'Sends Bad Message To Efficient Judges' : Supreme Court Urges Patna HC To Drop Proceedings Against Judge For Deciding POCSO Cases Within Days
The Supreme Court of India on Monday urged the Patna High Court to drop all disciplinary proceedings initiated against a suspended Additional Sessions Judge from Bihar for deciding POCSO cases within days.
During the hearing, a division bench comprising of Justices UU Lalit and Ravindra Bhat orally observed,
"Our sincere advice is to drop everything. If you don't want to, we'll go threadbare into it. Unless you're alleging corruption, there has to be something glaring…..He's only following up on his orders, this is extremely unfair against him."
Hearing this, Advocate Gaurav Agarwal, appearing for the High Court, said that he would inform the High Court of the same.
The bench was considering a writ petition filed by a suspended Additional Sessions Judge from Bihar who alleged that the disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him by the High Court for deciding POCSO cases within days. The judge had awarded life sentence to a man in a POCSO case in a trial completed within a day; in another case of child rape, the judge had sentenced a man to death after completing trial within 4 days.
During the hearing today, the Bench further observed that there shouldn't be an over zealousness to punish as it would send a bad message to other judicial officers who are efficient in their conduct. Justice Lalit also noted that the petitioner judge's judgments are well written.
Further, the court pointed out that anything against the judicial officer would be a reflection on the respective High Court as well.
As the hearing progressed, the court was told that a memorandum dated August 5, 2022, containing articles of charge along with enclosures was served upon the petitioner Judge. The memorandum called upon the petitioner to submit his written statement of defense within 10 days of the receipt of the memorandum, the court was told.
Senior Advocate Vikas Singh appearing for the petitioner judge informed the Bench that he is willing to submit the statement of defense.
Agarwal then stated that an appropriate decision, after considering the entirety of the matter including the response filed by the petitioner, would be taken in two days.
The Court then observed that it would be appropriate for the High Court to consider the suspended judge's written statement.
Accordingly, the court recorded the following in its order and posted the matter for hearing on August 18.
"......Mr,Vikas Singh, ld. Senior advocate, appearing for the petitioner, submits that without prejudice to all his submissions and connected petitions, the petitioner is willing to submit the statement of defense, in response to the memorandum. Let the needful be done on or before 15th of August, 2022, in terms of the requisition made in the memorandum.
Mr. Gaurav Agarwal, Ld. Advocate appearing for the High Court submits that an appropriate decision, after considering the entirety of the matter including the response filed by the petitioner, shall be taken within two days, thereafter.
List the matter for further consideration on 18.08.2022."
In the previous hearing, the Court had taken exception to the petitioner judge sentencing a convict to death in a POCSO case in a trial completed within 4 days and sentencing another POCSO convict to life in a trial completed in a single day.
The petitioner Shashi Kant Rai, a judge who was hearing cases under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, had moved the Supreme Court challenging his suspension, claiming that action was taken against him only for questioning the new evaluation system in place for promotions in the district judiciary.
Terming the non speaking suspension order dated February 8, 2022 as illegal, malicious and arbitrary, the petitioner has argued that he had sought for consideration for restoration of seniority on the basis of new evaluation system introduced by the High Court, but the High Court straightaway issued notice and later suspended him for questioning the process of evaluation of judgments.
He has also stated that the High Court failed in its constitutional obligation to guide and protect the judicial officers and suspended him without giving any reasons. Relying on Rule 6 (7) of the Bihar Rules, the petitioner has stated that the suspension order stands revoked as no charge-sheet has been framed and communicated to the Petitioner till date and no such revocation has been communicated to the Petitioner till date.
The suspended judge who had assumed charge as Special Judge, POCSO on August 20, 2020 has also stated that he reasonably believes that there is an institutional bias.
To further substantiate his contention, he has stated that this is because in one of his judgments he had granted capital punishment to the accused in four working days of trial and in another case awarded punishment of Life imprisonment in one working day of trial which was not only widely reported by media but was appreciated by the Government as well as by the public.
Case Title: Shashi Kant v HC of Judicature at Patna| WP(C) 557/2022