The Bombay High Court has refused to exercise extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution and dismissed a couple of petitions challenging an order of the Registrar General of the High Court wherein a departmental inquiry was ordered against the petitioner who is a Civil Judge Junior Division.
A bench of Justice RM Sawant and SV Kotwal was hearing a petition filed by Asif Tahasildar, who was working in Bhokardan district, Jalna.
A complaint was received against the judge seeking disciplinary action. The then Principal District Judge of Jalna forwarded the said complaint to the Registrar General of the High Court. Consequently, the complaint was placed before the disciplinary committee comprising of the judges of the high court, which directed the Principal District Judge of Jalna to conduct a fact-finding inquiry. The report of the fact-finding inquiry was thereafter placed before the disciplinary committee which decided to initiate a disciplinary inquiry against the petitioner. The petitioner has accordingly issued a show cause notice along with the memo of charges and statement of imputations. The petitioner submitted his reply which was placed before the committee.
The disciplinary committee considered the entire material including the reply submitted by the petitioner and did not find the reply satisfactory. Thus, a regular departmental inquiry was decided to be held against the petitioner.
There were several charges against the petitioner, the first charge was that during his tenure at Bokardhan, Jalna, he took a private accommodation on a rental basis for Rs. 5,000 per month and informed the Executive Engineer, PWD accordingly. However, he later ‘corrected’ the amount to Rs.6,000 by misusing his official position.
The second charge against him was that he submitted false documents in order to get reimbursed for his wife’s treatment and caused a loss to the state exchequer. It was also alleged that during his training at Jalna, the petitioner had left the district headquarters without the Principal District Judge’s permission and later falsely deposed during a cross-examination in another departmental inquiry being conducted.
The most significant charge against the petitioner was that he physically assaulted the driver of a van, who had come to pick up the petitioner’s daughter for dropping her to school. The petitioner is also said to have threatened the owners of the van and also misused his position to pressurize them into taking back their statements in the departmental inquiry.
The court noted that the Chief Justice of India, in a letter written to all Chief Justices of high courts dated October 3, 2014, had framed certain guidelines for processing such complaints against the subordinate judiciary. There was a modification to the said guidelines on March 16, 2017, wherein the words ‘and/or verifiable material’ have been added.
Referring to Rule 8(2) of the Maharashtra Civil Service Rules, the court said-
“A reading of the said Rule 8(2) therefore discloses that the discretion is of the Disciplinary Authority if it is of the opinion that there are grounds for inquiring into the truth of any imputation of misconduct or misbehavior against a Government servant.”
After examining the submissions of both parties, the court further noted-
“In our view, the commencement of the said two disciplinary proceedings against the Petitioner cannot be said to be without jurisdiction as is sought to be contended by the Learned Counsel for the Petitioner as being in violation of the circulars issued by the Hon’ble The Chief Justice of India. In our view the reliance placed by the Learned Counsel for the Respondent No.2 on the judgments (Supra) of the Apex Court, seems to be apposite. The Apex Court has in terms observed that exercise of writ jurisdiction at the initial stage of commencement of the disciplinary proceedings would only be in exceptional cases more especially in cases where the disciplinary proceedings are commenced without jurisdiction. Such is not the case in the instant matter. We, therefore, do not deem it appropriate to exercise our Writ Jurisdiction.”
Thus, the petition was dismissed.