Apex court asks HCs to protect honest judicial officers

Apex court asks HCs to protect honest judicial officers

Apex court asks HCs to protect honest judicial officers

The Supreme Court has asked high courts to ensure that honest judicial officers are protected from unjustified allegations, while ordering reinstatement of a woman civil judge whose service was terminated without verifying charges.

A bench of justices H L Gokhale and Dipak Misra said it was necessary to encourage young officers to work without fear.

Dealing with the case of a woman from Gujarat, the court said: “We would like to take this opportunity to emphasise that the high courts must see to it that hostile work environment for junior judicial officers, particularly lady officers, is eliminated. This is necessary to encourage the young officers to put in good judicial work without fear or favour.”

The apex court did not like the way civil judge Jayshree Chamanlal Buddhbhatti’s service was terminated during her probation. She had filed complaints against some sub-ordinates for misbehaviour.

The court observed that Buddhbhatti secured seventh rank at the time of her selection in 2003. She was given a full-fledged posting as a civil judge and judicial magistrate first class at Kodinar in Junagadh by the high court.

Unjustified allegations

Her service was terminated in 2007 citing “unsuitability” due to a host of charges, including her alleged involvement in the suicide of a colleague’s wife, after a discreet inquiry conducted on behalf of the Gujarat High Court.

The apex court noted that Buddhbhatti had a commendable record and complaints by some of her sub-ordinates were motivated. Besides, it said she was not at all involved in the suicide as there was no material evidence against her except a telephonic conversation.

“It is the duty of the district judge and also of the high court to protect the judicial officers against unjustified allegations. However, what we find in the present case is that instead of doing the same, an investigation was conducted against the respondent without affording her any opportunity, though it contained allegations against her character, and the investigation was sought to be justified as determination of her suitability for the post which she was holding,” the court said.

Ordering her reinstatement within four weeks, the court directed the high court registry to treat her service with continuity and grant her all benefits.

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