State Of Karnataka vs The Registrar General, High Court … on 10 August, 2000

Supreme Court of India
State Of Karnataka vs The Registrar General, High Court … on 10 August, 2000
Bench: R.P.Sethi, K.T.Thomas



DATE OF JUDGMENT:	27/08/2000

R.P.Sethi, K.T.Thomas


THOMAS, J. Delay condoned. Leave granted. A
Division Bench of Karnataka High Court went outside the
scope of the lis before it and made certain observations
which are not in tune with the perceptions of judicial
exercise. Why they did so in this case is beyond
comprehension. State of Karnataka, unable to abide by the
directions issued as per the order, has filed this appeal by
special leave. For disposal of this appeal we did not find
any necessity to issue notice to the sole respondent
(Registrar General of the High Court of Karnataka) as he
would have nothing to say about the impugned directions. So
we propose to dispose of the matter without bringing the
respondent to this Court.

How the above situation reached can be summarized

Seven persons were prosecuted in a sessions court for
various offences, the serious-most among which was the
offence under Section 307 of the IPC. After the trial the
Sessions Judge acquitted all the accused. The testimony of
the eye witnesses examined by the prosecution was not
believed by the Sessions Judge. At the same time he frowned
at the investigation, as is being done in many of the
judgments ending in acquittal. The delay in dispatching the
FIR to the magistrate was also highlighted in the judgment
of the Sessions Court.

The State of Karnataka filed a petition for leave to
appeal against the said order of acquittal. The Division
Bench of the High Court, while refusing leave, made a
departure from the precedents and issued an unusual
direction to the State Public Prosecutor like this: “We
direct the learned SPP to forward a copy of this order to
the Secretary to Government (Home) as also to the Honourable
Home Minister both of whom shall acknowledge the receipt of
the same and shall report back to this Court within a period
of two months as to what precisely is the reaction of the
Government to the observations of this High Court.”

The Home Secretary and the Home Minister of the State
are now compelled to react openly to the observations made
in the judgment and to report to the High Court on such
reactions. It is necessary to extract the observations made
by M.F. Saldhana, J, who spoke for the Division Bench. The
first facet of the observations is the following:

“This Court has had occasion to deal with a large
number of appeals filed against orders of acquittals. In
case after case, it is noticed that it is principally
because of poor investigation followed up by a total lack of
interest in the conduct of the prosecution that has resulted
in the accused being acquitted. Murders are committed with
impunity and the other set of cases of which we need to take
very serious note relating to atrocities against women where
even the reported number of cases has sharply increased. We
have come across a series of horrifying incidents where
young married women were harassed, tortured and set on fire,
another line of cases where girls and women have been
molested, sexually attacked and raped. String of acquittals
in all these cases which are as high as 96.4% only because
the requisite evidence and the evidence of the quality that
the court expects has not been forthcoming. The
investigating agencies namely the Police Department are
responsible to a very large extent for this deplorable state
of affairs.”

Learned counsel for the State made a scathing
onslaught on those observations, particularly the
disparaging remarks made against the police department of
the State as a whole and contended that they are absolutely
unnecessary in the present case, apart from being
unsupported by any material whatsoever. He submitted that
there was no material available on record for the court to
reach such omnibus findings. Learned Judge went on to
observe further as follows:

“Time is of the essence as far as investigation of
criminal cases are concerned and consequently, it is equally
important that apart from the speed with which the Police
act, that the investigation has got to be done with a high
degree of efficiency and professionalism. All these factors
are lacking in the majority of investigations. There is
something seriously wrong and we put it down to the fact
that obviously on all sorts of political considerations, the
recruitment process has been diluted to point of induction
into the force of persons who should not have been there at
all. It goes without saying that when this happens, one can
never expect efficiency. The manner in which the
recruitments are done and more importantly the
considerations leave much to be desired and if the law and
order machinery on which crores of rupees of tax payers many
is being spent is at all to justify its existence, the
Government will have to take serious note of the
observations and rectify the state of affairs.”

After making some more sweeping remarks on the present
system of criminal law administration the Bench said the
following also: “Similarly, the principal disease that has
infected the criminal justice system in the State is the
cheerful manner in which the Court is informed that the
vital witnesses are hostile who is responsible for this is
not difficult for the court to infer, the moment the
question is asked as to who is the beneficiary. The
investigating Agency also owes a duty to ensure that the
vital witnesses are present and that they produce the type
of evidence which is expected of them. This aspect of the
matter will require very serious attention if at all the
State is concerned about rectifying the present state of
affairs which is assuming disastrous proportion.”

Learned counsel for the State was quite right in
contending that it was not the occasion for learned Judges
of the High Court for giving vent to their general apathy
towards the present system of administration of criminal
justice. The direction that the Home Minister and the Home
Secretary of the State shall report to the High Court
regarding their reaction towards the observations made in
the judgment is nothing but an exercise in redundancy, for,
their reaction cannot be different from the views expressed
by the Judges themselves. How could they be different, as
it is unexceptional that the system should improve. The
problems posed by the Judges have already engaged the
attention of the Law Commission. On more than one occasions
the Commission has submitted its report for consideration by
Parliament. But putting the blame largely on the police
force of the State for all the ills pointed out by the
learned Judges, without data or material or evidence in this
case, is not a course which can meet with our approval.

Learned Judges pointed to subjects which are
unfortunately not connected with this case. Those are- (1)
murders committed with impunity, (2) the increase in cases
involving atrocities against women, (3) harassment inflicted
on young married women including “bride burning”, (4)
molestation and rape of girls and young women. We have
already extracted a gist of the facts of this case. None of
the fields to which learned Judges pointed their fingers
would cover the facts of this case. Hence learned Judges
dealt with subjects which are totally ungermane and far
beyond the scope of this case as though it was presentation
of a paper in a seminar. Why should the Home Minister and
the Home Secretary react to the observations which are
absolutely uncalled for on the facts of this case.

Judicial disposition is definitely different from a
paper presented for seminar discussion. Nor can it be
equated with a dissertation. Judicial decorum requires that
judgments and orders should confine to the facts and legal
points involved in the particular cases which Judges deal
with. May be, sometimes Judges would, perhaps wittingly or
even unwittingly, jut outside the contours of the
litigation, but even such overlappings should be within
bounds of propriety and sobriety. But there is no
justification for traversing so far beyond the convass as
was done by the High Court in this case or to cover areas
which are grossly extraneous to the subject matter of the
case. If the subordinate courts are also to be tempted and
encouraged to follow suit by travelling far outside the
scope of the lis the consequences would be far too many.
Demoralisation of departments would badly erode the already
impaired efficiency of our forces. It is time to remind
ourselves once again that judgment should confine to the
scope of the case.

In the State of Uttar Pradesh vs. Mohammad Naim {AIR
1964 SC 703 = 1964 (2) SCR 363} a four Judge Bench of this
Court heard the grievance of a State regarding certain
sweeping remarks made by a learned Judge of the High Court
who dealt with the case of a police officer. The judge of
the High Court had stated in his Judgment that “(a) If I had
felt that with my lone efforts I could have cleaned this
augean stable, which is the police force, I would not have
hesitated to wage this war single handed. (b) That there is
not a single lawless group in the whole of the country whose
record of crime comes anywhere near the record of that
organised unit which is known as the Indian Police Force.

(c) Where every fish barring perhaps a few stinks, it is
idle to pick out one or two and say that it stinks.”

S.K. Das, J. (as he then was) speaking for the four
Judge Bench expressed complete disapproval of those impugned
observations and reminded thus:

“It is not infrequent that sweeping generalisations
defeat the very purpose for which they are made. It has
been judicially recognised that in the matter of making
disparaging remarks against persons or authorities whose
conduct comes into consideration before a courts of law in
cases to be decided by them, it is relevant to consider (a)
whether the party whose conduct is in question is before the
court or has an opportunity of explaining or defending
himself; (b) whether there is evidence on record bearing on
that conduct justifying the remarks; and (c) whether it is
necessary for the decision of the case, as an integral part
thereof, to animadvert on that conduct. It has also been
recognised that judicial pronouncements must be judicial in
nature, and should not normally depart from sobriety,
moderation and reserve.”

During the 36 years which elapsed thereafter this
Court has reiterated those words on different occasions.

{R.K. Lakshmanan vs. A.K. Srinivasan & anr., 1976
(1) SCR 204 = AIR 1975 SC 1741, Niranjan Patnaik vs.
Sashibhushan Kar &
anr., 1986(2) SCC 569 = AIR 1986 SC 819,
S.K. Viswambaran vs. E. Koyakunju & ors., 1987 (2) SCC
109 = AIR 1987 SC 1436}.

It would have been very appropriate if learned Judges
of the Division Bench who rendered the impugned order would
have reminded themselves of the above equation administered
by the apex court more than three decades ago.

For the aforesaid reasons we have to interfere with
the impugned order. We hereby set aside the directions
issued to the State Public Prosecutor as well as to the Home
Minister and Home Secretary of the State.

Appeal is disposed of accordingly.

[ K.T. Thomas ]

[ R.P.Sethi ]

New Delhi;

August 10, 2000.

Regularised. Now the High Court is to dispose of the
appeal in accordance with law. As this is an old matter we
direct the Registrar of the High Court of Andhra Pradesh to
include the appeal in the hearing list, as expeditiously as

Parties are directed to appear before the High Court
on 4-9-2000 and no fresh notice need be issued for this

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