In a significant judgment, the Bombay High Court recently held that in case the order of termination of a probationer judge is simplisitor termination, it is not necessary to follow the principles of natural justice and or to hold any inquiry before issuing an order of termination.
The division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice NB Suryawanshi dismissed a writ petition filed by Ajay Dinode, who was appointed as a District Judge in 2014 at Akola and was later conferred with powers of an Additional Sessions Judge in 2015. In July 2016, the High Court of Bombay recommended him as Special Judge for speedy and expeditious trial for the matters relating to National Spot Exchange Ltd Scam. However, the petitioner was discharged from service in June 2017. Hence the present petition was filed.
In the said petition filed under Articles 14, 16, 21 309, 311(2) and 226 of the Constitution of India, the petitioner questions the legality and propriety of order of discharge from service, issued by the State Government on June 23, 2017, under the provisions of Rule 13(4) (ii)(b) and Rule 14 of the Maharashtra Judicial Services Rules 2008, which according to the petitioner is creating disqualification from future employment as per Rule 7(b) of the MJS Rules.
Senior Advocate AV Anturkar appeared on behalf of the petitioner and Senior Advocate Milind Sathe appeared for the Registrar General, High Court.
AV Anturkar vehemently argued that the State Government has mechanically followed the recommendations of the High Court. In fact the appointing authority ought to have verified the suitability of the petitioner through their own resources. Since Rule 13(4) (a) mentions the word, "finding", in the absence of any enquiry there cannot be any finding. Hence an enquiry, howsoever brief in nature should have been conducted, Anturkar said.
He further urged that since ACRs of the petitioner were good, there was no reason for his discharge. Since certain adverse facts, integrity, morality of the petitioner have been taken into consideration, as has been disclosed in the affidavit filed by the High Court, the impugned order is stigmatic and the same cannot be sustained in the absence of any enquiry conducted by the High Court, Anturkar argued.
On the other hand, Milind Sathe submitted that the impugned order is of simpliciter discharge without casting any stigma/aspersions on the petitioner, hence there was no necessity to follow the principles of natural justice. Also, according to the terms of the appointment order, the appointment of the petitioner was of a temporary nature and the appointment order stipulates that without assigning any reason the services of the petitioner can be discharged, Sathe said.
After examining the submissions of both parties, the Court referred to the case of State Bank of India & Ors vs Palak Modi & Anr, which was cited by Milind Sathe to support his submissions. In the said judgment Supreme Court followed and quoted the decision in Chandra Prakash Shahi vs. State of UP. The bench observed-
"The observations made in Chandra Prakash Shahi (supra) are squarely applicable, in our opinion, to the facts of the present case and since the order is of simpliciter termination, we do not and force in the arguments of the Petitioner. We are unable to accept the contention of the Petitioner that the order is punitive."
Court also perused through the MJS Rules and further noted-
"It is unacceptable that the Petitioner without going through the relevant MJS Rules which clearly states that the appointment of the Petitioner is temporary nature and the same can be terminated without assigning any reason. Having accepted the appointment order of probation with open eyes it does not allow in the mouth of the Petitioner now to contend that he suffered disqualification because of the impugned termination order and therefore the principles of natural justice ought to have been violated. Since the order of termination of the Petitioner is simplisitor termination of a probationer, it was not necessary to follow the principles of natural justice and or to hold any inquiry before issuing an order of termination to the Petitioner."
Finally, the Court said that petitioner's discharge from service cannot be termed as removal for any misconduct or on the grounds of indiscipline and dismissed the petition-
"While judging the performance of the petitioner overall suitability, performance record, so also reports from higher authorities were called and were looked into before arriving at the decision of discharging the petitioner from service. In this view of the matter also no fault can be found with the impugned decision."
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