Can an order dictated in an open court in the presence of lawyers and parties be recalled by judges?
The Supreme Court has ruled in the affirmative, holding that even an order which has been pronounced in an open court can be recalled in the interest of justice and that there was no impediment in the law against it.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice B S Chuhan has said there is no provision in the law as well as the corresponding rules that restrains a court from changing its order if the one dictated in the open court is subsequently found to be suffering with grave infirmities, either on facts or on law.
“A judge’s responsibility is very heavy…particularly in a case where a man’s life and liberty hang upon his decision, nothing can be left to chance or doubt or conjecture. Therefore, one cannot assume that the judge would not have changed his mind before the judgment becomes final,” held the court.
According liberty to the judges to change their orders even after dictating it in the open court, the bench, also comprising Justices J Chelameswar and M Y Eqbal, said an order or a judgment shall be treated as final only if it has been signed by the judge or the judges of that court.
Such an order, the bench said, became a final decision of the court when intimated to the parties and the world at large.
Citing some precedents, the bench affirmed the view that finality of an order or a judgment of a court shall not depend its delivery in an open court but on whether such an order is signed by the judge(s) concerned. It said unless signed, an order will be treated only as a draft order and not a final one.
The order came on an appeal by Kushalbhai Ratanbhai Rohit and two other policemen from Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
The trio had been found guilty of dereliction of duty that led an accused in a serious crime flee from their custody. They were sentenced to jail terms varying between two to three years by the trial court.
On an appeal in the high court, the judges on December 11 last year, took a view that sanction of the state government was required before prosecuting them and consequently, set aside the trial court order. The high court acquitted all of them while dictating the order in an open court.
However, a fortnight later, the high court suo motu recalled its earlier order directed the appeal to be heard again on merits. Challenging the recall order, the policemen moved the Supreme Court .
The Supreme Court held that that no exception can be taken to the procedure adopted by the high court in recalling the order and dismissed their plea.