SC pulls up Madras HC for delay in pronouncing order
By J. Venkatesan
NEW DELHI , SEPT. 20. The Supreme Court has pulled up the Madras High Court for taking 22 months to deliver a judgment after reserving orders in an election petition involving the AIADMK Lok Sabha MP, Mr. P.H. Pandian (who contested the Assembly elections in 1996).
A three-judge bench, comprising the Chief Justice, Dr. A.S. Anand, Mr. Justice R.C. Lahoti and Mr. Justice Ashok Bhan, disposing of the appeal filed by Mr. Pandian observed that ``such a long delay in pronouncing a judgment in an election petition, to say the least, was not at all proper''.
The bench observed, ``We find no justification whatsoever for the judgment to have remained reserved for 22 months. Such a long delay in pronouncing judgments gives rise to avoidable criticisms. Courts must guard against it.'' It noted that though fresh elections had since been held to the Tamil Nadu Assembly and to an extent the appeal had been rendered infructuous, the manner in which the petition was dealt with by the High Court ``causes us concern and that necessitates our making reference to some salient facts''.
The bench noted another infirmity in the High Court taking 11 months to give a certified copy of the judgment to the appellant. ``The total term of the Assembly is five years. Counting the period spent for the trial of the election petition and thereafter when the judgment remained reserved and the time spent in supplying certified copy, 53 months had expired.
``Thus, a major part of the entire term of the Assembly was spent in court proceedings. We are at a loss to understand why the election petition was dealt with so casually in the High Court. That 11 months time was taken for supplying certified copy of the judgment is itself a poor reflection on the administration of the High Court.''
The bench said, ``We find it proper to request the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court to look into this aspect because such delays in delivery of certified copies of judgments in all cases, and more particularly in election petitions, is highly objectionable. Why and how it happened is for the Chief Justice of the High Court to explore. We say no more!'' Mr. Pandian, who had been a MLA for four consecutive terms between 1977 and 1991, lost the 1996 elections from Cheranmahadevi constituency. His petition challenging the election of Mr. P. Veldurai was dismissed by the High Court. Against this, he filed the present appeal in the apex court.
The bench disposed of the appeal without going into the merits, stating, ``It is settled practice of this court not to pronounce upon matters which are only of an academic interest.'' However, the bench set aside the High Court order imposing Rs. 7,500 as costs on the appellant.