Judicial officer evaluation needs revamping: SC

Judicial officer evaluation needs revamping: SC

Change is necessary to control subordinate judiciary properly

The system of preparing Annual Confidential Report (ACR) of judicial officers need to be revamped if high courts were to have proper supervision and control over the subordinate judiciary, the Supreme Court has said.

In a judgment, a bench of Justices P Sathasivam and Dipak Misra pointed out that ACRs are vital for disciplinary action against judicial officers and so they must be comprehensive and objective.

“We feel that there is an urgent need for reforms on this subject, not only to bring about uniformity but also to infuse objectivity and standardization,” the bench said.

The court pointed out the anomaly in the process of preparing ACRs while allowing an appeal of Registrar, Patna High Court against an order of a HC division bench revoking the dismissal of a judicial officer for misconduct, which had been approved by the full court as well as by the governor.

While evaluations on judicial officers must contain comprehensive and balanced information on his performance during the period in question, ACRs are often hastily prepared after considerable lapse in time, , the apex court said.  

In some cases, such delays were as long as one year and the ACRs contain merely the grading in the  final column, the court observed.

“We feel that the present system of recording the ACRs leaves much to be desired and needs to be revamped. Experience has shown that it is deficient in several ways, being not comprehensive enough to truly reflect the level of work, conduct and performance of each individual on one hand and unable to check subjectivity on the other,” the court said.

“This undoubtedly breeds discontent in a section of the judicial service besides eroding proper and effective superintendence and control of the High Court over subordinate judiciary.”

Making hurried assessment is either on the basis of the previous years’ grading or the personal and subjective views of the Inspecting Judge(s), making the exercise unfair and unreliable.

In the instant case, Gajendra Prasad Pandey, acting as Railway Judicial Magistrate, granted bail to two accused in separate cases of contraband possessions.

He was dismissed from service in 2006 on the basis of an enquiry board recommendation accepted by the standing committee and approved by the full court and the governor.

The Patna HC, however, quashed his dismissal.

Setting aside the HC’s order, the apex court said, “There is no gainsaying that while it is imperative for the High Court to protect honest and upright judicial officers against motivated and concocted allegations, it is equally necessary for the High Court not to ignore or condone any dishonest deed on the part of any judicial officer.”

“It needs little emphasis that the subordinate judiciary is the kingpin in the hierarchical system of administration of justice. It is the trial judge, who comes in contact with the litigant during the day to day proceedings in the court and, therefore, a heavy responsibility lies on him to build a solemn unpolluted atmosphere in the dispensation of justice which is an essential and inevitable feature in a civilized democratic society.”

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