Even as a bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari asked a court-appointed committee to furnish a report on rotting of food grains, another bench of the Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the practice of outsourcing judicial work by forming such panels.
A bench of Justice Markandeya Katju and Justice T S Thakur said the court had power to issue mandamus (order to the executive) but that "doesn't mean panels should be formed for sealing or banning of giving alms".
Justice Katju's stinging remarks came during the hearing of a case in which a company from Bihar sought implementation of a 1996 SC judgement that had constituted a monitoring panel to revive a dead paper mill.
Though Noveau Capital and Finance Limited revived the mill, the Bihar government in 2003 directed the company to stop its mill's operation in Darbhanga.
Petitioner's advocate Amit Pawan said: "Acting on a petition by the employees of Ashok Paper mill, a dead company, SC had in 1996 constituted a monitoring committee to revive the factory. SC had directed the committee, headed by joint secretary of the Union Ministry of Industries, to monitor the revival scheme. However, the panel failed to perform its functions after the company was forced to shut operations in 1993."
Asking the petitioner's counsel to withdraw the petition, Justice Katju said Parliament should be closed down if courts had to perform all works.
"Badshahat nahi chal rahi hai (This is not a monarchy). Judges must understand their limits. I am against outsourcing of judicial work. What is a monitoring committee? Is it the function of judiciary?" asked Justice Katju.
The judiciary has been divided over the issue of judicial activism in recent years. Justice Katju has in the past criticised judges for excessive interference in the domain of the executive.