The Supreme Court allowed an appeal filed by the judicial officer challenging her dismissal order holding that the decision making process adopted by the judicial officer and not the end result must be taken into consideration in the disciplinary proceedings. The judicial officer was dismissed from service on the ground of misjudging two land acquisition cases stating that it was actuated by extraneous consideration which is against the judicial norms.
Sadhana Chaudary, hereinafter referred as ‘the appellant’ was appointed in the judicial services in the year 1975 and thereafter she was promoted to Uttar Pradesh Higher Judicial services in the year 1987. Upon a reference made to the Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court, it made certain observation with regard to the manner in which the land acquisition cases are being dealt by the judicial officers. A copy of a judgment was also placed before the administrative committee by the registrar for appropriate action. As a result, a committee was constituted comprising of two judges in order to enquire the complaint of collusions in land acquisition cases.
The report was submitted by the committee in the year 2004 recommending disciplinary actions against the judicial officers. The appellant herein was served upon a charge sheet alleging that she had ordered two land acquisition cases against the judicial norms which had led the committee to draw an inference that she had acted by extraneous considerations. The appellant herein filed her detailed reply and also additional written arguments. An enquiry was conducted by the enquiry committee and held that the charges against the appellant were proved in both the cases. It further stated that the errors were apparent on the face of law and the same was not mere misjudgment but a deliberate action. Hence the matter was referred to the full bench for deciding the quantum of punishment which order for the dismissal of the appellant and forwarded the same to the state. The state issued a memorandum in the year 2006 stating her dismissal from service with immediate effect.
Aggrieved by the said order the appellant herein filed a writ petition before the Division Bench of Allahabad High Court challenging her order of dismissal. The High court held that the appellant had wrongly relied upon the compromise deed which is incomprehensible owing to the statutory bar under land Acquisition Act and hence against the judicial norms. It further opined that the decision making process of the judicial officer has to be considered in the disciplinary proceedings and the decision making process of the appellant was actuated by extraneous considerations. Hence the act of the appellant amounted to misconduct.
Against the said order of the high court the appellant has filed the present appeal. The appellant contends that the charge sheet against the appellant did not contain any allegations with regard to the illegality in the decision making process and hence the same cannot be a ground for dismissal. The appellant further contended that the charge sheet did not contain any allegation with respect to the appellant accepting any illegal gratification or being swayed away by extraneous considerations. Hence any charge in the absence of gratification is mere negligence which cannot be a ground for dismissal. The appellant also contended that the writ petitions filed against the two of her land acquisition cases judgments were duly dismissed by the high court. On the other hand the respondent while justifying the order of dismissal contended that the act of the appellant amounts to a grave misconduct.
After hearing both sides and examining the materials on record, the court made following observations:
1. Mere suspicion cannot be constituted as misconduct. Any allegations of misconduct must be supported by oral or documentary evidence even though the standard of proof may not be as that of a criminal case.
2. Relief oriented approach of the judicial officers cannot be used to draw apprehension on the honesty and integrity of the judicial officers.
3. The court cannot ignore the fact that there are numerous complaints against the judicial officers only with an intent to tarnish the image of the judges and hence the High court is vested with a duty to extend its protective umbrella rather than subjecting the honest and straightforward officers to disciplinary proceedings
4. Hence the dismissal of the writ petition filed by the appellant before the High court challenging the order of dismissal merely signifies that the court has not taken into consideration of any high standards.
The chief Justice of India, Justice S.A.Bobde while stating that the charge sheet did not contain any allegations with respect to the appellant accepting any gratification, allowed the appeal filed by the appellant, thereby setting aside the order of dismissal of the appellant from service. As a consequential relief the appellant was reinstated in service along with benefits including retirement benefits.
Edited by J. Madonna Jephi
Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje
- Civil Appeal No. 2077 of 2020, The Supreme Court of India, order dated 06/03/2020