Judge penalised for puffing away with lawyers in bar room

Hearing a petition filed by the aggrieved judge, Justice B H Marlapalle and Justice Amjad Sayed, on September 23, held that the penalty imposed by the disciplinary committee of the High Court on the civil judge was "minor and fully justified."

S B Kulkarni, currently presiding over a Buldana civil court, was "censured" in February this year by the High Court committee which conducted an inquiry initiated by the Principal Judge at Jalgaon on a complaint filed by lawyers.

Being aggrieved, he filed an appeal before a division bench of the Bombay High Court which upheld the decision of the disciplinary committee.The committee found him not only puffing away in the court premises but also for reporting late to the court.

"There is material to hold that the judge occupies seat on the dias for a limited time. He spends much time during working hours in the Diwani room (bar room) with lawyers and smokes in the office. This conduct of the judge is against the judicial discipline", the inquiry report said.

The committee further held that birthday celebrations of the judge held in the court premises was also objectionable although there was nothing on record to show that the function was organised at his behest.

"The Judge should not have allowed the birthday celebrations to be held in the court premises during working hours," the committee opined.

The division bench of the High Court did not agree with the submissions made by the judge's counsel Anil Anturkar that smoking and chatting with lawyers cannot be regarded as acts of misconduct.

Anturkar argued that only the state was competent to take action against the judge on the recommendations made by the High Court and not the disciplinary committee of the High Court.

The division bench, however, did not agree with this submission saying under Article 236 of the constitution the power to control and supervise lower courts vested with the High Court.

It was of the view that the full bench of the High Court has delegated powers to the disciplinary committee for better administration and therefore this committee acts on behalf of the High Court.

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