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Unintentional flaw of a judicial officer shall not make him culpable: SC

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 8875 OF 2019 (arising out of SLP (Civil) No(s). 22709 of 2018)

The appellant, a judicial officer of the rank of Additional District and Sessions Judge while posted as the Chief Judicial Magistrate granted acquittal to the accused in State V. Mohmed Ayub. A complaint was lodged against the appellant with regard to the acquittal. A vigilance enquiry was adverse to the appellant. A punishment was directed towards the appellant and he accepted it without any challenge. Later a Full Judge Bench ordered compulsory retirement of the appellant. He challenged the order before the HC which was unsuccessful and he preferred the present appeal before this court.

The issue that is to be decided by the SC is whether the compulsory retirement of the appellant valid?

The counsel on behalf of appellant argued that since he joined service as Civil Judge his Annual Confidential Reports certified his integrity. His percentage of work was adequate. An error of judgment in deciding a criminal case cannot infer of honesty. Mere difference in view does not justify the extreme step of compulsory retirement. The appellant was promoted to the post of Additional District and Sessions Judge on the basis of merit-cum-seniority. Thus the punishment of censure is obliterate and irrelevant for the purpose of compulsory retirement.

 Ram   Ekbal   Sharma   vs.   State   of Bihar  and  Anr., (1990) 3 SCC 504;  Baikuntha  Nath  Das  and Anr.   vs.   Chief   District   Medical   Officer,   Baripada   and   Anr., (1992) 2 SCC 299; P.C. Joshi vs. State of U.P. and Ors., (2001) 6 SCC   491,   and  Ramesh   Chander   Singh   vs.   High   Court   of Allahabad and Anr., (2007) 4 SCC 247 were referred supporting this argument.

The counsel for the respondent contended that the adverse remarks against the appellant were never expunged. The fact that the appellant was promoted subsequently is irrelevant.

Baikuntha Nath Das (supra); Union of India & Ors. vs. K.K.Dhawan, (1993) 2 SCC 56; Union of India & Ors. vs. Duli Chand, (2006) 5 SCC 680;  Nawal Singh vs. State of U.P. and Another, (2003) 8 SCC 117; Pyare Mohan Lal vs. State of Jharkhand and Ors., (2010) 10 SCC 693; R.C. Chandel vs. High Court of M.P. and Anr., (2012) 8 SCC 58, and Punjab State Power Corpn. Ltd and Ors. vs. Hari Kishan Verma, (2015) 13 SCC 156 was referred supporting their arguments.

The court considered the submissions of the parties and their precedents relied upon and observed the following. The service records were examined by the screening committee, Full Court and also the Divisional Bench of the HC. PNJ have no application in case of compulsory retirement. The performance chart of the appellant rates him to be fair and good. There can hardly be any direct evidence on integrity. Registrar  General,  Patna  High  Court   vs. Pandey Gajendra Prasad and Ors. was also referred. In K.K.  Dhawan  (supra)and Duli Chand (supra) it was held that the compulsory retirement cannot be ordered for mere error of judgment. In Pyare  Mohan  Lal “A single adverse entry could suffice for an order of compulsory retirement”. Syed T.A.Naqshbandi & Ors. vs State of Jammu & Kashmir & Ors. Rajendra Singh Verma (D)  thr.  Lrs.  vs. Lt.  Governor  (NCT  of  Delhi), High Court of Judicature at Bombay vs. Shashikant S. Patil & Anr were also referred. Further P.C.Joshi  (supra), Ramesh Chander Singh (supra), Ram Ekbal Sharma (supra) were also referred.

The court, after making the above observations concluded that

The compulsory retirement undoubtedly affects the career aspiration of individuals. “Judicial service is not like any other service as the person discharging judicial duties act on behalf of the state in discharge of sovereign functions.  Dispensation of justice is not only an onerous duty but has been considered as akin to discharge of a pious duty, and therefore, is a very serious matter. A judge holds the office of a public trust. Impeccable integrity, unimpeachable independence with moral values embodied to the core are absolute imperatives which brooks no compromise. A judge is the pillar of the entire justice system and the public has a right to demand virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function. Judges must strive for the highest standards of integrity in both their professional and personal lives”.

It must be understood that an unintentional flaw of a judicial officer shall not make him culpable. A bona fide error needs correction and counseling. “For a trained legal mind, a judicial order speaks for itself.”

“Thus the order of compulsory retirement of the appellant calls for no interference. The appeal is dismissed.”

– Priyadharshini R

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