The Union government has submitted a draft standard operating procedure to the Supreme Court that asks judges to exercise restraint in summoning government officials, Bar and Bench reported on Wednesday.
The Centre said that the proposed standard operating procedure aims to create a more congenial and conducive environment between the judiciary and government “with a view to improve overall quality of compliance of judicial orders by the government”.
The draft standard operating procedure stated that courts should summon public officials in person only in exceptional cases. In cases where there is no option but to direct officials to appear before the court, judges should issue notices giving them sufficient time, the document said.
The proposed standard operating procedure said in cases in which government officials are directed to appear in person, courts should allow appearance through video conferencing as the first option.
The document also said that when the court hears cases that are within the exclusive domain of the executive, it should refer them to the executive instead of adjudicating the matter or summoning government officials.
It said that while forming committees to examine a matter in further detail, the court should not name individual members of the panel. Instead, it should only prescribe the broad composition of the committee and the domains that the chairperson and members should come from, according to Bar and Bench.
The draft standard operating procedure added that contempt action should not be initiated with respect to orders that are not enforceable. “Therefore, compliance should not be insisted upon by court directing a particular outcome, especially on matters in the executive domain,” the draft said.
The proposed standard operating procedure also said that judges should ideally not sit on contempt proceedings relating to their own orders. “It is an established principle of natural justice that no person can judge a case in which they have an interest or in other words be a judge in their own cause,” it said.
The draft said that judges should avoid commenting on the dress, appearance and educational and social backgrounds of government officials. “Government officials are not officers of the court and there should be no objection to their appearing in a decent work dress unless such appearance is unprofessional or unbecoming of her/his position,” it said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted the draft document to the Supreme Court in a case in which the Allahabad High Court had ordered the arrest of two senior officials for contempt of court, the Hindustan Times reported. The High Court had held that they had failed to comply with orders to provide facilities for retired High Court judges.
In April, the Supreme Court stayed the order and allowed the Centre to submit a draft of the standard operating procedure.