An incomprehensible judgment by the Himachal Pradesh HC prompted the Supreme Court to make some pertinent observations on the purpose of courts writing judgments (State Bank of India v. Ajay Kumar Sood). The purpose of judgments, the top court said on March 12, conveys the basis and reasons for its decision to lawyers and citizens who approach courts for remedy. Judgments written in incomprehensible language does a disservice to the cause of ensuring accessible and understandable justice to citizens, a Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said.
By its order dated November 27, 2020, the Himachal Pradesh HC had affirmed the Central Government Industrial Tribunal (CGIT). The CGIT, while concluding that the first charge of misconduct against the respondent was proved, interfered with the penalty of dismissal only on the ground that it was harsh and disproportionate to the misconduct. Hence, the penalty of dismissal was modified to that of compulsory retirement. When the appeal against the HC Judgment came up before the Supreme Court, the top court observed that the HC had written a judgment spanning over eighteen pages, but the same was "incomprehensible".
"The reasons set out in the judgment of the Division Bench of the HC dated November 27 2020, dismissing the petition filed by the petitioners under Article 226 of the Constitution, span over eighteen pages but are incomprehensible," the Supreme Court noted in its judgment. It then extracted the relevant portions of the HC judgment, which could not be deciphered. Nevertheless, the apex court said that since the HC had affirmed the award of the CGIT, the top court has been able to arrive at an understanding of the basic facts from the order of the CGIT.
"From the record of the Court, more particularly the award of the CGIT, it emerges that though a serious charge of misconduct was held to be established against the respondent, it has been interfered with, and the High Court has dismissed the petition under Article 226," the Supreme Court said. Prima facie, in our view, a serious act of misconduct stands established from the evidentiary findings contained in paragraphs 16 and 17 of the awards of the CGIT, it added. Therefore, the Supreme Court issued a notice and ordered that no coercive steps shall be taken against the petitioners based on the award of the CGIT dated July 9, 2019. In April 2017, a Supreme Court Bench of Justices Madan Lokur and Deepak Gupta had set aside a judgment of the Himachal Pradesh HC because of the convoluted English used in the judgment.
We will have to set it aside because one cannot understand this," the Supreme Court had said when remanding the matter back to the HC for re-drafting the judgment. In another instance, a Bench of Justices AM Sapre and Indu Malhotra of Supreme Court had in December 2018, except that the Himachal Pradesh HC had devoted 60 pages to write an order for remanding a matter back to the first appellate court.
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