Judges required to seek political clearance qua private visits abroad: Did Del HC strike down Ministry of External Affairs’ Office Memorandum requiring the same? Read decision

Delhi High Court: The Division Bench of Rajiv Shakdher and Jasmeet Singh, JJ., strikes down the OM dated 13-7-2021, to the extent it requires Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court to seek political clearance qua private visits abroad.

Why was the present application filed?

  • Set aside and/or quash the notification/office memorandum dated 13-7-2021 issued by the Union of India through Ministry of External Affairs
  • Set aside the communication issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice
  • Stay the operation of the notification/office memorandum dated 13-7-2021 issued by the Union of India through the Ministry of External Affairs during the pendency of the present application.

Concern was with regard to the aspect embedded in paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Office Memorandum dated 13-7-2021 requiring the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to obtain political clearance for private visits abroad.

The sum and substance of the O.M. was that it required judges of Constitutional Courts i.e., the Supreme Court and the High Court to seek political clearance qua private visits to foreign countries, infringes not only their right of privacy but also, in a sense, degrades and/or diminishes the high office that they hold.

High Court noted that on 15-2-2011, guidelines had been issued concerning foreign visits by Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts.

This Court by a decision dated 25-5-2012 had issued a slew of directions concerning the above-said guidelines. Though the Court did not deem it fit to pass any directions vis-à-vis the paragraph with regard to dispensing with the requirement of the Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to obtain political clearance for private foreign visits.

Bench opined that the O.M dated 13-7-2021, requiring the Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to seek political clearance for private foreign visits is uncalled for, given the high offices they are holding, especially given the fact that nothing has changed since the 2011 guidelines were issued.

With regard to the relief sought in clause (b) was concerned, the said will have to be partially allowed as it was a communication addressed by the Government of India, Ministry of law and Justice, Department of Justice to the Secretary-General, Supreme Court of India and the Registrar Generals of High Courts requiring them to take “appropriate action” in consonance with the O.M. Since Court has struck down the O.M. to the extent it requires judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to the obtain political clearance qua foreign (private) visit, the said communication, which is, dated 18.08.2021 will get truncated to that degree.

In view of the above analysis, the application was closed. [Aman Vachar v. Union of India, WP (C) No. 2712 of 1991, decided on 1-4-2022]


Advocates before the Court:

For the Petitioner:

Petitioner-in-person

For the Respondent:

Mr Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India with Mr Imon Bhattacharya, Adv.

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