The Supreme Court has held that the High Court registry cannot decide maintainability of petitions which requires judicial application of mind.
The bench comprising Justice NV Ramana and Justice Mohan M. Shantanagoudar was considering a special leave petition (P. Surendran vs. State) challenging the action of Madras High Court Registry which had refused numbering of a Anticipatory Bail petition and dismissed it on the issue of the maintainability in view of Section 18A of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
The issue considered by the Apex 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?
While hearing the plea, the court sought the views of the Attorney General who submitted that in the light of the inclusion of Section 18A under the SC/ST Act, appropriate bench has to adjudicate the matter as the same is a judicial function. He opined that the registry of the Madras High Court could not have refused to number the anticipatory bail application on the ground of maintainability. The court observed:
"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."
The court further observed that the act of numbering a petition is purely administrative. It said:
"The objections taken by the Madras High Court Registry on the aspect of maintainability requires judicial application of mind by utilizing appropriate judicial standard. Moreover, the wordings of Section 18A of the SC/ST Act itself indicate at application of judicial mind. In this context, we accept the statement of the Attorney General that the determination in this case is a judicial function and the High Court Registry could not have rejected the numbering. . Therefore, we hold 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. As the power of judicial function cannot be delegated to the Registry, we cannot sustain the order, rejecting the numbering/registration of the Petition, by the Madras High Court Registry."
While directing the registry to number the petition, the court clarified that it has not expressed any views on the nature of the amendment, the standard of judicial review and the extent of justiciability under Section 18-A of the SC/ST Act.