Himachal Pradesh High Court Punishes Civil Judge for Issuing ‘Appalling Order’

High Court of Himachal Pradesh

The Himachal Pradesh High Court recently remanded in custody a civil judge for issuing a “scare-inducing order” to take coercive action against a judgment debtor (a person against whom a civil judgment has been passed) to recover a sum of money without giving him prior notice (Surjan Singh vs Jawahar Lal).

The order was issued by a civil court to enforce a first-instance court’s decision to pay the money. However, the decision of the enforcement court not to issue any notice to the judgment debtor before issuing an order to take coercive measures against him shocked the conscience of the Supreme Court.

On May 24, the Supreme Court demanded an explanation from the court executing the sentence, and the civil court judge later issued an unconditional apology

Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan The Supreme Court accepted the apology but issued a warning note against issuing such orders.

Needless to say, the issuance of such a thoughtless order by a Judge who is ignorant of the basic principles of law is not only highly improper but also violates the fundamental rights of the citizens as granted under Article 21 of the Constitution of India which seeks to persistently protect his liberty. Such thoughtlessness shows a gross lack of integrity, sensitivity, humanity, understanding, detachment and maintenance of judicial discipline, the latter being paramount.” Justice Chauhan said in an order dated June 21.

Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan

It is worth noting that in his apology, the civil court judge explained that he had issued the disputed order solely to ensure implementation of the decree within six months, in line with the Supreme Court guidelines requiring speedy implementation of decrees.

The judicial officer added that he had devised a method of issuing short orders in order to maintain brevity and avoid repetition of objections, as the civil court was overloaded with cases and lacked infrastructure and well-trained staff.

The judge, however, admitted that such issues could not excuse his negligence and asked the Supreme Court to forgive the error.

The Supreme Court emphasised that while it is important to ensure that enforcement applications are disposed of expeditiously, the mandatory provisions of the law cannot be ignored or disregarded.

The Supreme Court added that the Code of Civil Procedure expressly provides for the mandatory issuance of a notice to the judgment debtor informing him of the need to present evidence before taking any coercive steps.

The Supreme Court decided to accept the apology of the civil court judge and take no further action against the judicial officer.

It was stressed, however, that the daily rush and rush of court work cannot be an excuse for issuing such a perverse order.

“Even the excuse of daily hustle and bustle in the work of the court or an oversight cannot save such a perverse order. No judge should have passed such a horrific order, the judicial impropriety of which disturbs the conscience of this court. It brings the judicial process into disrepute before the public and the bar if it were to be widely publicized, which would shake the confidence of the people in the institution which administers justice as the guardian of the law and which they consider as their savior. People have blind faith and implicit trust in the courts that they will get justice from them in accordance with law and nothing less, despite all the obstacles and difficulties they may face before they knock on its doors or are summoned.” the Supreme Court stated.

Advocate KB Khajuria represented the plaintiff (judgment debtor) who challenged the decision of the court enforcing the judgment.

Surjan Singh V. Jawahar Lal.pdf