The High Court of Madras recently said that the High Court’s executive branch does not have the authority to seek review of judicial orders.

Justice PT Asha dismissed a petition for reconsideration filed through the Registrar seeking reconsideration of the Madras High Court’s decision passed by the court in the last May.

The pending verdict was handed down by Judge Asha himself on May 5 last year. In that ruling, she ordered that the Tamil Nadu  government to make necessary changes to the rules of the TN Auto Accident Claims Court regarding the payment of court costs.

The court also issued guidelines providing for waivers of court costs under the MV Act pending amendment by the state. Among other things, these guidelines require applicants seeking such exemptions to submit an affidavit that they have no means of paying court costs, even if they have employment income. The High Court ruled that this affidavit must be sworn before a notary public.

According to the procedure, Judge Asha had sent the judgment to the office of the then Chief Justice of the Madras High Court for distribution to all courts. However, the incumbent CJ sent it to the High Court Steering Committee to consider whether the judgment merits reconsideration.

A current application was then submitted for review.

The motion for retrial alleged that the judgment had prejudiced the plaintiffs. But Judge Asha questioned how the High Court’s administrative side could request a reconsideration of the judgment if it was not the victim. She said it was important for the court to take action against itself, and she wondered if the court was acting like “Janus,” the two-faced god of Greek mythology. “I am faced with a rather strange conundrum of seeking administrative permission to review an order made by the High Court on the judicial side, especially when the High Court is not even a party to the litigation. Not to mention the wounded Party.So this court is facing JANUS who is two sides?”

Regarding concerns expressed on appeal that the guidelines issued in the judgment would harm plaintiffs, the judgment stated:

“Thus, the guidelines issued by this court requiring plaintiffs to file affidavits only, state that plaintiffs income earning members but do not have the necessary funds to pay court costs. This is for the benefit of the plaintiff, and if the plaintiff fails to do so, he will be forced to prove his necessity, which in no way prejudices his interests. Furthermore, the instruction to swear the affidavit before a notary is only to ensure its authenticity. Therefore, these guidelines need not be reviewed by courts who are not victims either…”

The court went on to say that Article 215 of the Constitution gives the court a small window to correct its errors. However, this right was granted only to the judicial High Court, it said.

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