There cannot be any compromise in respect of rectitude, honesty and integrity of a candidate who seeks appointment as civil judge, the bench observed.
The Madhya Pradesh High Court, in Ashutosh Pawar v High Court of Madhya Pradesh, has held that the decision of criminal court on the basis of compromise or an acquittal cannot be treated that a person possesses good character, which may make him eligible for the post of judicial officer.
A full bench comprising of Chief Justice Hemant Gupta, Justice Ravi Shankar Jha and Justice Nandita Dubey also observed that the standard of conduct in the case of judicial officer is higher than that expected of an ordinary citizen and also higher than that expected of a professional in law as well.
Ashutosh Pawar, an aspirant for the post of civil judge, had completed all the three stages of the examination i.e. preliminary examination, main examination and interview, and his name was recommended for appointment.
But in view of the disclosure made by the applicant, that he was tried for some offences by the Juvenile Justice board and in some other cases, he was acquitted by a criminal court in view of compromise arrived between the parties, the high court directed the government to verify as to the status and result of the criminal cases against him.
The government, upon requisition of the high court, reported that he is not suitable for appointment to the post of Civil Judge, Class-II. He challenged this before the high court, which referred the matter to full bench in view of conflicting views in earlier judgments rendered by the division bench.
Acquittal does not mean that the candidate possesses good character
The full bench observed that decision of criminal court on the basis of compromise or an acquittal cannot be treated that the candidate possesses good character, which may make him eligible, as the criminal proceedings are with the view to find culpability of commission of offence whereas the appointment to the civil post is in view of his suitability to the post. “The test for each of them is based upon different parameters and therefore, acquittal in a criminal case is not a certificate of good conduct to a candidate. The competent Authority has to take a decision in respect of the suitability of candidate to discharge the functions of a civil post and that mere acquittal in a criminal case would not be sufficient to infer that the candidate possesses good character,” the bench said.
Expectations from a judicial officer are of much higher standard
The court further observed: “The expectations from a Judicial Officer are of much higher standard. There cannot be any compromise in respect of rectitude, honesty and integrity of a candidate who seeks appointment as Civil Judge. The personal conduct of a candidate to be appointed as Judicial Officer has to be free from any taint. The standard of conduct in the case of Judicial Officer is higher than that expected of an ordinary citizen and also higher than that expected of a professional in law as well. The same must be in tune with the highest standard of propriety and probity.”
Ultimate decision on suitability of candidate for appointment is to rest with the high court
The petitioner had also questioned the authority of the government to reject his candidature. In this regard, the bench observed: “The decision in respect of eligibility of any candidate on account of involvement in a criminal case has to be taken by the High Court. If the State has any information in respect of the antecedents or any other material which is relevant in respect of suitability of a candidate, the State must share the information with the High Court. The ultimate decision on suitability of candidate for appointment is to rest with the High Court.”