New Delhi, Dec 20: The appellant, a judicial officer of the rank of Additional District and Sessions Judge, assails his order of compulsory retirement dated 03.05.2016 at 56 years of age under Rule 56 (C) of the U. P. Fundamental Rules (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Rules’).
2. The appellant while posted as a Chief Judicial Magistrate Signature Not Verified granted acquittal to the accused on 17.09.2007 in Criminal Case Digitally signed by MEENAKSHI KOHLI Date: 2019.12.10 16:44:06 IST Reason: No.4670 of 2005 “State vs. Mohd. Ayub” under Sections 467, 468, 471, 474, 420, 406 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. A complaint was lodged against the appellant with regard to the acquittal. After calling for comments from the appellant, and perusing the judgement and the order of reversal in appeal, the Administrative Judge on 24.02.2009 recommended an enquiry. A vigilance enquiry, V.B. Enquiry No.26/2009, was held by the OSD, Enquiry, High Court of Allahabad. The enquiry report dated 10.05.2012 was adverse to the appellant. His comments were called for on 28.06.2012. On 20.12.2012, the appellant was informed that on basis of the enquiry, a censure entry had been recorded in his character roll. The order of punishment was accepted by the appellant without any challenge. On 01.04.2016, a committee of three Hon’ble Judges constituted for screening of judicial officers for compulsorily retirement under the Rules recommended the compulsory retirement of the appellant which was endorsed by the Full Court on 14.04.2016 leading to the impugned order of compulsory retirement. The challenge laid out by the appellant to his order of retirement before the High Court was unsuccessful and thus the present appeal.
3. Learned senior counsel Shri R. Basant, appearing on behalf of the appellant, submitted that since joining the service in 199697 as a Civil Judge (Jr. Division) his Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) till 201415 certify his integrity. The quota of cases allocated to the appellant being inadequate, his percentage of work was considered adequate. The adverse remark in 199697 for below performance had been expunged. An error of judgment in deciding a criminal case, while discharging judicial functions, cannot ipso facto lead to an inference of dishonesty. There was in fact no material to infer dishonesty or lack of integrity on part of the appellant in granting acquittal in the criminal case. Merely because a different view was possible does not justify the extreme step of compulsory retirement. The order of compulsory retirement being stigmatic in nature, the failure to hold departmental enquiry vitiates the same. The appellant was promoted to the post of Additional District and Sessions Judge on the basis of meritcumseniority and was confirmed in 2013. He had also crossed the efficiency bar. The punishment of censure therefore stands obliterated and was irrelevant for the purpose of compulsory retirement. The conclusion that the appellant had lost his utility and efficiency as a judicial officer to be declared deadwood was unsustainable without adequate consideration of his ACRs in the recent past years before retirement, at least from 2012 to 2015. Reliance in support of the submissions was placed on Ram Ekbal Sharma vs. State of Bihar and Anr., (1990) 3 SCC 504; Baikuntha Nath Das and Anr. vs. Chief District Medical Officer, Baripada and Anr., (1992) 2 SCC 299; P.C. Joshi vs. State of U.P. and Ors., (2001) 6 SCC 491, and Ramesh Chander Singh vs. High Court of Allahabad and Anr., (2007) 4 SCC 247.
4. Learned counsel for the respondent contended that the adverse remarks against the appellant for the year 1996-97 was never expunged as the explanation furnished was not found satisfactory by the District Judge which was informed to the appellant on 12.10.1998. His disposal was also found to be inadequate in subsequent years. The complaint against the appellant for granting acquittal was examined at several levels before the impugned action followed. The appellant never questioned the punishment of censure in connection with the very same order of acquittal. The entire service record of the appellant was considered by the Screening Committee and again by the Full Court. The fact that the appellant may have been promoted subsequently is irrelevant for the purpose of consideration of compulsory retirement. Reliance in support of the submissions was placed on Baikuntha Nath Das (supra); Union of India & Ors. vs. K.K. Dhawan, (1993) 2 SCC 56; Union of India & Ors. vs. Duli Chand, (2006) 5 SCC 680; Nawal Singh vs. State of U.P. and Another, (2003) 8 SCC 117; Pyare Mohan Lal vs. State of Jharkhand and Ors., (2010) 10 SCC 693; R.C. Chandel vs. High Court of M.P. and Anr., (2012) 8 SCC 58, and Punjab State Power Corpn. Ltd. and Ors. vs. Hari Kishan Verma, (2015) 13 SCC 156.
14. 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.
15. In conclusion, we are of the considered opinion that the order of compulsory retirement of the appellant calls for no interference. The Appeal is dismissed. .……………………….J. (Ashok Bhushan) ………………………..J. (Navin Sinha)