The Supreme Court has declared as unconstitutional the practice of granting "on the spot bail" by the Judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court during their visits to inspect district courts and jails.
A bench of Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justice AR Lakshmanan said the power of superintendence exercised over the subordinate courts and tribunals ‘’does not imply that High Court can intervene in the judicial functions of the lower judiciary.’’
"Under no circumstance, the Inspecting Judge, as part of his administrative duty enjoys the power to interfere with the judicial functions of the subordinate courts in individual cases," the Bench ruled.
The bench, which had sought a report from the Punjab and Haryana High Court, noted that the Registrar General of the High Court had made certain "startling revelations" to the effect that ‘’series of bail orders’’ were granted by judges in the course of inspection.
The Punjab and Haryana High Court Chief Justice had denied having given any jurisdiction to any of the judges to hear and pass orders on bail applications during inspection. The issue was a bone of contention between the then Chief
Justice BK Roy and his brother judges who had gone on a mass strike.
The court rejected the contention that High Court judges were vested with the power of "superintendence and control" over all subordinate courts under Article 227 of the Constitution and said that such power of superintendence did not imply High Courts could interfere with the "judicial functions" of a subordinate judge.
During hearing of an appeal on a bail matter, the Bench had sought a report from the High Court after it noticed that there was a practice of passing orders by administrative judges on the spot at the time of inspection.
The court noted that the Registrar General’s report had made "startling revelations" and indicated that there had been a constant practice of administrative judges entertaining such pleas.
"It is the members of the subordinate judiciary who directly interact with the parties in the course of proceedings of the case and therefore, it is no less important that their independence should be protected effectively to the satisfaction of the litigants,’" the court said.