The Delhi High Court has quashed a Ministry of External Affairs order requiring judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts to obtain clearance for their private visits to foreign countries, holding that such a condition was uncalled for.
The order by a division bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Jasmeet Singh came as it heard a plea challenging the MEA order issued on July 13, 2021, requiring that the judges should get a political clearance with respect to their visits abroad.
As per petitioner Aman Vachar, the order is not only infringed judges’ rights to privacy but also amounted to degrading and diminishing the high office that they hold.
“Insofar as the instant Office Memorandum (OM) dated July 13, 2021 requires judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts to seek political clearance for private foreign visits, it is uncalled for, given the high offices they are holding, especially given the fact that nothing has changed since the 2011 guidelines were issued,” the court order, dated April 1, read.
“Insofar as the relief sought in clause (b) is concerned, it will also have to be allowed partially as it is 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 OM. Since we have struck down the OM 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,” the order read.