Judicial work not to be delegated to officer: SC

Bench was examining Karnataka Stamp Act, 1957

Judicial work not to be delegated to officer: SC

A judicial functioning has to be conducted in a judicial manner and cannot be delegated to an officer of the court, the Supreme Court has said.

“The duty of determination of an instrument or, to explicate, to determine when there is a contest a particular document to be of specific nature, the adjudication has to be done by the judge after hearing the counsel for the parties. It is a part of judicial function and hence, the same cannot be delegated,” a three-judge bench presided over by Justice Dipak Misra said.

The bench, also comprising Justices R Banumathi and Mohan M Shantanagoudar, explained the legal position while examining the provisions of the Karnataka Stamp Act, 1957.

The court said under the law a single judge for the purpose of determining the character of the instrument could not have delegated the authority to the Registrar of the high court.

The dispute related to an agreement entered into by Black Pearl Hotels (Pvt) Ltd with M/s Planet M Retail Ltd in 2008 for enabling the latter to use its premises for running a retail shop on payment of a fixed percentage of its net sales proceeds subject to a minimum guaranteed sum of Rs 11 lakh per month.

Additionally, the Planet M was also liable to furnish an interest-free refundable security deposit to a sum of Rs 99 lakh.

On certain breach of the agreement, the matter reached the Karnataka High Court, wherein the single judge sent the issue for determination to Registrar (Judicial) if the document in question was a lease or licence or an agreement simpliciter with an arbitration clause.

After Black Pearls Hotels (Pvt) Ltd challenged the high court’s order, the apex court noted there is dispute with regard to the nature and character of the document.

‘Not empowered’
Citing the Karnataka Stamp Act, the apex court’s bench said, “We are inclined to think that the authority (Registrar) is not empowered to determine the nature and character of the document. He may at the best send a report to the court expressing his views on a document which is subject to final determination by the court.”

The court allowed the appeal and sent the matter to the high court’s single judgement for determination of the nature and character of the document.
 

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