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Magistrates’ special powers raise brows

- Tripura HC move termed ‘illegal’

Agartala, March 14: A notification issued by the registrar-general of Tripura High Court conferring powers of first class special judicial magistrate on sub-divisional and additional sub-divisional magistrates to deal with urgent matters like bail pleas has been called “illegal” by the legal fraternity.

The order issued on Wednesday by the registrar-general M. Chakraborty has directed all judicial officers to attend the two-day annual judicial conference of the high court on its first anniversary from March 22 as “official duty”.

A senior advocate, on the condition of anonymity, said in order to ensure maximum attendance of judicial officers, the powers of the first class special judicial magistrate have been conferred on the sub-divisional and additional sub-divisional magistrates for the two days of the event.

Describing the order as “blatantly illegal”, the senior advocate said, “There is a definite procedure to be followed for conferment of such powers as laid down in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).”

“According to Section 13 of CrPc, the high court may, if requested by the central or state governments to do so, confer upon any person who holds or has held any post under the government all or any of the powers of a judicial magistrate. But in this case, neither the state government nor the Centre has requested the high court to confer such powers,” he said.

He also pointed out that the Lok Sabha poll process has started across the country. In case of the state, the notification for the West Tripura seat has already been issued, while the notification for the East Tripura seat will be issued on March 19.

“Given this situation, approval of the Election Commission is required before conferring the powers of the first class special judicial magistrate on sub-divisional and additional sub-divisional magistrates, who perform very important duties during the polls,” the advocate said.

He said on the two days when all judicial officers will be attending the conference, urgent matters like bail applications, petitions for police custody, will be dealt with by officers who usually do not have legal knowledge or acumen to deal with them.

“This will directly infringe on the legal rights of people because their cases will be handled by judges having little or no knowledge of the law and procedure in court matters,” he added.

He added that at least two Supreme Court judges would be invited to attend the first anniversary of Tripura High Court and the two-day conference.

Apart from this, highly placed sources said there were a lot of irregularities, including financial that have been plaguing the activities of the court. They said computers were purchased recently from a bidder who had allegedly quoted high rates. “The lowest bidder who was supposed to get the supply order did not get the contract and the contractor awarded the contract had quoted a higher rate,” a source said.