Judge, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion, says Supreme Court

The top court was hearing an appeal of a former judge whom the Allahabad HC had resolved to punish with curtailment of 90% of pensionary benefits
Last Updated 06 May 2022, 14:57 IST

A judge, like Caesar’s wife, must be “above suspicion” as granting undue favour to a litigant in the guise of passing orders is the worst kind of “judicial dishonesty and misconduct,” the Supreme Court Friday said while upholding the penalty of curtailment of a portion of pensionary benefits to a former judge for his orders in land acquisition matters.

The observations on judicial corruption were made by a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Bela M Trivedi while dismissing an appeal of former Additional District Judge Muzaffar Husain, then posted in Agra, for his misconduct in granting very high compensation to litigants in the land acquisition case.

The top court was hearing an appeal of the former judge against whom a full court of the Allahabad High Court, on September 02, 2006, had resolved to punish him with curtailment of 90 per cent of pensionary benefits with immediate effect.

Later, the high court, while hearing the plea of Husain on the judicial side, found punishment on some counts “unsustainable”.

However, the high court held that there was no ground to interfere with the findings recorded in reference to the other charge of misconduct and reduced the curtailment of pensionary benefits to the extent of 70 per cent in place of 90 per cent.

Deciding the appeal against the high court’s order, Justice Trivedi, writing the judgement for the bench, found no merit in the plea and dismissed the same.

“In our opinion, showing undue favour to a party under the guise of passing judicial orders is the worst kind of judicial dishonesty and misconduct. The extraneous consideration for showing favour need not always be monetary consideration. It is often said that ‘the public servants are like fish in the water, none can say when and how a fish drank the water’.

“A judge must decide the case on the basis of the facts on record and the law applicable to the case. If he decides a case for extraneous reasons, then he is not performing his duties in accordance with the law. As often quoted, a judge, like Caesar’s wife, must be above suspicion,” the bench said.

The former judge, who became a Judicial Member of Central Administrative Tribunal, Mumbai Bench, after taking voluntary retirement from the service was served with the notice of misconduct committed by him.

It was alleged that Husain, during the period from May 23, 2001, to May 19, 2003, had decided on a batch of matters under the Land Acquisition Act and had awarded enhanced compensation which was multiple times more than the investments made by the subsequent purchasers of the acquired lands.

Moreover, the subsequent purchasers had no right to claim compensation for the acquired lands, the charge sheet had said.

Referring to the facts of the case, the judgement said the former judge had not made any allegation concerning violation of principles of natural justice or contravention of any statutory rules or regulations having occasioned during the course of enquiry proceedings or in the decision-making process.

“Therefore, in absence of any such allegations, the subjective satisfaction arrived at by the High Court on the administrative side, and the impugned order passed by the High Court on the judicial side did not warrant any interference of this court,” it held.

When the enquiry proceedings have been found to have been conducted in a “proper and legal manner” and when the High Court, on the administrative side as well as on the judicial side, has accepted the findings then this court was not expected to sit as an appellate authority and re-evaluate the adequacy or reliability of the evidence adduced before the enquiry officer, it said.

(Published 06 May 2022, 14:49 IST)

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