It is Common knowledge that some Courts/ Tribunals/ Officers have a practice to pass operative part of the order but give a reasoned/detailed order stating reasons much later sometimes even months later. The Apex Court recently on February 15, 2021 in the case of Sudipta Chakrobarty & Anr. Vs. Ranaghat S.D. Hospital & Ors. in Civil Appeal No.9404/2019 has ruled that Reasoned Judgment must be passed alongwith the Operative Order or in a short interregnum. The Apex Court in the said case has directed the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to discontinue the practice of passing Reasoned Orders in a delayed manner.
During the hearing of this Civil Appeal it transpired that as many as 85 cases were there where the National Commission had pronounced the operative order but the detailed & reasoned judgements in those cases had not been delivered so far and the time elapsed is much more than the maximum time allowed for pronouncement of reserved Judgements.
The Apex Court referred to the Judgement of the Constitution Bench in State of Punjab & Ors. Vs. Jagdev Singh Talwandi 1984(1) SCC 596 wherein it was held thus:
“We would like to take this opportunity to point out that serious difficulties arise on account of the practice increasingly adopted by the High Courts, of pronouncing the final order without a reasoned judgment. It is desirable that the final order which the High Court intends to pass should not be announced until a reasoned judgment is ready for pronouncement. Suppose, for example, that a final order without a reasoned judgment is announced by the High Court that a house shall be demolished, or that the custody of a child shall be handed over to one parent as against the order, or that a person accused of a serious charge is acquitted, or that a statute is unconstitutional or, as in the instant case, that a detenu be released from detention. If the object of passing such orders is to ensure speedy compliance with them, that object is more often defeated by the aggrieved party filing a special leave petition in this Court against the order passed by the High Court. That places this Court in a predicament because, without the benefit of the reasoning of the High Court, it is difficult for this Court to allow the bare order to be implemented. The result inevitably is that the operation of the order passed by the High Court has to be stayed pending delivery of the reasoned judgment.
It may be thought that such orders are passed by this Court and therefore there is no reason why the High Courts should not do the same. We would like to point out respectfully that the orders passed by this Court are final and no appeal lies against them. The Supreme Court is the final Court in the hierarchy of our courts. Besides, orders without a reasoned judgment are passed by this Court very rarely, under exceptional circumstances. Orders passed by the High Court are subject to the appellate jurisdiction of this Court under Article 136 of the Constitution and other provisions of the concerned statutes. We thought it necessary to make these observations in order that a practice which is not very desirable and which achieves no useful purpose may not grow out of its present infancy.”
The Court also relied on the precedent in Anil Rai Vs. State of Bihar 2001(7)SCC 318 which held as under:
” If delay in pronouncing judgments occurred on the part of the Judges of the subordinate judiciary, the whip of the High Court studded with supervisory and administrative authority could be used and it had been used quite often to chide them and sometimes to take action against the erring judicial officers. But what happens when the High Court Judges do not pronounce judgments after lapse of several months, and perhaps even years since completion of arguments? The Constitution did not provide anything in that area presumably because the architects of the Constitution believed that no High Court Judge would cause such long and distressing delays. Such expectation of the makers of the Constitution remained unsullied during the early period of the post-Constitution years. But unfortunately, the later years have shown slackness on the part of a few Judges of the superior Courts in India with the result that once arguments in a lis concluded before them, the records remain consigned to hibernation. Judges themselves normally forget the details of the facts and niceties of the legal points advanced. Sometimes the interval is so long that the Judges forget even the fact that such a case is pending with them expecting judicial verdict. Though it is an unpleasant fact, it is a stark reality.”
It would be apposite to refer to the Apex Court in R.C.Sharma v. UOI 1976 (3) SCC 574, for expediting delivery of judgments. The Court observed thus:
“Nevertheless an unreasonable delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of judgment, unless explained by exceptional or extraordinary circumstances, is highly undesirable even when written arguments are submitted. It is not unlikely that some points which the litigant considers important may have escaped notice. But, what is more important is that litigants must have complete confidence in the results of litigation. This confidence tends to be shaken if there is excessive delay between hearing of arguments and delivery of judgments.”
The Apex Court also referred to Zahira Habibulla M. Sheikh & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat & Ors. AIR 2004 SC 3467; Mangat Ram Vs State of Haryana 2008(7) SCC 96; Ajay Singh & Anr. Etc. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh & Anr. AIR 2017 SC 310 & recent Judgements in Balaji Baliram Mupade & Anr. Vs. The State of Maharashtra & Ors. (Civil Appeal No. 23564 of 2020 pronounced on 29.10.2020) , Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Zaixhu Xie & Ors. (Civil Appeal No4022 of 2020 pronounced on 11.12.2020) and SJVNL Vs. M/s. CCC HIM JV & Anr. (Civil Appeal No. 494 of 2021pronounced on 12.02.2021) wherein the delay in Delivery of Judgements has been held to be violative of Article 21 of the Constitution.
Thus the Court was appalled that the rights of the aggrieved parties are being prejudiced if the reasons are not available to them to avail of the legal remedy of approaching the next Court where the reasons can be scrutinized. The Court in the instant case held thus:
“It indeed amounts to defeating the rights of the party aggrieved to challenge the impugned judgment on merits and even the succeeding party is unable to obtain the fruits of success of the litigation.”
It is thus imperative on all Courts/ Tribunals/ Commissions to pass the detailed & reasoned orders either along with the operative order simultaneously or within the shortest/ minimum timelapse so that none of the parties suffer and can seek due redressal by filing appeal in the next judicial forum in time.
FULL TEXT OF THE SUPREME COURT JUDGEMENT
In the present case, the reasoned order was passed on 20.12.2019 by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (“National Commission” for short) in C.A. No.9404 of 2019. A fresh civil appeal was filed before this Court being C.A. No.6476 of 2020, which has been dismissed vide Order dated 06.3.2020.
This Court had vide Order dated 08.1.2020 directed the Registrar of the National Commission to submit a Report stating the number of cases in which reasoned judgments had not been passed, even though the operative order had been pronounced in Court. By the report dated 27.7.2020, we have been informed that as on 20.12.2019, there were 85 such cases in which the operative order had been pronounced, but reasoned judgments were not delivered so far.
The fact which has been brought to our notice by the Registrar of the Commission can, in no manner, be countenanced that between the date of operative portion of the order and the reasons are yet to be provided, or the hiatus period is much more than what has been observed to be the maximum time period for even pronouncement of reserved judgments. In State of Punjab & Ors. Vs.Jagdev Singh Talwandi 1984(1) SCC 596 in para 30, the Constitution Bench of this Court, as far back in 1983, drew the attention of the Courts/Tribunal of the serious difficulties which were caused on account of a practice which was being adopted by the adjudicating authorities including High Courts/Commissions, that of pronouncing the final operative part of the orders without supporting reasons. This was later again discussed by this Court in Anil Rai Vs. State of Bihar 2001(7) SCC 318.
Undisputedly, the rights of the aggrieved parties are being prejudiced if the reasons are not available to them to avail of the legal remedy of approaching the Court where the reasons can be scrutinized. It indeed amounts to defeating the rights of the party aggrieved to challenge the impugned judgment on merits and even the succeeding party is unable to obtain the fruits of success of the litigation.
The aforementioned principle has been emphatically restated by this Court on several occasions including in Zahira Habibulla M. Sheikh & Ors. Vs. State of Gujarat & Ors. [AIR 2004 SC 3467 paras 8082]; Mangat Ram Vs. State of Haryana [2008(7) SCC 96 paras 510]; Ajay Singh & Anr. Etc. Vs. State of Chhattisgarh & Anr. [AIR 2017 SC 310] and more recently in Balaji Baliram Mupade & Anr. Vs. The State of Maharashtra & Ors.(Civil Appeal No
3564 of 2020 pronounced on 29.10.2020) Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. Vs. Zaixhu Xie & Ors. (Civil Appeal No. 4022 of 2020 pronounced on 11.12.2020) and SJVNL Vs. M/s. CCC HIM JV & Anr. (Civil Appeal No. 494 of 2021 pronounced on 12.02.2021) wherein the delay in delivery of judgments has been observed to be in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution of India and the problems gets aggravated when the operative portion is made available early, and the reasons follow much later, or are not made available for an indefinite period.
In the instant case, the operative order was pronounced on 26.04.2019, and in the reasons disclosed, there is a hiatus period of eight months.
Let this Order be placed before the President of the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission to look into the matter, and take necessary steps so that this practice is discontinued, and the reasoned Judgment is passed alongwith the operative order. We would like to observe that in all matters where reasons are yet to be delivered, it must be ensured that the same are made available to the litigating parties positively within a period of two months.
With these observations, the Appeal stands disposed of.
Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of