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Patna High Court holds vacation bench cannot decide or dispose cases other than bail application

In this case, the writ application, filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, has been listed before me today, during annual vacation, evidently as a vacation judge

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The Patna High Court on Monday held that a vacation bench of the High Court cannot decide and dispose of any case, other than bail application, on merits.

A single-judge bench of Justice Chakradhari Sharan Singh passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Shlok Kumar Chakravarti.

In this case, the writ application, filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, has been listed before me today, during annual vacation, evidently as a vacation judge.

As per the High Court’s calendar, annual vacation of the Court commenced from May 23, 2021 and the Court is scheduled to reopen on June 21, 2021. It would be apt to mention that the annual calendar of this Court is decided by the Judges at a meeting of the Full Court in terms of Item (vii) of sub-rule (1) of Rule 13 of the Patna High Court Rules, 1916.

There is no gainsaying that the working days of the High Court are regulated by the said Rules which have statutory character, in view of Article 225 of the Constitution of India.

“There appears to be no notice issued by the High Court on its administrative side re -scheduling the annual vacation. This observation is being made to reiterate that the matter has been placed before this Court during the annual vacation before a vacation judge. The language of Rule 4 of Chapter II of the Rules is crystal clear which begins with a non -obstante clause. Apparently, a Single Judge, while acting in long vacation as a vacation judge, may issue notice or Rule, as the case may be, in any criminal matter, and in such other matters, Civil or under the Constitution ‘as he may consider emergent’, and may also pass interim orders regarding stay, injunction, bail and other reliefs, as may be deemed fit”, the Court said.

The Court observed that,

“Apparently thus, a vacation judge may grant bail in criminal matters and pass ‘interim orders’ only regarding stay, injunction and other reliefs in such other matters, civil or under the Constitution ‘as he may consider emergent’ but cannot decide and dispose of a case, other than bail applications, on merits”.

Neither, Senior Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioner nor Counsel representing the State of Bihar nor the Bihar Public Service Commission appear to have made any mention for emergent hearing of this application during the vacation. The parties have already entered appearance. Even the pleadings are complete.

The Court held that,

“However, in view of the provisions of Rule 4 of Chapter II of the Rules, the matter cannot be taken up and decided during the annual vacation.

In response to a query made by the Court as to whether there is any decision taken re-scheduling the annual vacation, the Court has been informed that no such decision has been taken and such matters, which were listed before this Bench on May 17, 2021, have been directed to be listed before this Bench. Possibly, the provisions under Rule 4 of Chapter II of the Rules have not been brought to the notice of the Chief Justice”.

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“The Court is not unmindful of the situation arising out of unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic and in a given situation, the Court, on its administrative side, could take a decision in accordance with law, to overcome the limitation under Rule 4 of Chapter II of the Rules but, in no case, statutory provisions prescribing limitations on a vacation judge sitting during long vacation can be breached”, the order reads.

The Court has fixed the next hearing of the Petition on June 21, 2021.

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