Apex court snubs one of its judges, revokes his ruling

February 21st, 2008 - 11:45 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)

New Delhi, Feb 21 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday snubbed one of its judges by scrapping his controversial direction to the Uttar Pradesh government to restore the provision of anticipatory bail in the state. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan revoked the Jan 29 directions by Justice Markandey Katju, saying: “Remarks (for restoration of law for anticipatory bail) made by Justice Katju shall not be the part of the judgement because the remarks were not related to the subject matter of the case which was before the court.”

The bench, which also included Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice J.M. Panchal, divested Katju’s order of the strength of a valid judicial direction, observing that another judge on the bench, Justice H.K. Sema, did not agree with Justice Katju’s directions.

Accordingly, Katju’s directions cannot be treated as a binding judicial direction on the state government, the chief justice’s bench ruled.

In a terse remark, it said, “This court has repeatedly cautioned that while rendering judgments, courts should only deal with the subject matter of the case and issues involved therein.”

“Courts should desist from issuing directions affecting executive or legislative policy or general directions unconnected with the subject matter of the case,” the bench said.

The issue related to the criminal liability of an executive of Bangalore-based Hewlett-Packard GlobalSoft Ltd in the case of a woman employee’s rape and murder on her way back home from office at night.

While both Justice Sema and Justice Katju held the firm’s former managing director Som Mittal liable for his failure to provide security to the woman employee on duty during night, Katju in his separate judgement went beyond the issue and dwelt on the hardships of Uttar Pradesh residents owing to the absence of a law for anticipatory bail in the state. He then instructed the Uttar Pradesh government to restore the law for anticipatory bail.

It was this abrupt direction to the state government that made the ruling unconventional.

Sema referred the Jan 29 judgement of his bench to the three-judge bench of the chief justice, noting that he was making the reference following “difference of opinion on certain legal actions” between him and Katju.

After hearing the arguments Feb 5, the chief justice’s bench reserved its verdict saying that the issue appears to be about whether there could be “a judgement within a judgement”.

Laying down a cardinal principle of writing judicial verdicts, the bench headed by the chief justice Thursday said a judgement on an issue cannot be passed in a void without the court having been called upon to examine the issue.

“When this court renders judgments, it does so with great care and responsibility. The law declared by this court is binding on all courts. All authorities in the territory of India are required to act in aid of it. Any interpretation of a law or a judgement, by this court, is a law declared by this court,” the bench pointed out.

“The wider the power, more onerous is the responsibility to ensure that nothing is stated or directed in excess of what is required or relevant for the case, and to ensure that the court’s orders and decisions do not create any doubt or confusion in regard to a legal position in the minds of any authority or citizen, and also to ensure that they do not conflict with any other decision or existing law,” the bench said.

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