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No Disciplinary Action Against Judicial Officer For Merely Passing A Wrong Order; Mere Negligence Not Misconduct : Supreme Court

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
15 March 2022 2:27 PM GMT
No Disciplinary Action Against Judicial Officer For Merely Passing A Wrong Order; Mere Negligence Not Misconduct : Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court, while reinstating a judicial officer, observed that mere negligence cannot be treated as misconduct to terminate services of a judicial officer.The bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Vineet Saran observed that disciplinary proceedings against a judicial officer is not warranted merely because a wrong order has been passed by him/her or the action taken by him...

The Supreme Court, while reinstating a judicial officer, observed that mere negligence cannot be treated as misconduct to terminate services of a judicial officer.

The bench comprising Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Vineet Saran observed that disciplinary proceedings against a judicial officer is not warranted merely because a wrong order has been passed by him/her or the action taken by him could have been different.

Relief-oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer, the court added.

Abhay Jain joined as a judicial officer in 2013. He was discharged from service in the year 2016. This was after a complaint that he passed a bail order with some ulterior or oblique motives and for extraneous considerations. However, the discharge order was passed on the ground that the Full Court found that his services to be unsatisfactory during the probation. The Rajasthan High Court dismissed the writ petition filed by Jain.

In appeal before the Supreme Court, the appellant contended that the charges filed against him are vague in nature and that absolutely no details have been provided regarding the said allegation of passing the bail order for extraneous considerations/ ulterior motive.

Agreeing with the appellant, the bench observed that there was no intimation to him about his performance being unsatisfactory and hence he was deprived of his opportunity to improve as a judicial officer.

"We also find merit in the submission of the learned counsel of the appellant that the charges filed against the appellant are vague in nature and that absolutely no details have been provided regarding the said allegation of passing the bail order for extraneous considerations/ ulterior motive. In this context, there is no detail provided as to what was the said extraneous consideration or ulterior motive, but merely an inference has been drawn on the basis of suspicion. Further, the record reveals that no complaint or other material exists which could form the basis of the said allegations", the bench observed.

While allowing the appeal and ordering reinstatement of the appellant, the bench observed:

"We hold that the appellant may have been guilty of negligence in the sense that he did not carefully go through the case file and did not take notice of the order of the High Court which was on his file. This negligence cannot be treated to be misconduct. Moreover, the enquiry officer virtually sat as a court of appeal picking holes in the order granting bail, even when he could not find any extraneous reason for the grant of the bail order. Notably, in the present case, there was not a string of continuous illegal orders that have been alleged to be passed for extraneous considerations. The present case revolves only around a single bail order, and that too was passed with competent jurisdiction. As has been rightly held by this Court in Sadhna Chaudhary (supra), mere suspicion cannot constitute "misconduct". Any 'probability' of misconduct needs to be supported with oral or documentary material, and this requirement has not been fulfilled in the present case. These observations assume importance in light of the specific fact that there was no allegation of illegal gratification against the present appellant. As has been rightly held by this Court, such relief-oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer."

Headnotes:

Judicial Service-  Discharge of Judicial Officer - Negligence cannot be treated to be misconduct - Relief-oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer-  Every judicial officer is likely to commit mistake of some kind or the other in passing orders in the initial stage of his service, which a mature judicial officer would not do. However, if the orders are passed without there being any corrupt motive, the same should be over-looked by the High Court and proper guidance should be provided to him. (Para 69, 54)

Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 311(2) - Judicial Service- When the Government had, on enquiry, come to the conclusion, rightly or wrongly, that the appellant was unsuitable for the post he held on probation, this was clearly by way of punishment and, hence, the appellant would be entitled to the protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution. (Para 50)

Summary: Appeal against High Court judgment which upheld discharge of a judicial officer - Allowed - Charges filed against the appellant are vague in nature and that absolutely no details have been provided regarding the said allegation of passing the bail order for extraneous considerations/ ulterior motive - Even if appellant's act is considered to be negligent, it cannot be treated as "misconduct" - The appellant be reinstated with all consequential benefits including continuity of service and seniority, but will be entitled to be paid only 50% backwages, which may be paid within a period of four months.

Case details

Abhay Jain vs High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 284 | CA 2029 OF 2022 | 15 March 2022

Coram: Justices Uday Umesh Lalit and Vineet Saran

Counsel: Sr. Adv P.S. Patwalia for appellant, Sr. Adv Vijay Hansaria for respondent


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