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Relief Oriented Judicial Approaches Cannot By Themselves Be Grounds To Cast Aspersions On Honesty & Integrity Of A Judge: SC [Read Judgment]

Ashok Kini
7 March 2020 6:35 AM GMT
Relief Oriented Judicial Approaches Cannot By Themselves Be Grounds To Cast Aspersions On Honesty & Integrity Of A Judge: SC [Read Judgment]

"Mere suspicion cannot constitute 'misconduct'. Any 'probability' of misconduct needs to be supported with oral or documentary material."

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Relief oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer, said the Supreme Court while setting aside dismissal of a Judicial Officer.

The bench of CJI SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant that mere suspicion cannot constitute 'misconduct' and any 'probability' of misconduct needs to be supported with oral or documentary material, even though the standard of proof would obviously not be at par with that in a criminal trial.

The appellant was dismissed following a disciplinary inquiry which found that she 'unduly' awarded an additional amount to claimants in two land acquisition cases. The High Court dismissed the challenge against the order of dismissal.

Relief­ oriented judicial approaches 

In appeal, the Court noted that there is no explicit mention of any extraneous consideration being actually received or of unbecoming conduct on the part of the appellant.The bench observed:

We are also not oblivious to the fact that mere suspicion cannot constitute 'misconduct'. Any 'probability' of misconduct needs to be supported with oral or documentary material, even though the standard of proof would obviously not be at par with that in a criminal trial. While applying these yardsticks, the High Court is expected to consider the existence of differing standards and approaches amongst different judges. There are innumerable instances of judicial officers who are liberal in granting bail, awarding compensation under MACT or for acquired land, backwages to workmen or mandatory compensation in other cases of tortious liabilities. Such relief­ oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer.

Ensure that upright and straightforward judicial officers are not subjected to unmerited onslaught

The bench further said that it is the duty of High Courts to extend their protective umbrella and ensure that upright and straightforward judicial officers are not subjected to unmerited onslaught. It added:

Furthermore, one cannot overlook the reality of ours being a country wherein countless complainants are readily available without hesitation to tarnish the image of the judiciary, often for mere pennies or even cheap momentary popularity. Sometimes a few disgruntled members of the Bar also join hands with them, and officers of the subordinate judiciary are usually the easiest target. It is, therefore, the duty of High Courts to extend their protective umbrella and ensure that upright and straightforward judicial officers are not subjected to unmerited onslaught.

End result of adjudication does not matter

The Court, however, agreed with the High Court view that the end result of adjudication does not matter, and only whether the delinquent officer had taken illegal gratification (monetary or otherwise) or had been swayed by extraneous considerations while conducting the process is of relevance.

Indeed, many ­a­ times it is possible that a judicial officer can indulge in conduct unbecoming of his office whilst at the same time giving an order, the result of which is legally sound. Such unbecoming conduct can either be in the form of a judge taking a case out of turn, delaying hearings through adjournments, seeking bribes to give parties their legal dues etc. None of these necessarily need to affect the outcome.

Setting aside the dismissal, the bench further said:

There is no explicit mention of any extraneous consideration being actually received or of unbecoming conduct on the part of the appellant. Instead, the very basis of the finding of 'misbehaviour' is the end result itself, which as per the High Court was so shocking that it gave rise to a natural suspicion as to the integrity and honesty of the appellant. Although this might be right in a vacuum, however, given how the end result itself has been untouched by superior courts and instead in one of the two cases, the compensation only increased, no such inference can be made. Thus, the entire case against the appellant collapses like a house of cards.

Senior Adv Dushyant Dave assisted by Advocate Shirin Khajuria appeared pro bono in the case.  

Case Name: Sadhna Chaudhary vs. State of U.P.
Case no.: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 2077 OF 2020
Coram: CJI SA Bobde, Justices BR Gavai and Surya Kant 


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