Do not summon top officials unnecessarily: SC

New Delhi: Judges should not have inflated ego and flaunt their powers unnecessarily by summoning high- ranking officials like Chief Secretaries or Principal Secretaries as it would eventually lead to the collapse of the country`s democratic system, the Supreme Court observed on Thursday.

A bench of justices Markandeya Katju and Gyan Sudha Mishra in an order deprecated the practice of high courts frequently summoning high-ranking officials for non-compliance of its directions and said such a course should be resorted to only in extreme cases.

"Judges should not have any ego problems. In particular, members of the higher judiciary (High Court and Supreme Court) should have great modesty and humility. This is because the higher one moves in the hierarchy the greater become his powers.

"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. Flaunting these powers unnecessarily only brings the judiciary into disrepute. Some of the greatest Judges have been the most modest, e.g., Justice Holmes, Judge Learned Hand, Justice Brandeis, Justice Cardozo, Lord Atkins, Lord Denning, Justice Venkatachaliah, etc," the bench said.

The apex court passed the ruling while quashing an Allahabad High Court order summoning Principal Secretary, Finance along with the Principal Secretary, Medical & Health, U.P. Government

for alleged non compliance of its directions in a case filed by the U P Malaria Nirikshak Sangh.

According to the bench it is only in some extreme case where the high court is convinced that deliberately the order of the court has been ignored in a spirit of defiance that it may summon the official to explain why the order of the court has not been complied with.

"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 bench said.

The apex court said it was coming across many orders where high court judges are summoning executive officials routinely, casually, and sometimes even at the drop of a hat despite the apex court in the earlier Turabali Gulamhussain Hirani vs Gujarat had asked courts to desist from such approach.

"We are constrained to make these observations because we are repeatedly coming across a large number of cases where such orders summoning high officials are being passed by the High Courts and often it is only for the ego satisfaction of the learned judge.

"At the same time, we make it clear that we have also come across cases where orders of the courts are deliberately ignored by government officials which is not proper. Democracy and the rule of law requires that the orders of the Courts should be complied with by the executive authorities promptly and with due diligence. If the executive authorities are dissatisfied with a High Court order, they may appeal against that order to the Supreme court but it is not proper to ignore such orders," the apex court said.

The bench said in the present case the high court was not justified in summoning the officials and hence quashed the order.

The apex court also asked its registry to circulate the copies of its orders to the Registrars of all the high courts, Union Cabinet Secretary, Union of India, as well as all Chief Secretaries of all States/Union Territories.