THE Registrar of the Supreme Court has been ordered to pay costs by a High Court judge after he failed in his statutory duty to fix a date for an appeal. The Queen and the Registrar have been named as defendants in an unprecedented move. The Queen was represented by the Legal Department but there was no representation on behalf of the Registrar. The case involves Well-tech Colour Separation Ltd, which was seeking to appeal against a decision of the Obscene Articles Tribunal, which ruled on March 8 that photographs the company processed for a Swedish magazine were obscene. The company's solicitors, Paul C .W. Tse, lodged the appeal within the 14-day period stipulated. The Registrar then had to fix an appeal date within 28 days, or if that was not practical, within 56 days after receiving notice of the appeal. On May 7, the Clerk of the Supreme Court asked the solicitors' firm to call five days later to set a date for the appeal hearing. When the solicitor arrived, the Clerk refused to fix the date, saying it was beyond the stipulated 56 days. Mr Anthony Rogers, QC, appearing with Mr Yeung Ming-tai, yesterday described the decision as ''outrageous'' and ''a gross breach of statutory duty'' by the Registrar to refuse to fix an appeal date to which the appellant had a right. Under the Bill of Rights it should be fixed as soon as possible, he added. Mr Justice Chan said the case ''cries out for an explanation'', adding there may have been a ''misunderstanding'' over the rule about fixing dates within a specific time. The judge ordered the case to be returned to the Registrar for him to fix appeal dates. Only the Registrar is allowed to fix appeal dates, but failing that, the court can be asked to fix the dates. Mr Rogers stressed that his instructing solicitors and the client were blameless. ''It would be an abuse if, because of an administrative fault by the Supreme Court Registry, our right of appeal is taken away,'' Mr Rogers said. He also told the court that no explanation was given by the Registrar as to why a date was not fixed. ''It would be a great way of getting rid of cases - by just not fixing appeal dates,'' Mr Rogers added. Mr Justice Chan said he did not intend to lay the blame on any person without an investigation, especially as he had not heard from the Registrar. He found it odd that the solicitor was informed on May 7 (by which time the appeal period had already expired) to come over to fix the appeal date. But when he arrived, he was turned away. ''This cries out for an explanation - if you know the order has expired, why ask people to come and then turn them away?'' Mr Justice Chan said. Senior Crown Counsel Mr S. H. Kwok, representing the Legal Department, said he was in ''full sympathy'' with the appellants and said the only advice he could give was for them to apply out of time. After Mr Roger's successful application, he applied for costs against the Registrar saying it was not the fault of his client that they had to come to court yesterday. Costs were granted against the Registrar to be made absolute in 14 days when the judge said the Registrar might come back with some explanation. The judge said he had never known costs to have been made against a judicial officer. But Mr Rogers said the Registrar was exercising an administrative function, not a judicial function, when fixing dates for appeals.