The Orissa High Court Judge, Justice Biswanath Rath has criticised the Division Bench for nullifying his verdict by passing a three-line order. He said that the Division Bench completely ignored all the judgments passed by the Apex Court even.

The Judge was dealing with a writ petition with regard to the direction to the passport authority to renew the travel document of a woman who was involved in two criminal cases.

He observed, “The Writ Appeal judgment with great humiliation and respect, this Court observes, it is absolutely unreasoned and unwarranted and appearing to be in abuse of process of law and in spite of the Single Bench judgment passed taking care of so many Hon’ble apex Court judgments indicating herein above allowing parties involved in grave criminal cases having there visiting overseas, the Division Bench appears to have completely ignored all such judgments, which have been passed by the Hon’ble apex Court even.”

Justice Rath criticised the Division Bench comprising the then Chief Justice S. Muralidhar and Justice G. Satapathy. The matter was related to an order passed in the year 2022 by Justice Rath in a case.

Advocate J. Pal appeared for the petitioner while Deputy Solicitor General P.K. Parhi appeared for the opposite parties.

Factual Background -

The petitioner, a woman, was already in grant of a passport and the period of the passport remained to be from March 24, 2009 to March 23, 2019. On finding that the passport was going to expire, as required under the law, the petitioner, in her sincere attempt in applying for renewal of passport in due time was still struggling in the matter of renewal of her passport.

The writ petition was in second round of litigation. In the first round of litigation on the petitioner moving the writ petition for expediting the renewal aspect, vide order, the High Court after providing opportunity to the counsel for the petitioner as well as the Regional Passport Authority finally disposed of the same.

Justice Rath in view of the above facts of the case said, “Even though the Passport Authority is relaying on a Division Bench order in creating the judgment of this Court in W.P.(C) No.4834/2022, unfortunately the order in creating such proceeding by virtue of such judgment does not give any reasoning as to why such judgment shall not be precedent.”

He further noted that in his entire practice period of 28 years and judgeship of 9 years, he never came across in taking out the effect of such judgments in just three lines order by a higher Bench.

“For the Hon’ble apex Court judgments indicated herein above applying to the case of the Petitioner and the reasons assigned on the aspect of illegality on the part of the Regional Passport Authority in asking for a court clearance, there has been illegal application of the provision at Section 6(2)(f) of the Passports Act, 1967. This Court, therefore, interfering in the direction part at Paragraphs-4 & 5 of the impugned order at Annexure-5 granting the Petitioner 30 days time from the date of receipt of that order producing before the Passport Issuing Authority an order from the concerned court allowing to go abroad and setting aside that part directs the Regional Passport Officer, O.P.2 for there is no hindrance in the foreign visit of the Petitioner to grant the renewal of the Passport without further involvement of the Petitioner and remits the renewal Passport of the Petitioner by completing all such exercise within seven days from the date of submission of this judgment”, held the Single Judge.

He said that the Division Bench in such matter is required to apply its mind and give reason in taking out effect of such judgments, otherwise such judgments will not be applicable in the legal parlance. He also clarified that for the Bench system in High Court and the practice followed in the roster or assignment for the administrative side, decision of the Chief Justice, certain matters are taken up at Single Bench side and certain matters are taken up at Division Bench side.

“It is strange to observe here, there is perhaps a feeling in the Division Bench that they are having the absolute appellate authority over Single Bench judgment. Yes, there is no doubt, Writ Appeals lie in certain cases but only in letters patent otherwise there is no difference so far as functioning of the Single Bench and the Division Bench is concerned. In the event, Writ Appeals are taken up as a matter of routine then there is no confidence and sanctity in the Single Bench functioning”, he added.

Accordingly, the writ petition succeeded.

Cause Title- Madhusmita Samant v. Union of India & Anr.

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