‘The sterling qualities of a Presiding Deity of a Court of Law i.e., the Judicial Officer/Judge are: (a) Absolute Integrity; (b) Rectitude/Honesty; (c) Hard Work; (d) Humility; (e) Sincerity; (f) Fidelity; (g) Rumination of issues in a dispassionate manner and that too with a balanced mind; (h) Free from corrupt influence or motive; and (i) A character of unadulterated virtue.’
The Madras High Court recently upheld the dismissal from service of a district judge accused of corruption.
Ganesan had joined judicial service as a Magistrate in 1988 and was about to retire in November 2014, as a Principal District judge. While so, Registrar General of the High Court initiated some disciplinary proceedings against him in September 2014 and he was placed under suspension. He was also retained in service beyond 30.11.2014 (date of retirement) for the purpose of the disciplinary proceedings to be initiated against him.
The allegation was made by one complainant in a POCSO case that the judge released the accused involved in the case on bail after receiving the huge amount. Justice K Ravichandra Babu was appointed as an enquiring judge to conduct a departmental enquiry and he concluded the enquiry holding that the charges framed against the judge is proved.
This dismissal was challenged before the high court contending that the findings arrived at by the enquiring judge were based on 'conjectures', 'surmises' and 'presumptions'. It was also contended that the Government of Tamil Nadu, being the appointing authority for the post of all subordinate judicial officers including the district judges, alone is competent to pass an order to retain the service of a district judge.
The court observed that for the purpose of disciplinary enquiry, the high court has every authority under Article 235 of the Constitution to retain a judicial officer of the subordinate judicial in service beyond the date of his superannuation.
Upholding the enquiry report, a bench of Justice M Venugopal and Justice M Nirmal Kumar in a detailed judgment running over 130 pages, observed: “In the light of natural, cogent, coherent, convincing evidence of P.W.1 (Complainant), P.W.2 and P.W.3 coupled with Ex.P3 – Reply and also this Court by taking note of the entire conspectus of attendant facts and circumstances of the present case and considering the materials available on record, comes to an irresistible conclusion that the Charge of Illegal Gratification against the Petitioner (Delinquent Officer) was proved based on the principles of preponderance of probabilities and in respect of other allegations levelled against the Petitioner (Delinquent Officer), they were proved by means of reliable, convincing oral and documentary evidence of witnesses in the Domestic Enquiry conducted and in this regard, the Hon'ble Enquiring Judge had rendered his findings through his detailed Reasoned Report dated 10.08.2016. The said findings, by any means, cannot be said to be a perverse one. In fact, the said findings arrived at by the Hon'ble Enquiring Judge are based on evidence and this Court, while exercising its 'Scope of Review' is not to act as a 'Court of Appeal' and to interfere with the said Report.”
On the contention that there is no direct evidence, the bench observed: “Even though in the present case, there is no direct evidence to speak about the receipt of illegal gratification by the Petitioner for the grant of bail, for lack of direct evidence, the charges levelled against the Petitioner cannot be overlooked because of the simple reason that in regard to an allegation of illegal gratification, finding/procuring a direct evidence is a Herculean task, since the 'Beneficiary of Bribe' will seldom come forward to depose about the tainted transaction.”
Justice Venugopal also remarked: “The sterling qualities of a Presiding Deity of a Court of Law i.e., the Judicial Officer/Judge are: (a) Absolute Integrity; (b) Rectitude/Honesty; (c) Hard Work; (d) Humility; (e) Sincerity; (f) Fidelity; (g) Rumination of issues in a dispassionate manner and that too with a balanced mind; (h) Free from corrupt influence or motive; and (i) A character of unadulterated virtue.”
Dismissing the writ petition, the bench also observed that the penalty of punishment of dismissal imposed upon the officer is quite commensurate with the seriousness of misconduct committed by him.