New Delhi: The Central Government has issued guidelines urging judges to refrain from reviewing the attire or social background of government officials appearing in court.
The SOP states that government officials should be allowed to wear their work clothes as long as they do not appear unprofessional.
The draft SOP includes a slew of guidelines for such officials’ appearance in court proceedings involving government litigation. This includes appearances in contempt of court proceedings. According to the SOP, the standards should be made applicable to all such court proceedings in both the higher and lower courts.
The goal is to foster a more friendly and conducive environment between the judiciary and the government, to improve the overall quality of government compliance with judicial orders, and to reduce the possibility of contempt of court.
The SOP also aims to significantly contribute to the savings of time and resources for both the courts and the government by allowing government officials to appear via video conferencing. Notably, the SOP suggests that the personal appearance of public officials in court proceedings be requested only in exceptional cases and not on a regular basis.
According to the draft SOP, courts should exercise restraint when summoning such officials in cases such as writ proceedings, public interest litigation, and contempt cases.
In exceptional circumstances where there is no other option but for the concerned government official to appear in court in person, due notice for an in-person appearance, giving sufficient time for such an appearance, must be served on such an official in advance, it added.
These rules should apply even when officials issue quasi-judicial orders in the course of their official duties. According to the guidelines, any appeal against such orders should be limited to their legality.
According to the SOP, contempt of court proceedings against officials should only be used to enforce enforceable orders, not to ensure a specific outcome in matters within the executive domain.
In addition, courts should not initiate contempt proceedings if the action is not willful. Prior to the initiation of contempt of court proceedings, higher courts may hear petitions for review on behalf of the government on allegedly unconsidered legal points.
Furthermore, the draught SOP recommends that the outcome of contempt of court proceedings be held in abeyance at the lower court level until the review is completed.
The SOP has specifically stated that judges should not sit on contempt proceedings relating to their own orders. Another suggested guideline is that adequate time be allowed for compliance with judicial orders involving policy matters after considering the government’s position in such matters.