-heartedly because the Judge
against whom the imputations are made has no remedy
in law to vindicate his position.
There is no doubt that judicial administration
should be fearless; judges must have full freedom to
express their conclusions in respect of the evidence
given by the witnesses before them without any favour
or fear; and so, judicial power to express its
appreciation about oral evidence is very wide. But
the very width of the said power must inevitably
impose some healthy restraints upon its exercise.”
In K.P. Tiwari v. State of Madhya Pradesh [AIR 1994 SC 1031],
this Court observed as follows:
“The higher courts every day come across orders of
the lower courts which are not justified either in
law or in fact and modify them or set them aside.
That is one of the functions of the superior courts.
Our legal system acknowledges the fallibility of the
judges and hence provides for appeals and revisions.
A judge tries to discharge his duties to the best of
his capacity. While doing so, sometimes, he is
likely to err.
It is possible that a particular judicial officer
may be consistently passing orders creating a
suspicion of judicial conduct which is not wholly or
even partly attributable to innocent functioning.
Even in such cases, the proper course for the higher
court to adopt is to make note of his conduct in the
confidential record of his work and to use it on
proper occasions. The judges in the higher courts
have also a duty to ensure judicial discipline and
respect for the judiciary from all concerned. The
respect for the judiciary is not enhanced when judges
at the lower level are criticized intemperately and
castigated publicly. No greater damage can be done
to the administration of justice and to the
confidence of the people in the judiciary than when
the judges of the higher courts publicly express lack
of faith in the subordinate judges for one reason or
the other. It must be remembered that the officers
against whom such strictures are publicly passed,
stand condemned for ever in the eyes of their
subordinates and of the members of the public. No
better device can be found to destroy the judiciary
from within. The judges must, therefore, exercise
self-restraint. There are ways and ways of
expressing disapproval of the orders of the
subordinate courts but attributing motives to them is

certainly not one of them. That is the surest way to
take the judiciary downhill.”
In Parkash Singh Teji v. Northern India Goods Transport Co.
Pvt. Ltd. and Anr. [(2009) 12 SCC 577], this Court observed as
follows:
“We are not undermining the ultimate decision of
the High Court in remitting the matter to the trial
court for fresh disposal. However, we are
constrained to observe that the higher courts every
day come across orders of the lower courts which are
not justified either in law or in fact and modify
them or set them aside. Our legal system
acknowledges the fallibility of the Judges, hence it
provides for appeals and revisions. A Judge tries to
discharge his duties to the best of his capacity,
however, sometimes is likely to err. It has to be
noted that the lower judicial officers mostly work
under a charged atmosphere and are constantly under
psychological pressure. They do not have the
benefits which are available in the higher courts.
In those circumstances, remarks/observations and
strictures are to be avoided particularly if the
officer has no occasion to put forth his reasonings.”
In ‘K’ A Judicial Officer v. Registrar General, High Court of
A.P. [AIR 2010 SC 2801], this Court held as under:-
“….the Division Bench of the High Court may be fully
justified in setting aside the order of injunction,
but there was absolutely no justification for the
Division Bench to make highly disparaging remarks
against the appellant as a judicial officer casting
doubts on his ability to decide the cases
objectively. The use of the words ‘out of sheer
arrogance and disrespect to the lawful order’ and the
expression ‘judicial authoritarianism’ in paragraph
10 shows that the Division Bench ignored the words of
caution administered by this Court in several
judgments including those referred to hereinabove and
castigated the appellant without any justification.
The observations and remarks made by the Division
Bench of the High Court are bound to adversely affect
the image of the appellant in the eyes of the public,
his credibility as a judicial officer and also
affects his career. We are sure that if the Division
Bench of the High Court had kept in view the
judgments of this Court, it would not have made
disparaging remarks against the appellant, which, in

the facts and circumstances of the case, were not at
all called for.”
In the present case, the remarks especially those in para 15
cast aspersions on the integrity of the judicial officer. Even if
the High Court felt as strongly as it did that action needed to be
taken, then the proper course was to place the matter before the
Chief Justice on the administrative side with a request that action
be taken against the concerned judicial officer. In this case, the
High Court did that but in addition passed the scathing remarks
which virtually meant that the appellant stood condemned even
before any disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him.
The High Court can definitely say that the order passed shows
total lack of knowledge of law. But when the High Court went
further and virtually castigated the judicial officer as an
unworthy and corrupt person then the High Court, in our view,
over-stepped its boundaries and such remarks need to be expunged.
We, accordingly, expunge all such remarks and direct deletion
of para 15 of the judgment.
We also set aside the order in so far as the imposition of
costs of Rs.10,000/- on the appellant is concerned. Normally,
costs are not imposed on the presiding officer of the Court and
this practice should not be encouraged.
Learned counsel for the appellant states that as far as the
administrative action is concerned, it has already been dropped and
he is not pressing relief in this regard.
The civil appeal is accordingly allowed and we direct
expunging of all remarks made against the appellant and further

direct that para 15 of the impugned judgment shall stand deleted
for all intents and purposes.
…....................J.
[DEEPAK GUPTA]
…....................J.
[ANIRUDDHA BOSE]
NEW DELHI;
August 16, 2019.

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