The government and judiciary are once again at loggerheads. This time it’s on whether the SC and high courts judges require permission for their private foreign visits, with both sides accusing each other of being unreasonable.
An internal law ministry note has questioned a recent Delhi high court judgment, which struck down various provisions of the guideline — issued by the ministry in February last year — on private foreign visits of judges.
"The independence of judiciary should no doubt be upheld and respected. But this cannot be taken to limits where they show disregard to the government policy and guidelines issued in public interest," states the note by the justice department of the ministry.
The department has recommended challenging the May 25 HC verdict in the Supreme Court. "The government does not stand to gain or lose in any way whether the judges observe the procedure or not….But even the union ministers take approval of the government when they travel abroad on personal visits," it further said.
The hard-hitting note is a point-by-point rebuttal of the HC judgment, which had bluntly told the government that judges do not hold their office at the government's pleasure. It had termed the guidelines "a result of a mindless exercise triggered by over enthusiastic behavior".
The HC had quashed some of the guidelines, which in its view "lowered the judiciary's dignity" and had directed the government to redraft the norms.
One of the conditions that the HC found particularly unacceptable "required a judge to disclose the source of funding and complete break-up of expenditure met and committed on a foreign private visit".
The verdict also questioned the clause which stated: "During private visits, judges may not accept hospitality from any foreign government/organisation." The court had ridiculed the provision saying whether a judge should even decline a cup of coffee offered by a foreign judge.
But the government has argued that it merely intends to know these facts because judges are extended the privilege to travel on diplomatic passports on private visits.