The Supreme Court recently expressed its concern about disturbing trend of making judicial officers scapegoats.
The bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice BR Gavai observed thus while upholding the Calcutta High Court judgment reinstating a judicial officer who was compulsorily retired from service. It said:
It is a disturbing trend nowadays that Judicial Officers are made scapegoats and penalized whether by inconvenient transfers or otherwise, whenever there are agitations/ demonstrations against the Judicial Officers whether by Advocates or others, irrespective of the extent of the fault or responsibility of the Judicial Officers concerned.
The LiveLaw report about the Calcutta HC judgment which reinstated Mintu Mallick, a judicial officer who was compulsorily retired from service may be read here. The Division bench had imposed One Lakh costs on the High Court.
In appeal filed by the High Court, the Supreme Court set aside the costs, but upheld the judgment reinstating the officer. It observed that an error of judgment does not per se constitute misconduct. If the Railway Magistrate had acted bona fide but exercised his powers erroneously based on his perception of the powers of a Judicial Railway Magistrate, he could not have been held to have committed mis-conduct, it added.
"In this case, it is patently clear that action against the Judicial Magistrate had been prompted by the agitation of Railway employees and disruption of services. No one examined whether there was any justification for the disruption of services by the Railway employees for requiring information from two of them or for the detention of a third employee, a rank outsider to the investigation by the Railway Magistrate, for hurling abuses at the Magistrate in open Court and threatening him".
"It is well settled that an error of judgment does not per se constitute misconduct. If the Railway Magistrate had acted bona fide but exercised his powers erroneously based on his perception of the powers of a Judicial Railway Magistrate, he could not have been held to have committed mis-conduct".
It also noted that West Bengal Judicial Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 2007 are completely silent as to which is the authority competent under the rules to impose penalty on a Judicial Officer. It is doubtful whether the Registrar General was at all the Competent Authority to draw up the charges, the bench observed while suggesting amendment of the 2007 Rules.
Click here to Read/Download Order