A Judicial Officer Is Not An Ordinary Government Servant & Must Be Above Suspicion: Allahabad HC [Read Order]
Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Wednesday upheld the dismissal of a judicial officer on grounds of misconduct, on the basis of two orders passed by her in land acquisition cases.
In doing so, the bench comprising Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Shabihul Hasnain observed, “A judicial officer is not an ordinary Government Servant and must be above suspicion. The conduct of the judicial officer must be beyond doubt as a Judge must be a person of high integrity, honesty and required to have moral vigour, fairness and should be impervious to corrupt or venial influences.”
The court was hearing a petition filed by former Additional District Judge, Ghaziabad, Ms. Sadhna Chaudhary, challenging the order of her dismissal passed by the Appointments Department of the State Government in January 2016.
The petitioner had joined the services as an Additional Munsif in the year 1972 and had made her way towards appointment as an Additional District Judge over the years. Disciplinary proceedings were, however, initiated against her for two land acquisition cases dealt with by her.
In one of the cases, she had awarded solatium, additional amount and interest over and above the agreed rates in the compromise deed despite acknowledging the same. In the second case, she had gone against her own orders passed in relation to the same village and had enhanced the rate of compensation.
The High Court had subsequently, on an appeal filed by the Agra Development Authority, made some far-reaching observations with regard to the manner in which land acquisition references were being decided in the State of U.P. A direction was also issued to the Administrative Committee of the High Court for taking appropriate action against the concerned judicial officers, who appeared to be working in collusion with the claimants/beneficiaries.
The petitioner’s name had then cropped up and disciplinary enquiry had been initiated. The enquiry officers had opined that the errors committed by the petitioner were “shocking” and evidently deliberate. They had, therefore, held that the charges against her stood proven. The Full Court had accepted this finding and had ordered her dismissal.
The high court now upheld this perspective, asserting that it is the legality and correctness of the decision-making process and the conduct of a judicial officer that has to be considered for disciplinary proceedings initiated against them. It opined that the final decision passed by the officer has no significance.
It then approved the finding arrived at by the enquiry officers, observing, “The finding given by the Enquiry Officer about the wind fall gain made available to the claimants by the petitioner were absolutely shocking and since the same were not mere errors of judgment, but they are evident blunders deliberately by the petitioner, therefore, the Enquiry Officer had rightly concluded from the decision making process of the two orders of the petitioner that it was the result of extraneous considerations and the same was not mere error of the judgment therefore both the charges were rightly proved.”
The court further pointed out that the scope of judicial review in matters relating to disciplinary enquiry is very limited, and that such interference is warranted only when there is no material for the conclusion arrived at by such enquiry.
It thereafter noted that the Administrative Committee and the Full Court had duly considered the petitioner’s response and had applied its independent mind before passing the impugned order of dismissal.
Opining that no case is made out in favour of the petitioner and thereby, dismissing the petition, the court finally observed, “The petitioner has utterly failed in justifying her conduct in discharging her judicial functions and in deciding the two Land Acquisition References, in the most reckless and arbitrary manner, which were bereft of all judicial propriety and since it amounted to misconduct under the Conduct Rules, therefore, the finding of the Enquiry Officer in proving the aforesaid two charges cannot be negated.”