The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court recently held that control over the District Judiciary vested in the High Court in Article 235 of the Constitution of India is complete and absolute and provided only to ensure the independence of the judiciary and to achieve effective separation of powers.
A Division Bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Sanjeev Kumar held that,
"The 'control' vested in the High Court, inter alia, extends to the maintenance of discipline in judicial service which in turn would mean vesting all disciplinary powers in the High Court."
The observation was made while deciding the plea of a former Munsiff, who was removed from judicial service by the Governor of the erstwhile State of J&K. The said order of his removal was passed on the recommendations of the entire court for the petitioner's proven misconduct.
The petitioner had argued that the show cause notice proposing penalty of removal of the petitioner from the service issued by the High Court is without jurisdiction. It was his case that in terms of Rule 34 of the J&K Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal), Rules 1956, it is only the Governor which is competent to impose the penalty of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank, is competent to issue the notice after it has arrived at provisional conclusions in regard to the penalty to be imposed, on the delinquent.
He also argued that a Judicial Officer is protected for any act done or ordered to be done by him in the discharge of judicial duty.
At the outset, the High Court referred to T.R.Parihar vs. State of Jammu and Kashmir and ors, 1986 KLJ 187, where it was held that the High Court has the exclusive and absolute control over the subordinate judiciary in the matter of disciplinary proceedings and it is the High Court alone, to the exclusion of all other authorities, which can initiate disciplinary proceedings against the members of the subordinate judiciary including District and Sessions Judges, suspend them pending the enquiry and impose punishment on them, other than the punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank
The power is drawn from Article 235 of the Constitution. It held that the word "control" used in this provision, accompanied by the word "vest", is a "strong" word and shows that the High Court is made the sole custodian of the control over the judiciary.
So far as Petitioner's contention regarding application of the 1956 Rules is concerned, the Court held,
"Indisputably, our High Court, though empowered, has not framed its separate disciplinary rules pertaining to the District Judiciary and has been conventionally applying the Rules of 1956 which are generally meant for and applicable to the civil services of the State...Rule 34 when construed in the light of Article 234 of Constitution of India would postulate that the High Court being an absolute and exclusive disciplinary authority is competent to issue show cause notice of proposed penalty to the judicial officer subordinate to it."
The Court then revisited the scope of judicial review in departmental inquiries/disciplinary proceedings by referring to the case of Kuldeep Singh v. The Commissioner of Police & Ors (1999). In the said case, the apex court held that the High Courts and the Supreme Court would not interfere with the findings of fact recorded at the domestic inquiry. However, if the finding of 'guilt' is based on no evidence, it would be a perverse find and amenable to judicial scrutiny. It had noted,
"If a decision is arrived at on no evidence or evidence which is thoroughly unreliable and no reasonable person would act upon it, the order would be perverse. But, if there is some evidence on record which is acceptable and which could be relied upon, howsoever compendious it may be, the conclusions would be treated as per se and the findings would not be interfered with."
In the instant case, it noted that the preponderance of probabilities point to the petitioner's involvement in the severe misconduct, which resulted in evasion of huge stamp duty and conferring a wrongful benefit on the vendees.
Accordingly, the petition was dismissed.
Case Title: Javid Ahmad Naik v State of J&K and ors
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (JKL) 48