Appointment of Raghuvir Pandya as Prosecutor quashed by Gujarat HC; Issues Guidelines for Appointment of Prosecutors [Read Judgment]
Gujarat High Court has quashed the appointment of Raghuvir Nandkrishna Pandya, as Government Pleader cum Public Prosecutor. Justice J.B. Pardiwala allowed the Writ applications challenging the Government order appointing Pandya as the District Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor of Vadodara.
Residents of Vadodara had approached the High court praying for a writ of quo warranto removing Shri Raghuvir Pandya from the office of the District Government Pleader and Public Prosecutor, Vadodara, as according to them, he is not fit and suitable for the post. pointed out that the Supreme Court in the case of Zahira Habibulla H Sheikh V. State of Gujarat [2004(4) SCC 158] made scathing remarks against Shri Pandya in his capacity as the Public Prosecutor as regards his character, integrity and competency. They also contended that there was no effective consultation between the District Magistrate and the Sessions Judge as regards the observations of the Supreme Court and also on other vital issues. Pandya was the Public Prosecutor in 2004 and had conducted a very sensational trial popularly known as the "Best Bakery Case". Supreme Court had observed that Pandya appeared more as a defence counsel than one whose duty was to present the truth before the Court.
The grounds of challenge in the Writ application were the following
- Non- consideration of relevant material
- No proper and effective consultation or deliberation
- No written opinion as to fitness and suitability and absence of communication to the State Government on the aspect of “suitability” and “fitness
- There is nothing on record that an opinion as to suitability and fitness was formed by the District Judge in consultation with the Sessions Judge.
- Preparing a panel of names only on the basis of the marking system vitiates the entire decision making process and runs contrary to Section 24 of the Cr.P.C.
- If at all the marking system is to be adopted, the same should be based on some objective criteria. The stance of the State Government that it thought fit to appoint Shri Pandya as the Public Prosecutor as he had secured the highest marks goes to show that the State mechanically appointed Shri Pandya, more particularly, when in the past, the State itself had rejected Shri Pandya on the ground that he was not fit to be appointed as the Public Prosecutor.
- The decision to appoint Shri Pandya as the Public Prosecutor was against the public interest and the same has shaken the confidence of the people in the justice delivery system
The Court allowing the applications summarized its findings in the form of guidelines to be followed in appointment of Public Prosecutors. It said
- The words "in his opinion fit to be appointed as Public Prosecutor" are not to be construed in the sense of a mere discretionary power, but in the context of the words "in consultation with the Sessions Judge" imposes a statutory duty to examine the fitness and suitability of the persons as one of the important eligibility criteria or statutory requirements. The words "in the opinion" does not mean purely subjective determination by the District Magistrate. It is not correct to say that the words "in the opinion" leave the matter entirely at the subjective will of the District Magistrate and the High Court cannot interfere in appropriate cases even when there is a failure to comply with the legal requirements or the decision is not in public interest.
- The Public Prosecutor holds a “public office”. He holds the public office within the scope of a “quo warranto”
- Apart from the eligibility criteria provided by Section 24 (7) of the Code and the rules so far as the appointment as the Public Prosecutor is concerned, the other important eligibility criteria is that such persons should be “fit” to be appointed.
- The institutional integrity of the institution of the Public Prosecutor should be kept in mind while recommending the name of the candidate. Appointment to the post of a Public Prosecutor must satisfy, not only the eligibility criteria of the candidate, but also the decision making process of the recommendations.
- The present writ applications are not hit by the doctrine of res judicata. The writ application earlier filed in public interest was dismissed only on the ground of lack of bona fide on the part of the petitioner.
- The “fitness” of the empanelled advocates must also be examined by the Government before appointing one of them as the Public Prosecutor
- The allotment of marks or the marksheet alone can never be construed as an expression of opinion as regards the “fitness” and “suitability
- The District Magistrate as well as the District and Sessions Judge must express their respective opinions in writing and such opinions must reflect what was considered and how.
- The written opinion should also indicate whether any adverse material had come to their notice and was looked into and discussed.
- Having regard to the materials on record, the case in hand is one of lack of effective consultation
Read the Judgment here.