Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha (L) and Justice Arun Palli (R)
Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha (L) and Justice Arun Palli (R)
Litigation News

Judicial Power cannot be invoked to run the administration of the High Court: P&H HC Division Bench finds Single Judge exceeded jurisdiction

Running of the High Court on the administrative side cannot be permitted to be taken up by each and every Judge on the judicial side as he thinks fit as that would lead to collapse of the system, the Division Bench said.

Lydia Suzanne Thomas

The Punjab and Haryana High Court was recently constrained to emphasise that the decisions touching upon High Court administration cannot be be taken on the judicial side (P & H High Court through its Registrar (Computerisation) v. Zahur Haider Zaidi and Ors).

A Division Bench of the High Court made the observation while setting aside directions issued during a bail hearing by a Single Judge of the High Court to ensure the availability of technical persons during video conferencing .

"We are of the considered and firm opinion that the learned Single Judge exceeded his jurisdiction in issuing directions purely relating to the administration of the High Court 'in a criminal matter' as the extra ordinary and inherent powers of the Court cannot be invoked in purely administrative matters", the Division Bench said.

In his orders, the Single Judge had directed “technical persons” to ensure every item on the cause-list is downloaded on the computer, and also required them to create desktop icons for each case and its pleadings for ease of access.

Advocate Kanwal Goel, appearing for the High Court’s Registry for Computerisation submitted that the tasks required of it by the Judge were those of trained “Court Officials”. He further submitted that the role of the technical staff was confined to resolving connectivity issues and disturbances in audio and video transmissions.

The High Court had applied to the Single Judge for a recall/modification of the order passed, which was declined. Aggrieved, the High Court appealed to a larger Bench.

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Ravi Shanker Jha and Justice Arun Palli accepted that the role of the technical staff was limited to the resolution of technical difficulties, stating that the management of the Court hearing vested with secretarial staff attached to each Court/ judge.

The Division Bench pointed out that the tasks apportioned to secretarial staff included,

  1. contacting and coordinating with advocates for the video conference,

  2. downloading “e-paper books from the Data Management System”,

  3. aiding Judges during case hearings by finding relevant documents, and

  4. the conduct of the video conference.

In light of this, the Bench held that the secretarial staff were vested with tasks such as downloading case files and pleadings and making these available to Judges.

"Thus, the secretarial staff attached to each Court/Judge …. is obliged to ensure that the court proceedings through video conferencing are held unhindered."

Punjab and Haryana High Court

The Division Bench observed that the Judge ought to have approached the Registrar-General of the Court if he faced inconvenience during video conferencing.

In issuing directions that related to the administration of the High Court in the course of a bail order, the Division Bench found that the Single Judge “exceeded his jurisdiction”, thereby “rendering the directions non est”.

The Court further stated:

"Running of the High Court on the administrative side cannot be permitted to be taken up by each and every Judge on the judicial side as he thinks fit as that would lead to collapse of the system of the administration of the High Court."
Chief Justice Ravi Shankar Jha, for the Bench

The Division Bench declared that judicial powers could not be invoked to administer the High Court, a task vested in the Chief Justice or Full Court, regulated by appropriate rules and instructions.

Holding thus, the Division Bench set aside the challenged portions of the single judge order while directing the Registry to implement its responsibilities as described in the judgment. This was, however, subject to subsequent modifications by orders passed on “the administrative side”, the Court added.

Read the Judgment here:

P & H High Court through its Registrar (Computerisation) v. Zahur Haider Zaidi and Ors.pdf
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