Supreme Court Issues Guidelines for High Courts on Government Officials’ Summoning

In a bid to address the prevalent issue of frequent summoning of government officials by courts, the Supreme Court has laid out comprehensive guidelines. The guidelines, framed by a bench comprising Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud, Justice JB Pardiwala, and Justice Manoj Misra, establish a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) concerning the summoning of government officials.
The key highlights of the guidelines are as follows:
Purposeful Personal Presence: Personal presence of officials shall be required in evidence-based adjudication, summary proceedings, and non-adversarial proceedings where the court necessitates assistance on intricate policy matters. In other cases, if issues can be resolved through affidavits or documents, personal appearance may not be obligatory.
Criteria for Directing Presence: Officials might be directed to appear if specific information is withheld, intentionally misrepresented, or not provided. However, differing views in affidavits shouldn’t automatically necessitate personal appearance unless existing records can’t resolve the matter.
Video-Conferencing Option: In cases requiring in-person appearance, courts should prioritize video-conferencing as the first option. Notices for video-conferencing appearances should be sent at least one day in advance through multiple communication channels.
Justification for Personal Appearance: Courts must record reasons justifying the necessity for an official’s personal presence and provide due notice in advance, allowing them time to prepare.
Professional Environment: Courts should foster an atmosphere of respect and professionalism, refraining from comments or actions that may humiliate or disparage officials. This includes avoiding remarks on physical appearance, education, or social standing.
Respect for Decision-Making: Complexity in decision-making should be acknowledged when setting compliance timelines for orders. Reasonable time frames must be accommodated, and if needed, the court may consider revising timelines on government requests.
Caution in Contempt Proceedings: Courts must exercise caution and restraint when initiating contempt proceedings. Notices seeking explanations for alleged contemptuous actions should be issued before summoning for personal appearance.
These guidelines aim to streamline the summoning process of government officials, ensuring a fair and respectful environment in court proceedings while balancing the necessity of their presence. The emphasis lies on purpose-driven appearances and maintaining a professional demeanor in legal interactions.

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