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A Supreme Court bench in a significant ruling said the judges of the higher courts should have modesty and humility, and respect for executive and legislature. Taking a serious note of high courts summoning high government officials for ego satisfaction, the bench said such power should be exercised in exceptional cases, otherwise it will be counterproductive.

A bench comprising Justice A K Mathur and Justice Markandey Katju said, “The judiciary must have respect for the executive and the legislature... Judges should have modesty and humility... They should realise that summoning a senior official, except in some very rare and exceptional situation, and that too for compelling reasons, is counter-productive, and may also involve heavy expenses and valuable time of the official concerned”.

Justice Katju, who in some of his earlier judgements also cautioned on the judiciary encroaching upon the turf of legislature and executive, writing the verdict said, “frequent, casual and lackadaisical summoning of high officials by the court cannot be appreciated. We are constrained to make these observations, because we are coming across a large number of cases where such orders summoning of high officials are being passed by the high courts, and often it is nothing but for the ego satisfaction of the learned judges”.

The bench said only in extreme and compelling situation such power by the court should be exercised. And if the high officials are summoned, they must be given proper respect by the court, and should not be humiliated. Such senior officials need not be made to stand all the time when the hearing is going on, and they can be offered a chair by the court to sit. They need to stand only when answering or making a statement in the court. The senior officials too have their self-respect, and if the court gives them respect they in turn will respect the court. Respect begets respect, said Justice Katju.

The court made these rulings and set aside the order of the Gujarat High Court, summoning the chief secretary and the law secretary of the Gujarat government to appear before it in connection with the steps taken to provide sufficient staff to the office of the government pleader/public prosecutor to avoid judicial delay.

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