Judges have to maintain high benchmark of integrity: SC

"Upright and honest judicial officers are needed not only to bolster the image of the judiciary in the eyes of the litigant, but also to sustain the culture of integrity, virtue among the judges.

"The public perception of the judiciary matters just as much as its role in dispute resolution. The credibility of the entire judiciary is often undermined by isolated acts of transgression by a few members of the Bench, and therefore it is imperative to maintain a high benchmark of honesty, accountability and good conduct," a Bench of Justices Mukundakam Sharma and A R Dave said in a judgement.

The apex court passed the judgement while dismissing the appeal filed by Rajesh Kohli who while being posted as the Principal District and Sessions Judge, Kargil, J&K was discharged from service on the ground of misconduct of alleged defrauding of money and using abusive language against the staff.
The order of termination was passed by a Full Bench of the J&K High Court on April 26, 2003.

The apex court rejected the argument of Kohli that the order of termination was stigmatic and that he had obtained two increments during his probation period which vouchsafed for his satisfactory service.

"The mere granting of yearly increments would not in any manner indicate that after completion of the probation period the full court of the High Court was not competent to scrutinise his records and on the basis thereof take a decision as to whether or not his service should be confirmed or dispensed with or whether his probation should be extended," the Bench said.

The apex court said the High Court had a solemn duty to review the service of a judicial officer before confirming him/her in service.

"The District judiciary is the bedrock of our judicial system and is positioned at the primary level of entry to the doors of justice. In providing the opportunity of access to justice to the people of the country, the judicial officers who are entrusted with the task of adjudication must officiate in a manner that is becoming of their position and responsibility towards society, the apex court.

The apex court said the services rendered by a judicial officer during probation are assessed not solely on the basis of judicial performance, but also on probity as to how one has conducted himself and rejected his argument that the termination caused a stigma on his career.

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