The Bombay High Court on Monday pronounced its judgement in a writ petition filed by 56-year-old Anil Mohabay, a former District Judge challenging the decision of Bombay High Court to retire him "prematurely" at the age of 55.
Division bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice NB Suryawanshi dismissed Mohabay's petition and held that if the concerned authority is of the opinion that the compulsory retirement of a judicial officer is in public interest, they have the absolute power to retire any member in the judicial service when he attains the age of either 50, 55 or 58 yrs, by giving him/her notice of not less than three months in writing or three months' pay and allowances in lieu of such notice.
The petitioner was initially appointed as a Civil Judge, Junior Division in 1992 at Chandrapur. He was promoted as a District Judge on November 14, 2014 and completed 26 years of service in 2018. The High Court issued a communication to the petitioner "prematurely" retiring him from service by order dated July 12, 2018.
On the receipt of said communication, the petitioner filed an application dated January 7, 2019 under the Right to Information Act and sought information regarding the material on the basis of which the High Court took the said decision. Consequently, extract of minutes of meeting of the Review Committee headed by Law and Justice Department, State of Maharashtra that reviewed the cases of judicial officers for continuation in the judicial service after the age of 55 years, were provided.
According to the petitioner, the Review Committee has considered four issues for arriving at the conclusion that he should be retired prematurely. Petitioner argued that he was already either exonerated or relieved from the said charges. My entire career in service is unblemished and except some discreet preliminary enquiries in respect of some false and frivolous complaints, no other action is taken against me, petitioner argued.
Petitioner's counsel Pradeep Havnur argued that prematurely retiring the petitioner on attaining the age of 55 years and 5 months in public interest is legally unsustainable inasmuch as it does not take into consideration the clean and unblemished service record of the petitioner, his annual confidential reports, and disposal of cases by the petitioner.
Havnur submitted that the incidents that were taken into consideration for prematurely retiring the petitioner were of such nature that it did not involve any charge of moral turpitude or for that matter any act of omission or commission on the part of the petitioner that would even remotely go to show that the petitioner has indulged into such activity. The Review Committed has failed to ascertain the correctness of the facts which were placed before it, Havnur said.
Appearing on behalf of the Bombay High Court, Advocate Amir Borkar submitted that the petitioner judge came to be compulsory retired from service as he was not found suitable for continuation. The decision to compulsory retire the petitioner from service has been taken by Review Committee after considering the overall service record, Annual Confidential Report and the other material placed before it, Borkar said.
He further told the Court that the petitioner had lost his utility to continue in the judicial service and relied upon the judgement of Bombay High Court in Tusharkant Maniklal Mantri Vs. High Court of Judicature at Bombay, through Registrar General at Mumbai and ors.
Court reproduced the Review Committee's conclusion from the minutes of the meeting -
"It was thus seen that Shri Mohabey has lost his utility to continue in the judicial service. It was, therefore, decided not to continue Shri Anil Gajraj Mohabey in the judicial service and to retire him prematurely in public interest by invoking provisions of Rule 19 of the Maharashtra Judicial Service Rules, 2008, read with sub-Rule (iv) of Rule 10 of Maharashtra Civil Service (Pension) Rules, 1982"
There were following allegations/complaints against the petitioner judge-
(a) S V Patil, Member, Industrial Court, Latur, complained about a certain case being handle by the judge that although the case was declared to be decided on December 28, 2010, the judgment was not ready until after 12 days.
(b) Latur Bar Association had alleged that for one-year petitioner judge had kept the matters of workmen compensation pending for orders. However, he disposed of matters of only one advocate, who owned a truck and helped the petitioner judge in carrying household articles to his place of posting at Nanded and native place at Nagpur.
(c) It was also alleged that Mohabey speaks rudely with the advocates and did not maintain decorum of the Court. Also, there were allegations that the person who filed complaints against Mohabey, his son had been falsely accused by Mohabey's wife and arrested. In this case, after considering the fact- finding inquiry report it was decided to close the file subject to the condition that Mohabey shall not be posted at Nagpur until the civil/criminal cases are concluded, to sub-serve larger public interest and to avoid embarrassment to the Presiding Officer.
Noting that in Tusharkant Maniklal Mantri's case (supra) High Court has relied upon the decision of Supreme Court in Pyare Mohanlal vs State of Jharkhand, Court observed-
"It is required to be noted that the service record was before the Review Committee. The Review Committee after taking into consideration the service record of the Petitioner has taken a conscious decision that, the Petitioner has lost his utility to continue in the judicial service and therefore decided not to continue him in judicial service and to retire him prematurely in public interest. The decision-making process by the Review Committee on the basis of the relevant record and invoking Rule 19 of the said Rules is legally sustainable. It is clarified in the affidavit in reply filed on behalf of Respondent No.2 that the order of compulsory retirement does not amount to stigma and cannot be termed as punitive in nature."
Thus, the petition was dismissed.
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