High Court Registry cannot Question Maintainability of Petition- Supreme Court

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April 08, 2019

In this recent case, the Supreme Court Bench has ruled that the High Court Registry does not have the power to question the maintainability of petition and that the judicial function cannot be delegated to the Registry.

Case name: P. Surendran v. State by Inspector of Police

The present petition was filed against Lower Court’s order and order of the High Court Registry, in not numbering the anticipatory bail petition of the petitioner­accused herein. In the case, the Lower Court had the Petitioner’s anticipatory bail application and when the Petitioner approached the High Court of Madras seeking anticipatory bail the High Court Registry refused to number and list the matter before the court on the issue of maintainability of petition as the offence against the Petitioner had been registered under the Scheduled castes and the Scheduled Tribes (prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989.

Hence, the issue that fell for consideration before the Supreme Court was whether the Madras High Court Registry was wrong, in not numbering the Anticipatory­ Bail Petition and as to whether consequent dismissal of the same on the issue of maintainability of the petition impinges on the judicial function of the High Court?

Bench’s Verdict

The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court in view of precedents and established legal principles held that the High Court Registry does not have the power to question the maintainability of a Petition and it is a purely judicial function. Other observations made in the case are as under:

  • That the nature of judicial function is well settled under our legal system. Judicial function is the duty to act judicially, which invests with that character. The distinguishing factor which separates administrative and judicial function is the duty and authority to act judicially. Judicial function may thus be defined as the process of considering the proposal, opposition and then arriving at a decision upon the same on consideration of facts and circumstances according to the rules of reason and justice.
  • Reference by the Apex Court was also made to Five-Judge Constitution Bench judgment in the case of Jaswant Sugar Mills Ltd., Meerut vs. Lakshmichand and Ors.[1], wherein the Supreme Court had formulated the criteria to ascertain whether a decision or an act is judicial function or not.
  • In context of the facts of the present case, the Court opined that the act of numbering a petition is purely administrative. The objections taken by the Madras High Court Registry on the aspect of maintainability requires judicial application of mind by utilizing appropriate judicial standard.
  • It was also observed by the Court that the determination in this case is a judicial function and the High Court Registry could not have rejected the numbering.

In view of the aforesaid observations, the Supreme Court held in the case that the High Court Registry could not have exercised such judicial power to answer the maintainability of the petition, when the same was in the realm of the Court.

The entire case can be accessed here.


[1] AIR 1963 SC 677