Trust in judiciary can’t be frittered away by show of power: SC

New Delhi: The Supreme Court said it was shocked by the Allahabad High Court order, which summoned Uttar Pradesh government officers in a contempt case, despite the proceedings having been stayed by it.

A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said: “The frequent, causal and lackadaisical summoning of high officials by the Court cannot be appreciated. We may add that this does not mean that in compelling situations, the same cannot be done but the object cannot be to humiliate senior officials.”

The bench noted that the trust, faith and confidence of the common man in the judiciary cannot be frittered away by unnecessary and unwarranted show or exercise of power.

“Greater the power, greater should be the responsibility in exercising such power,” it said.

The top court said once the order of which contempt was alleged was stayed, there would be no cause for calling the officers as there was no question of any non-compliance of the order.

Its order came on a plea filed by the Uttar Pradesh government through advocate Vishnu Shankar Jain.

Noting that the apex court “has even on various occasions through judicial pronouncements deprecated the practice of unnecessarily calling officers to Court”, the bench said that it is not as if this aspect was not brought to the notice of the judge dealing with the contempt petition, as an application was filed for exemption from personal appearance.

“However, the exemption from personal appearance was granted only for the date of March 2, and the matter was listed on April 8, once again directing both the officers to remain present in court in pursuance to an earlier order dated February 5,” it observed.

The bench said it was unnecessary harassment of the officers and there was no occasion to pass the order on March 2, which has resulted in the petitioners being compelled to move the present application.

The top court stayed the order passed by the High Court’s Lucknow bench to “make it clear the no presence of any officer concerned is required”.

“As and when, if the occasion so arises, for restarting the contempt proceedings, the matter will be placed before a bench of another judge,” it said, adding that the copy of this order should be placed before the judge concerned and the Chief Justice.

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