3 April 2023 6:15 AM GMT
In a significant order, a division bench of the Patna High Court has quashed and set-aside a decision of the Standing Committee of the High Court wherein the committee had imposed a punishment of permanent withdrawal of the entire pension of a retired Additional District and Sessions Judge after finding that he had passed judicial orders for extraneous considerations.A bench comprising...
In a significant order, a division bench of the Patna High Court has quashed and set-aside a decision of the Standing Committee of the High Court wherein the committee had imposed a punishment of permanent withdrawal of the entire pension of a retired Additional District and Sessions Judge after finding that he had passed judicial orders for extraneous considerations.
A bench comprising Justices Ashutosh Kumar and Harish Kumar observed,
"Merely because the two orders are not justified according to the parameters of law fixed would not lead to the only inescapable conclusion that there was any extraneous consideration in passing of such orders, justifying punishment to the Judicial Officer/the petitioner."
The allegation against him was that he had granted bail to one of the accused persons who was found to be in possession of fake currency notes and had also discharged an accused who was arrested after a hot-chase with narcotics.
After the retirement of the petitioner from the post of Additional District and Sessions Judge, Motihari, a decision was taken to subject him to departmental proceedings for having granted bail in the above two cases. Subsequently proceedings were initiated against him under Rule 43(b) of the Bihar Pension Rules, 1950.
The petitioner was charged on two separate charges: Firstly, that the reasons assigned in both the cases for grant of bail and discharge of the accused were inappropriate and unjust, and that the presumption was that those decisions were based on extraneous considerations.
Secondly, such judicial orders indicated extraneous considerations, amounting to gross judicial impropriety, lack of integrity, and an act unbecoming of a Judicial Officer.
The report from the first round of the departmental proceeding initiated against the Petitioner, was quashed by the high court and a de novo enquiry was directed because the High Court was of the view that the proceedings had been conducted ex parte without intimation to the petitioner.
In the second round of the departmental proceeding, the Inquiry Officer, namely, the District and Sessions Judge, Muzaffarpur inquired the charges and submitted his report before the High Court, which was accepted by the Standing Committee of the High Court and a show-cause notice to the petitioner was issued to explain as to why he be not held guilty of the charges proved against him and be punished accordingly. After the receipt of the reply of the petitioner, the Standing Committee, considering the gravity of the misconduct having been proved against the petitioner, directed for withdrawal of his entire pension after excluding the commutation of pension affected before passing of such order.
The defence of the petitioner in both the instances were that the bail was granted on merits for the reason that there was no evidence on record that the currency notes were counterfeit and that while discharging the accused in NDPS case, the person from whom recovery had been made had died and there was no FSL report available on record.
The division bench, initially, was of the opinion that there was nothing on record to indicate that the orders so passed by the petitioner were assailed before the superior court and if so, what was the result.
Further, the bench opined that there was nothing on record to indicate how the bail bonds were accepted after the grant of bail in the counterfeit currency case, which also would have given some idea about the petitioner as a Judicial Officer, showing any unnecessary interest in the release of the accused persons.
The bench pointed out that "the appellate and revisional Courts have been established and given powers to set aside such orders. The higher Courts after hearing the appeal may modify or set aside erroneous judgments of the lower Courts. Thus, it has been cautioned that while taking disciplinary action based on judicial orders, the High Court ought to take extra care and caution." Reliance for the same was placed on Ramesh Chander Singh Vs. High Court of Allahabad; (2007) 4 SCC 247, wherein the Supreme Court has specifically disapproved the practice of initiation of disciplinary proceedings against the officers of subordinate judiciary merely because the judgments/orders passed by them are wrong.
The bench further pointed out that "In the afore-noted case, it was also found by the Bench that the Judge, inquiring the matter, eventually came to the conclusion that bail had been granted by the Judicial Officer in utter disregard of the judicial norms and on insufficient grounds and based on extraneous consideration with oblique motive and that the charges had been proved. The Bench took exception to the fact that the Judge who conducted the enquiry had not stated in his report as to what was the oblique motive or the extraneous consideration involved in the matter."
Thus, the bench stated that even accepting that both the orders for which charges have been framed against the petitioner showed immaturity and indiscretion by the concerned Judge but that by itself, would not be indicative of such orders having been passed on extraneous considerations.
The bench then placed reliance on Krishna Prasad Verma (Dead) through Legal Representatives Vs. The State of Bihar and Ors.; 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1330, wherein the Supreme Court has reiterated that Article 235 of the Constitution of India vests control of the subordinate Courts upon the High Courts. The High Courts exercise disciplinary powers over the subordinate Courts. High Courts ought not to take action against judicial officers only because wrong orders are passed “To err is human and not one of us, who has held judicial office, can claim that we have never passed a wrong order”.
Finding absence of any material to justify the charge of extraneous reasons while passing the orders referred to above, the bench found that the inquiry report and the decision of the Standing Committee of the High Court in withdrawing the entire pension of the petitioner was unsustainable in the eyes of law, and thus, quashed and set-aside the report of the Enquiry Committee as also the decision of the High Court.
Case Title: Neelam Sinha vs. The State of Bihar Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.1780 of 2015
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Pat) 18
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