The Supreme Court on Wednesday said that the element of judicial accountability is lost where oral regimes prevail and this would set a dangerous precedent and is unacceptable. The Court further said that High Courts while passing orders should ensure that it is done by way of written orders and judgments and not by way of oral directions.
The Court was hearing an appeal against a verdict passed by the Gujarat High Court which issued an oral direction to restrain the arrest of a person accused of cheating and forgery.
The Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah said, “Oral observations in court are in the course of a judicial discourse. The text of a written order is what is binding and enforceable. Issuing oral directions (presumably to the APP) restraining arrest, does not form a part of the judicial record and must be eschewed. Absent a judicial order, the investigating officer would have no official record emanating from the High Court on the basis of which a stay of arrest is enforced. The administration of criminal justice is not a private matter between the complainant and the accused but implicates wider interests of the State in preserving law and order as well as a societal interest in the sanctity of the criminal justice administration.”
The Court further stated that the procedure which was followed by the Single Judge must therefore be eschewed in the future. Judges speak through their judgments and orders. The written text is capable of being assailed. The element of judicial accountability is lost where oral regimes prevail. This would set a dangerous precedent and is unacceptable. Judges, as much as public officials over whose conduct they preside, are accountable for their actions.
The Apex Court also opined most High Courts deal with high volumes of cases. Judicial assessments change with the roster. Absent a written record of what has transpired in the course of a judicial proceeding, it would set a dangerous precedent if the parties and the investigating officer were expected to rely on unrecorded oral observations.