Supreme Court Criticizes High Courts' Frequent Summoning of Government Officers

In 'State of West Bengal v. Ganesh Roy,' the Supreme Court rebuked High Courts' routine summoning of government officers, emphasizing adherence to SOPs and rationale for directives.

The Supreme Court recently criticized the common practice in High Courts of requiring government officers to personally appear in court, stressing the importance of following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and providing valid reasons for such orders.

The Court addressed a Criminal Appeal filed by the State of West Bengal against a directive from the Calcutta High Court. The directive required the jurisdictional Superintendent of Police to appear in court.

"We further find that the reasons recorded by the High Court for directing the personal presence of the jurisdictional Superintendent of Police cannot be said to be exceptional or rare," remarked the Court, while overturning the part of the Order that mandated the Superintendent's personal appearance.

Justices BR Gavai and Sandeep Mehta emphasized that if a High Court deems it necessary to summon a government officer, it should first consider video conferencing as an alternative.

"In the SOP, it is specifically provided that in exceptional cases, if the Court finds that the presence of a Government Officer is necessary, then at the first instance, such appearance is permitted through video conferencing," stated the Bench.

The Court referred to past rulings, including the case of State of Uttar Pradesh Vs. Manoj Kumar Sharma, emphasizing that public officers should not be summoned to court unnecessarily. Additionally, the Bench stressed that the Court should record reasons for requiring the personal presence of a Government Officer.

The Court highlighted that the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) regarding the personal appearance of Government Officers in Court proceedings has been established in the case State of Uttar Pradesh & Ors. Vs. Association of Retired Supreme Court and High Court Judges at Allahabad & Ors.

"In the present case, if the learned Judges of the Division Bench found it necessary to direct the presence of the jurisdictional Superintendent of Police, it should have been first through video conferencing," opined the Bench.

"In that view of the matter, the part of order which directs the personal presence of the jurisdictional Superintendent of Police is quashed and set aside. The appeals are allowed in part in the above terms," the Court concluded.