Sunday, 6 October 2019

Whether disciplinary proceeding should be initiated against Judicial officer only on basis that he has passed wrong order?

 That is why we again repeat that one of the
responsibilities of the High Court on the administrative
side is to ensure that the independence of the District
judiciary is maintained and the High Court acts as a
guardian and protector of the District judiciary.
16. We would, however, like to make it clear that we are
in no manner indicating that if a judicial officer passes
a wrong order, then no action is to be taken. In case a
judicial officer passes orders which are against settled
legal norms but there is no allegation of any extraneous
influences leading to the passing of such orders then the
appropriate action which the High Court should take is to
record such material on the administrative side and place
it on the service record of the judicial officer
concerned. These matters can be taken into consideration
while considering career progression of the concerned
judicial officer. Once note of the wrong order is taken
and they form part of the service record these can be

taken into consideration to deny selection grade,
promotion etc., and in case there is a continuous flow of
wrong or illegal orders then the proper action would be
to compulsorily retire the judicial officer, in
accordance with the Rules. We again reiterate that
unless there are clear-cut allegations of misconduct,
extraneous influences, gratification of any kind etc.,
disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated merely
on the basis that a wrong order has been passed by the
judicial officer or merely on the ground that the
judicial order is incorrect.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO.8950 OF 2011

KRISHNA PRASAD VERMA Vs  STATE OF BIHAR 

Deepak Gupta, J. (oral)
Dated:September 26, 2019



In a country, which follows the Rule of Law,
independence of the judiciary is sacrosanct. There can
be no Rule of Law, there can be no democracy unless there
is a strong, fearless and independent judiciary. This
independence and fearlessness is not only expected at the
level of the Superior Courts but also from the District
judiciary.
2. Most litigants only come in contact with the
District judiciary. They cannot afford to come to the
High Court or the Supreme Court. For them the last word
is the word of the Magistrate or at best the Sessions
Judge. Therefore, it is equally important, if not more

important, that the judiciary at the District Level and
at the Taluka level is absolutely honest, fearless and
free from any pressure and is able to decide cases only
on the basis of the facts on file, uninfluenced by any
pressure from any quarters whatsoever.
3. Article 235 of the Constitution of India vests
control of the subordinate Courts upon the High Courts.
The High Courts exercise disciplinary powers over the
subordinate Courts. In a series of judgments, this Court
has held that the High Courts are also the protectors and
guardians of the judges falling within their
administrative control. Time and time again, this Court
has laid down the criteria on which actions should be
taken against judicial officers. Repeatedly, this Court
has cautioned the High Courts that action should not be
taken against judicial officers only because wrong orders
are passed. To err is human and not one of us, who has
held judicial office, can claim that we have never passed
a wrong order.
4. No doubt, there has to be zero tolerance for
corruption and if there are allegations of corruption,
misconduct or of acts unbecoming a judicial officer,
these must be dealt with strictly. However, if wrong
orders are passed that should not lead to disciplinary
action unless there is evidence that the wrong orders

have been passed for extraneous reasons and not because
of the reasons on the file.
5. We do not want to refer to too many judgments
because this position has been laid down in a large
number of cases but it would be pertinent to refer to the
observations of this Court in Ishwar Chand Jain Vs. High
Court of Punjab & Haryana and anothe r1, wherein this Court
held as follows:
"14. Under the Constitution the High Court has
control over the subordinate judiciary. While
exercising that control it is under a
constitutional obligation to guide and protect
judicial officers. An honest strict judicial
officer is likely to have adversaries in the
mofussil courts. If complaints are entertained
on trifling matters relating to judicial
orders which may have been upheld by the High
Court on the judicial side no judicial officer
would feel protected and it would be difficult
for him to discharge his duties in an honest
and independent manner. An independent and
honest judiciary is a sine qua non for rule of
law. If judicial officers are under constant
threat of complaint and enquiry on trifling
matters and if High Court encourages anonymous
complaints to hold the field the subordinate
judiciary will not be able to administer
justice in an independent and honest manner.
It is therefore imperative that the High Court
should also take steps to protect its honest
officers by ignoring ill-conceived or
motivated complaints made by the unscrupulous
lawyers and litigants. Having regard to facts
and circumstances of the instant case we have
no doubt in our mind that the resolution
passed by the Bar Association against the
appellant was wholly unjustified and the
complaints made by Shri Mehlawat and others
were motivated which did not deserve any
credit. Even the vigilance Judge after holding
enquiry did not record any finding that the
1 (1988) 3 SCC 370

appellant was guilty of any corrupt motive or
that he had not acted judicially. All that was
said against him was that he had acted
improperly in granting adjournments."
6. Thereafter, following the dicta laid down in Union
of India & Ors. Vs. A.N. Saxen a2 and Union of India & Ors.
Vs. K.K. Dhawa n3, this Court in P.C. Joshi Vs. State of
U.P. & Ors .4 held as follows:
"7. In the present case, though elaborate
enquiry has been conducted by the enquiry
officer, there is hardly any material worth
the name forthcoming except to scrutinize each
one of the orders made by the appellant on the
judicial side to arrive at a different
conclusion. That there was possibility on a
given set of facts to arrive at a different
conclusion is no ground to indict a judicial
officer for taking one view and that too for
alleged misconduct for that reason alone. The
enquiry officer has not found any other
material, which would reflect on his
reputation or integrity or good faith or
devotion to duty or that he has been actuated
by any corrupt motive. At best he may say that
the view taken by the appellant is not proper
or correct and not attribute any motive to him
which is for extraneous consideration that he
had acted in that manner. If in every case
where an order of a subordinate court is found
to be faulty a disciplinary action were to be
initiated, the confidence of the subordinate
judiciary will be shaken and the officers will
be in constant fear of writing a judgment so
as not to face a disciplinary enquiry and thus
judicial officers cannot act independently or
fearlessly. Indeed the words of caution are
given in K.K. Dhawan case and A.N. Saxena case
that merely because the order is wrong or the
action taken could have been different does
not warrant initiation of disciplinary
proceedings against the judicial officer. In
spite of such caution, it is unfortunate that
the High Court has chosen to initiate
2 (1992) 3 SCC 124
3(1993) 2 SCC 56
4(2001) 6 SCC 491

disciplinary proceedings against the appellant
in this case."
7. In Ramesh Chander Singh Vs. High Court of Allahabad
& Anr .5, a three-judge Bench of this Court, after
considering the entire law on the subject, including the
authorities referred to above, clearly disapproved the
practice of initiating disciplinary proceedings against
the officers of the district judiciary merely because the
judgment/orders passed by them are wrong. It was held
thus:-
"12. This Court on several occasions has
disapproved the practice of initiation of
disciplinary proceedings against officers of
the subordinate judiciary merely because the
judgments/orders passed by them are wrong. The
appellate and revisional courts have been
established and given powers to set aside such
orders. The higher courts after hearing the
appeal may modify or set aside erroneous
judgments of the lower courts. While taking
disciplinary action based on judicial orders,
The High Court must take extra care and
caution."
xxx xxx xxx
"17. In Zunjarrao Bhikaji Nagarkar v. Union of
India this Court held that wrong exercise of
jurisdiction by a quasi judicial authority or
mistake of law or wrong interpretation of law
cannot be the basis for initiating
disciplinary proceeding. Of course, if the
judicial officer conducted in a manner as
would reflect on his reputation or integrity
or good faith or there is a prima facie
material to show recklessness or misconduct in
discharge of his duties or he had acted in a
manner to unduly favour a party or had passed
5 (2007) 4 SCC 247

an order actuated by corrupt motive, the High
Court by virtue of its power under Article 235
of the Constitution may exercise its
supervisory jurisdiction. Nevertheless, under
such circumstances it should be kept in mind
that the Judges at all levels have to
administer justice without fear or favour.
Fearlessness and maintenance of judicial
independence are very essential for an
efficacious judicial system. Making adverse
comments against subordinate judicial officers
and subjecting them to severe disciplinary
proceedings would ultimately harm the judicial
system at the grassroot level."
8. No doubt, if any judicial officer conducts
proceedings in a manner which would reflect on his
reputation or integrity or there is prima facie material
to show reckless misconduct on his part while discharging
his duties, the High Court would be entitled to initiate
disciplinary cases but such material should be evident
from the orders and should also be placed on record
during the course of disciplinary proceedings.
9. Coming to the facts of this case there are two
charges against the appellant, who was a judicial
officer. The charges are as follows:
CHARGE-1
"You, Sri Krishna Prasad Verma while
functioning as Additional Distt. & Sessions
Judge, Chapra granted bail to M/s Bishwanath
Rai, Sheo Nath Rai and Pradeep Rai on
11.7.2002 in S.T. No.514 of 2001 arising out
of Chapra (M) Khatra P.S. Case No.453/2000
registered U/s 302/34 I.P.C. notwithstanding
the fact that the bail petitions of Bishwanath
Rai was earlier rejected by this Hon'ble Court
vide order dated 27.3.2001 and 4.7.2001 passed

in Cr. Misc. No.34144/2000 and 15626/2001
respectively, that of Sheo Nath Rai vide order
13.2.2001 and 26.11.2001 passed in Cr. Misc.
No.3387/2001 and Cr. Misc. No.30563/2001
respectively and that of Pradeep Rai vide
order dated 28.2.2001 passed in Cr.Misc.
No.3599/2001.
The aforesaid act on your part is indicative
of some extraneous consideration which
tantamounts to gross judicial impropriety,
judicial indiscipline, lack of integrity,
gross misconduct and an act unbecoming of a
Judicial Officer.
CHARGE-2
You, Sri Krishna Prasad Verma while
functioning as Additional District and
Sessions Judge, Chapra with an intent to
acquit Raju Mistry, the main accused in
N.D.P.S. Case No.15/2000 arising out of
Revealganj P.S. Case No.137/2000 (G.R. No.1569
of 2000) registered under sections 22, 23 and
24 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances Act, 1985 closed the proceeding in
great haste resulting in acquittal of Raju
Mistry, who was charged of driving a Jeep
bearing No.W.B.C.4049 carrying 90 Kg. Charas,
without exhausting all coercive methods to
record the statement of the Investigating
Oficer of the case as there is no proof on the
record to show that the non-bailable warrant
issued against the said Investigating Officer
was ever served on him.
The aforesaid act of yours is indicative of
some extraneous considerations which
tantamounts to gross judicial impropriety,
judicial indiscipline, lack of integrity,
gross misconduct and an act of unbecoming of a
Judicial Officer."
10. As far as the first charge is concerned, a major
fact, which was not considered by the enquiry officer,
the disciplinary authority as well as the High Court was
that the Additional Public Prosecutor, who had appeared

on behalf of the State had not opposed the prayer of the
accused for grant of bail. In case, the public prosecutor
does not oppose the bail, then normally any Judge would
grant bail.
11. The main ground to hold the appellant guilty of the
first charge is that the appellant did not take notice of
the orders of the High Court whereby the High Court had
rejected the bail application of one of the accused vide
order dated 26.11.2001. It would be pertinent to mention
that the High Court itself observed that after framing of
charges, if the non-official witnesses are not examined,
the prayer for bail could be removed, but after moving
the Lower Court first. The officer 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. It would
be pertinent to mention that the enquiry officer has not
found that there was any extraneous reason for granting
bail. The enquiry officer virtually sat as a court of
appeal picking holes in the order granting bail.
12. It would be important to mention that it seems that
later it was brought to the notice of the appellant that
he had not taken note of the order of the High Court
while granting bail on 11.07.2002. Thereafter, he issued

notice to all the three accused on 23.08.2002 i.e. within
less than two months and cancelled the bail granted to
all the three accused on 11.07.2002. If he had made the
mistake of not seeing the whole file, on that being
brought to his notice, he corrected the mistake. After
the appellant cancelled the bail and the accused were
again arrested, they again applied for bail and this bail
application was rejected by the appellant on 18.12.2002.
13. After rejection of the bail application of the
accused, two out of three accused moved the High Court.
The High Court granted bail to one of the accused and the
bail application of the other was rejected, not on merits
but on the ground that he did not disclose the fact that
he had earlier moved the High Court for grant of bail.
This itself is clear indicator of the fact that probably
even the order passed by the appellant is not an
incorrect one.
14. Coming to the second charge, which is under the
Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985
(hereinafter referred to as the "NDPS". On 18.07.2002 the
appellant, a Special Judge, closed the evidence of the
prosecution which resulted in material witnesses not
being examined and consequently the accused was
acquitted. As far as this allegation is concerned, the
enquiry officer on the basis of the statements of two

clerks of the Court has made lengthy observations that
the appellant did not send any communication to the
Superintendent of Police, the District Magistrate and
other authorities to ensure the production of the
witnesses. According to the enquiry officer, this being a
serious matter, the evidence should not have been closed
and the appellant should have made efforts to approach
the senior officials to get the witnesses produced. The
Code of Criminal Procedure or the NDPS Act do not provide
for any such procedure. It is the duty of the prosecution
to produce the witnesses. Even in this case,
interestingly, the Public Prosecutor had made a note on
the side of the daily order-sheet that he is unable to
produce the witnesses so the evidences may be closed. We
fail to understand how the appellant has been hanged
whereas no action has been taken or recommended against
the Public Prosecutor concerned. We are constrained to
note that the enquiry officer, while conducting the
enquiry, has noted, while considering the arguments of
the delinquent official, that he had raised a plea that
he closed the evidence because the Public Prosecutor had
made the statement, but while holding the appellant
guilty of misconduct no reference has been made to the
statement of the Public Prosecutor.
15. We may also note that the case of the appellant is
that he had given 18 adjournments for production of the

witnesses to the prosecution in the NDPS case. Such a
judicial officer is between the devil and the deep sea.
If he keeps on granting adjournments then the High Court
will take action against him on the ground that he does
not dispose of his cases efficiently and if he closes the
evidence then the High Court will take action on the
ground that he has let the accused go scot-free. That is
not the purpose of Article 235 of the Constitution of
India. That is why we again repeat that one of the
responsibilities of the High Court on the administrative
side is to ensure that the independence of the District
judiciary is maintained and the High Court acts as a
guardian and protector of the District judiciary.
16. We would, however, like to make it clear that we are
in no manner indicating that if a judicial officer passes
a wrong order, then no action is to be taken. In case a
judicial officer passes orders which are against settled
legal norms but there is no allegation of any extraneous
influences leading to the passing of such orders then the
appropriate action which the High Court should take is to
record such material on the administrative side and place
it on the service record of the judicial officer
concerned. These matters can be taken into consideration
while considering career progression of the concerned
judicial officer. Once note of the wrong order is taken
and they form part of the service record these can be

taken into consideration to deny selection grade,
promotion etc., and in case there is a continuous flow of
wrong or illegal orders then the proper action would be
to compulsorily retire the judicial officer, in
accordance with the Rules. We again reiterate that
unless there are clear-cut allegations of misconduct,
extraneous influences, gratification of any kind etc.,
disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated merely
on the basis that a wrong order has been passed by the
judicial officer or merely on the ground that the
judicial order is incorrect.
17. In view of the above discussion, we allow the
appeal, set aside the judgment of the High Court and
quash all the orders passed against the delinquent
officer. He is directed to be given all consequential
benefits on or before 31.12.2019. The appeal is allowed
with costs of Rs.25,000/-.
...................J.
(DEEPAK GUPTA)
...................J.
(ANIRUDDHA BOSE)
New Delhi
September 26, 2019

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