While upholding the punishment of compulsory retirement imposed on a judicial officer, the Supreme Court observed that the standard or yardstick for judging the conduct of the judicial officer has necessarily to be strict.
The bench of Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice Navin Sinha observed that the public has a right to demand virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function
An enquiry was initiated against Ram Murti Yadav with regard to a complaint by a person against acquittal of an accused by him while he was posted as a Chief Judicial Magistrate. After enquiry, he was found guilty of the charges against him and was imposed with a punishment of compulsory retirement.
While refusing to interfere with the High Court order which upheld the enquiry and findings against the judicial officer, the bench observed:
"A person discharging judicial duties acts on behalf of the State in discharge of its sovereign functions. Dispensation of justice is not only an onerous duty but has been considered as akin to discharge of a pious duty, and therefore, is a very serious matter. The standards of probity, conduct, integrity that may be relevant for discharge of duties by a careerist in another job cannot be the same for a judicial officer. A judge holds the office of a public trust. Impeccable integrity, unimpeachable independence with moral values embodied to the core are absolute imperatives which brooks no compromise. A judge is the pillar of the entire justice system and the public has a right to demand virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function. Judges must strive for the highest standards of integrity in both their professional and personal lives. "
Upholding the punishment of compulsory retirement, the court further added:
It has to be kept in mind that a person seeking justice, has the first exposure to the justice delivery system at the level of subordinate judiciary, and thus a sense of injustice can have serious repercussions not only on that individual but can have its fall out in the society as well. It is therefore absolutely necessary that the ordinary litigant must have complete faith at this level and no impression can be afforded to be given to a litigant which may even create a perception to the contrary as the consequences can be very damaging. The standard or yardstick for judging the conduct of the judicial officer therefore has necessarily to be strict. Having said so, we must also observe that it is not every inadvertent flaw or error that will make a judicial officer culpable. The State Judicial Academies undoubtedly has a stellar role to perform in this regard. A bona fide error may need correction and counselling. But a conduct which creates a perception beyond the ordinary cannot be countenanced. For a trained legal mind, a judicial order speaks for itself.
The bench observed that the scope for judicial review of an order of compulsory retirement based on the subjective satisfaction of the employer is extremely narrow and restricted.It added:
"Only if it is found to be based on arbitrary or capricious grounds, vitiated by malafides, overlooks relevant materials, could there be limited scope for interference. The court, in judicial review, cannot sit in judgment over the same as an Appellate Authority. Principles of natural justice have no application in a case of compulsory retirement."
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