The Delhi High Court has cautioned the trial courts to exercise restraint while making adverse comments against an official or authority in judicial orders, saying an uncalled for stricture can be very damaging to the reputation of a person.
Justice Ashutosh Kumar told the lower courts that passing of strictures “should be resorted to with circumspection and caution” and restraint was necessary as the person commented upon is not on notice and is “condemned without being heard”.
“Any adverse comment on an officer or an authority, in a judicial pronouncement, can cause immense damage to the reputation of the concerned person.
“Strictures in a judgement or order are not uncommon and are taken as an adjunct of the judicial expression. Many a times while delivering judgement or writing an order it becomes necessary to adjudicate conduct of any person.
“A court of law has an inherent power to act upon and voice its conviction but as a general principle, it should be resorted to only with lot of circumspection and caution and definitely not under the circumstances when it is not necessary for the decision of the case.
“Such a restraint is necessary because an uncalled for stricture can be very damaging. The person commented upon, is not on notice that his conduct also can be commented upon.
With an uncalled for stricture/adverse comment, there is no remedy to the person commented against and he, in a way, is condemned without being heard,” the high court said.
It, however, also said that it was not necessary that in every case where strictures are passed, the person concerned has to be necessarily heard.
The observations of the high court came on an Executive Magistrate’s plea for expunging the adverse remarks made and disciplinary action recommended against him by a trial court with regard to the manner in which inquest proceedings were conducted by him in a dowry death case.
The trial court in its verdict of March 2016 while acquitting the persons accused of causing the suicide of their daughter-in-law, said the manner in which proceedings were conducted were “peculiar and objectionable”.
It had directed that a copy of its decision be sent to the Secretary, Department of Home, Government of Delhi to evaluate and assess the conduct of the magistrate and take suitable action against him.
The trial court had taken exception to the fact that the entire inquest proceedings were conducted in the park in front of the burn ward of the hospital and in the presence of the police officials.
Disagreeing with the trial court’s decision, the high court in its verdict said that the comments regarding the conduct of the inquest and the direction to the Home Department to take suitable action against the magistrate “are not in consonance with law and practice”.
“A reading of the (trial court) judgement leaves an impression that the petitioner (magistrate), as a functionary of the State, has been convicted whereas the accused persons of the case have been acquitted.
“Such observations and direction are, therefore, expunged and deleted from the judgement (of trial court),” the high court said.
The high court further said that in the facts of the case, when there was no apparent ambiguity about the death being suicidal, noting down of witness statements by the police officials “cannot be seriously faulted with”.
“From the circumstances of the case and materials available, it appears that the relatives of the deceased had assembled at the burn ward of the hospital.
“Recording of their statements, therefore, in front of the burn ward, in the lawns, is only suggestive of the prompt nature of enquiry to ascertain whether the death was in unnatural circumstances, perhaps suicidal.
“It was only after the ascertainment of the suicidal nature of death and the allegations levelled by the relatives about demand of dowry and harassment, that the petitioner directed for immediate lodging of the case and investigation in the same thereafter,” the high court said.
It also said that though the magistrate ought to have recorded the statement of the doctor who had recorded the last statement of the deceased, not doing so cannot be specifically held against him as he being careless.
( Source – PTI )