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Are Petitions Alleging Judicial Misconduct Maintainable? Kerala High Court To Decide

Hannah M Varghese
2 Sep 2021 2:21 PM GMT
Are Petitions Alleging Judicial Misconduct Maintainable? Kerala High Court To Decide
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The Kerala High Court on Thursday inquired as to the maintainability of two petitions alleging judicial misconduct against one of its sitting judges and two of its retired judges in light of their orders in the Maradu flats demolition issue. Justice P.B Suresh Kumar while condemning the petitions orally remarked:"If the Court entertains writ petitions like these, how will judges work? How...

The Kerala High Court on Thursday inquired as to the maintainability of two petitions alleging judicial misconduct against one of its sitting judges and two of its retired judges in light of their orders in the Maradu flats demolition issue.

Justice P.B Suresh Kumar while condemning the petitions orally remarked:

"If the Court entertains writ petitions like these, how will judges work? How will they render judgement? They are also human beings."

The bench also stated that this could have a detrimental effect on the justice dispensation process. During the proceedings, the Court also asked the Counsel for the petitioner if he was aware of the judgment in Indira Jaising v Registrar General, Supreme Court. When the Counsel pleaded ignorance, the Court asked him to familiarise himself with the same since it dealt with the in-house procedure to investigate into complaints against Judges.  

The petition was filed by a homebuyer whose flat had been demolished in the said matter. 

The Bench during the brief hearing asserted that it would only examine the maintainability of these pleas and refused to go into the allegations of judicial misconduct.

The petitioner had approached the Court through Advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy sought the constitution of an in-house committee to probe into the alleged judicial misconduct against the judges and to give him a copy of any reasoned order passed on his complaints.

One of the pleas urged that a direction be issued to the Chief Justice of the Court to comply with the In-House Procedure adopted by a Full Court meeting of the Supreme Court regarding a complaint filed against a sitting Judge. 

The second plea sought a direction to the Chief Justice of India as well as the Chief Justice of the Court to comply with the In-House Procedure in light of a complaint filed against two retired Judges. 

When the matter was instituted, the Registry had entertained a doubt if a writ petition could be instituted seeking relief aforesaid against the Chief Justice of this Court. To this, the petitioner had answered in the affirmative. 

The Registry thereafter inquired further regarding the maintainability, the petitioner took exception pointing out that the Registry is not authorised to seek such clarification, for it is a pure question of law to be decided on the judicial side. 

Since the Registry was not impressed by the stand taken by the petitioners, the matters were placed before the Court for appropriate orders as unnumbered petitions.  

When the matter came up for admission, the petitioner argued that it was highly improper for the Registry to conduct a further probe into the issue and seek further clarification in the matter, for, by such conduct, the Registry has entered the domain of a judicial function. 

Hence, the Court posed the same question regarding the sustainability of the petition.

Then the petitioner argued that it was improper for the Court to require answers regarding the sustainability of the doubt entertained by the Registry before numbering the writ petition, for the same would legitimise the alleged improper conduct of the Registry. 

After much persuasion, the petitioner pointed out that a writ petition is certainly maintainable against the Chief Justice of the Court and the Chief Justice of India in relation to their administrative functions, and that such writ petitions are being entertained by High Courts and the Apex Court. 

It was also pointed out that in terms of the In-House Procedure prescribed to deal with the complaints against Judges, it is for the Chief Justice of the Court and the Chief Justice of India to take appropriate actions and that they are, therefore, necessary parties to the writ petitions.

It was found by the Court that the question of whether a writ petition would lie against the Chief Justice of a High Court had previously come up before several courts.  

When the question came up before the Apex Court in Pradyat Kumar Bose v. Chief Justice of Calcutta, it ruled as such: 

"We consider it however desirable to say that our view that the exercise of the power of dismissal of a civil servant in the exercise of administrative power may not necessarily preclude the availability of the remedy under Art.226 of the Constitution in an appropriate case." 

Similarly, in Pramatha Nath Mitter and others v. Chief Justice of Calcutta, the Calcutta High Court had observed that when an action of the Chief Justice is of an administrative nature, there may be a remedy available under Article 226 in appropriate cases. 

The Bench further relied on K.Prabhakaran Nair v. State of Kerala, [1969 KLT 444] whereby it was iterated that there is nothing in the wording of Article 226 of the Constitution that warrants the imposition of a limitation that the jurisdiction of the High Court under the said Article cannot be invoked for the purpose of calling in question orders passed by the Chief Justice or by the High Court itself on the administrative side. 

The Court hence ruled that there was no legal basis for the doubt raised by the Registry in the matter. 

Accordingly, the petitions were directed to be numbered and listed for admission.  

Four waterfront apartment complexes in Kochi's Maradu were demolished on January 12 2020, following a Supreme Court order for not complying with Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) norms. The petitioner was one of the evictees. 

The Court will resume the hearing in the matter on 6th September. 

Case Title: Mathew Z Pulikunnel v Chief Justice of India

Click here to read/download the order



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