The High Court of Kerala observed that there is no scope of interference in disciplinary action against officer in judicial service if there is sufficient evidence for showing unsatisfactory conduct.
"The interference of judicial review was held to be possible only if it is found to be arbitrary, capricious, malafide or overlooking and ignoring any relevant material", added the court.
In the instant case the petitioner, one Mr. V. Jayakumar, former Judicial First Class Magistrate, Pathanamthitta, was compulsorily retired under Rule 13A of the Kerala Judicial Service Rule 1991. The compulsory retirement was on evaluation and assessment of his service records at the age of 50.
The division bench comprising Justice K. Vinod Chandran and V.G Arun observed that the compulsory retirement order was issued by a Committee of Judges headed by the Chief Justice of the High Court. The said Committee found the petitioner not entitled to be continued in his post as a judicial officer and issued the order on the basis of the evaluation of his performance.
The counsel for the petitioner raised many grounds regarding the order issued for compulsory retirement under Rule 13A of the Kerala Judicial Service Rule 1991.
One of the grounds raised by the petitioner was that Rule 60(aa) of Kerala Service Rules (KSR) which deals with the retirement of an officer in the Kerala Judicial Service only at the age of 60 years with an option to retire at the age of 58 years. It was contended that the continuance in service which could be subject to a review of the High Court as per Kerala Service Rules could only be continuance beyond the age of 50 years.
The other two grounds raised by the petitioner was that no material was supplied to him regarding alleged delinquency which made him disentitled from the continuance beyond 50 years of age. Another was regarding the expungement of adverse remarks in a review, after the compulsory retirement.
The court in the instant case first dealt with the contention of Rule 13A being not enforceable for reason of Rule 66(aa) of PartI KSR, not being amended suitably. The court while relying on the Supreme Court case of Maya Mathew v. State of Kerala as well as the principle of generaliabus specialia derogant (special things derogate form general things) said,
"The KSR is a general rule while the Rules of 1991, is a Special Rule applicable to the judicial service of the State."
While examining the files of the petitioner, the court found that he was in the habit of discharging the accused in criminal cases under Section 239 Cr.PC without a proper hearing and without even notice to the Assistant Public Prosecutor. It was also found that identical orders of discharge were made in cases under Section 498A IPC without recording any reasons.
Further, the court also noticed that the petitioner while working as Munisiff-Magistrate avoided pronouncing judgments in CIvil matters and adjourned them for one reason or another. The court remarked that the only explanation of the petitioner was that he had been dealing with Civil Cases for the first time.
In addition to the above-said instances, the court also noticed several other instances where the petitioner was reported to be indifferent and insensitive in his work.
"The Committee of Judges specifically noticed the complaint against the Officer, of adopting short cut methods to dispose of cases, and that too without examining material witnesses", added the court.
The division bench relied on the decision of the apex court in Ram Murthy Yadav v. State of Uttar Pradesh wherein the Supreme Court found the limited scope of judicial review when an order of compulsory retirement is based on the subjective satisfaction of the employer. While relying on the above-said case the court remarked,
"We do not think there is any scope for interference...The interference of judicial review was held to be possible only if it is found to be arbitrary, capricious, malafide or overlooking and ignoring any relevant material. This court as has been held in the cited decision is not sitting in judgment over the decision of the Full Court"
The court also relied on the decision in Rajendra Singh Verma v. Lt. Governor (NCT of Delhi) where the apex court declared that if the Full Court of the High Court has recognized compulsory retirement of the officer, the judicial review regarding the same has to be exercised with great caution while setting aside the said order.
Accordingly, the court rejected the writ petition. The court also ordered that the petitioner shall be paid the entire pay and allowances between the date on which he was compulsorily retired (01.08.2010) and the order of the Governor (11.10.2011) by deducting three months' pay which was given in lieu of notice.
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