A judicial order cannot be challenged by the administrative side of the court
Fact and issue of the case
I am faced with a rather strange conundrum of the High Court on its Administrative side seeking leave to review an order passed by it on its judicial side, particularly when the High Court is not even a party to the proceedings leave alone an aggrieved party. Is this Court therefore confronting a two faced JANUS?
To appreciate the petition now before this Court, namely, a petition seeking leave to review the order dated 05.05.2022, it is necessary to set out the facts in the various petitions filed seeking exemption from the payment of Court fees which form the backdrop for the review.
This Court by the order which is the subject matter of review had answered the following issues:-
i. Whether the provisions of Rule 24 would apply to Appeals under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act without giving proof of the indigent circumstances.
ii. Whether the petitioners/claimants who have obtained exemption can withdraw the amounts deposited without paying the Court Fees.”
This Court on considering the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act and its rules had passed an order stating that in order to avail the exemption from paying Court fees in an appeal under Section 173 of the Motor Vehicles Act, the provisions contemplated under Order XXXIII and XLIV had to be followed and the exemption in so far the claim petitions before the Tribunal is concerned, it would be at the discretion of the Presiding Officer. However, taking note of the varying methods of such discretion being exercised this Court had framed certain guidelines after hearing the amicus curiae, the learned counsel for the claimant/appellant he Special Government Pleader. It is these guidelines that are now t to be reviewed, rather strangely by the High Court on a resolution adopted by the Administrative Committee operating on the Administrative side. The incongruous situation that has now been placed before this Court is that this Court without being aggrieved over its own order is now being directed by an Administrative Resolution to review its order. The review application has been filed under Order 47 Rule 1 read with Section 114 of the CPC.
The four grounds that have been put forward for seeking the review briefly are as follows:-
i. The filing of the affidavit as contemplated in paragraph no.53(a) of the order under review is beyond the scope of the Rule 24(3) of the Tamil Nadu Motor Vehicle Accidents Claims Tribunals Rules, 1989 which are in pari materia with Order 33 of the CPC.
ii. The attestation of the affidavit by a notary public would cause prejudice to the claimants.
Observation of the court
The aforesaid observation of the various judgments referred above clearly delineates the power that the High Court exercises on its Administrative side and on the Judicial side and make a clear distinction between the two.
An administrative order passed by the High Court is subject to Judicial scrutiny and not vice-versa. In the instant case this Court had directed the guidelines to be circulated to all the Tribunals and therefore in keeping with the orders passed in HCP. No. 1306/2001 the Office Note has been placed before the Chief Justice for orders for circulating the same as the Chief Justice is the Administrative Head of the Judiciary in the State and guidelines relating to procedure is issued under his name. In a judgment of this Court reported in 1996 SCC Online Mad 1132 – T.S. Sankaranarayanan VS. High Court of Judicature at Madras a learned Single Judge was called upon to consider whether the orders of a Division Bench exercising jurisdiction in the Judicial side should pave way for the decision made in the Administrative side. The learned Judge has observed as follows:-
“Moreover, once a rule of procedure has been envisaged by the High Court in its Judicial side on a matter, the High Court in its administrative side has to follow the same setting a good example.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court in the judgement reported in (1995) C 203 – High Court of M.P. Vs. Mahesh Prakash and Others was considering an appeal filed by the High Court challenging an order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court wherein the Division Bench had set aside an Administrative Order of the High Court. The learned Judges observed as follows:-
“The order that the first respondent challenged in the writ petition filed by him before the High Court was an order passed by the High Court on its administrative side. By reason of Article 226 of the Constitution it was permissible for the appellant to move the High Court on its Judicial side to consider the validity of the order passed by the High Court on the administrative side and issue a writ in that behalf. In the writ petition the first respondent was obliged to implead the High Court for it was the order of the High Court that was under challenge. It was, therefore, permissible for the High Court to prefer a petition for special leave to appeal to this Court against the order on the writ petition passed on its judicial side.”
The learned Judges had observed that where the Administrative Order of the High Court was set aside the High Court would then be an aggrieved party such is not the case in the instant review.
Therefore, the present petition seeking leave to review which does not come within the parameters supra, cannot be entertained as it would amount to undermining the Judicial fibre whose touchstone is its fierce independence and to discharge its duty without any kind of fear or favour. By an administrative resolution an order passed by the High Court on its Judicial Side is sought to be reviewed. Before closing, this Court would like to refer of the judgment reported in (1995) 5 SCC 457 – C.Ravichandran Iyer Vs. Justice A.M.Bhattacharjee and Others, wherein the learned Judges have while answering the question “Judicial individualism – Whether needs protection” answered as fellows:-
Independent judiciary is, therefore, most essential when liberty of citizen is in danger. It then becomes the duty of the judiciary to poise the scales of justice unmoved by the powers (actual or perceived) undisturbed by the clamour of the multitude. The heart of judicial independence is judicial individualism. The judiciary is not a disembodied abstraction. It is composed of individual men and women who work primarily on their own. Judicial individualism, in the language of Justice.
The learned Judges have extracted from the dissenting judgement of Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court of United States in Stephen. S. Chandler Vs. Judicial Council of the Tenth Circuit of the United States [398 US 74] as follows:-
“No matter how strong an individual judge’s spine, the threat of punishment – the greatest peril to judicial independence – would project as dark a shadow whether cast by political strangers or by judicial colleagues. A federal judge must be independent of every other judge… Neither one alone nor any number banded together can act as censor and place sanctions on him. It is vital to preserve the opportunities for judicial individualism.”
In the result the leave is dismissed. No costs.
In the result, appeal of the assessee is allowed and ruled in favour of the assessee