Justice Dhar says courts should avoid passing strictures and disparaging remarks against officials
Srinagar: The High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh on Tuesday held that courts should avoid passing strictures and disparaging remarks against government officials, particularly when they have not been afforded an opportunity of explaining or defending themselves.
The court noted that the adverse remarks/observations can be made by the courts only where it is absolutely necessary for disposal of a case and when there is material on record to suggest complicity of the officers.
The court said this while hearing a plea filed by Food Safety Officers seeking expunging of ‘frivolous remarks’ made by the Magistrate of Pattan in a matter related to substandard food, wherein the court termed the officers as ‘corrupt and inefficient’ while also recording that they had intentionally delayed to file a complaint.
Justice Sanjay Dhar after perusing the judgement passed by the 1st Class Magistrate, Pattan Court, recorded that there was no material before the Magistrate to observe that the petitioners were complicit or negligent, which ultimately led to the delayed filing of the complaint.
In fact, Justice Dhar noted, what comes to the fore from the record is that the sample was lifted from the business premises on 12 August, 2014, and was sent to the Food Analyst, Srinagar, on the very next day. The Food Analyst, Srinagar, vide his report dated 20 October, 2014, opined that the sample was of standard quality.
“Thereafter, the Designated Officer decided to send the sample to laboratory at Kolkata for re-analysis. Ultimately, the report dated 17, February, 2015, was received from the said laboratory terming the sample as ‘unsafe and misbranded’,” the court recorded.
The court further noted that though the letter for sanction of prosecution bears the date 29 January, 2015, but the same appears to be a typographical error because the sanction letter bears reference to report of Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata, dated 17 February, 2015, and it also bears reference to certain other letters dated 12 March 2015, and 21 November, 2015.
“It seems that the sanction letter has been issued on 29 January 2016 and not on 29 January 2015. The complaint before the trial court was filed on 8 March, 2016,” the court recorded.
It was further said that the material on record clearly suggested that there had been no laxity or negligence on the part of petitioners (officers) in launching the prosecution against the respondents (violators).
“Thus, the observations of the trial Magistrate that petitioners have colluded with respondents and that they have been negligent in filing the complaint beyond the prescribed period of limitation, are without any basis,” Justice Dhar held.
The court recorded that the castigating remarks passed by the Magistrate were not at all necessary for the decision of the case.
Justice Dhar noted that the Magistrate has, on the basis of the pre-conceived notions, proceeded to pass adverse remarks against the petitioners without there being anything on record to support the same.
“The Magistrate in doing so has crossed the limits of sobriety and moderation which is expected of a judicial officer,” court said.
It was also remarked that making of sweeping remarks relating to corruption and inefficiency against government officials without any basis tends to lower down the morale and confidence of these officials which in turn has an adverse impact on functioning of the investigating and prosecuting agencies.
“The courts are well advised to avoid making such remarks while passing their orders or judgements,” Justice Dhar said.
It was observed that the remarks passed by the Magistrate against the officers have serious adverse consequences upon their service careers.
“The same could not be done without at least affording an opportunity of hearing to them. The Magistrate has, thus, failed to exercise judicial restraint and he has also failed to adhere to the principles of natural justice,” the judge recorded.
The court based on these facts allowed the plea of the officers wherein the remarks and observations made by the Magistrate in the judgment/order against the petitioners were directed to be expunged.
“And the direction regarding holding of departmental enquiry against the petitioners and imposition of costs upon them is also set aside,” Justice Dhar said and directed.