LUCKNOW: On September 7, 2014, 15 trainee judges, who were soon to complete training at Lucknow’s Judicial Training and Research Institute, were caught in a drunken brawl at a local resort.
Repercussion followed soon. The then Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court Justice DY Chandrachud sought a report and the matter was taken up by a 'full-court'. Discharge simpliciter orders sacked all the 15 trainee judges. In one stroke, 15 budding careers came to an abrupt end.
All the 15 trainee judges moved the High Court with their individual petitions seeking relief. Later, a two-judge bench of Justices SS Chauhan and Rajnish Kumar was constituted to take up the case.
The bench gave its judgment on July 3, 2018. The verdict: the previous order was revoked, and all the 15 trainee officers were reinstated. The judges said the trainees should get a chance as they were young and inexperienced when they committed the said mistake. All newspapers reported the exoneration story.
But, there was another twist in the tale on the morning of July 4. In the high court’s website, it was found that Justice Kumar had taken an opposite view and upheld the dismissals. Apparently, the verdict of two judges was uploaded separately.
"The petitioners on account of their inexperience and being young officers should have been given opportunity to improve rather than straight away terminating them from service on the basis of the alleged incident. Some of them are married and have children and family has to survive and some of them are unmarried, who are likely to be married in near future and their marriage prospect has also been dimmed by the aforesaid incident," Justice Chauhan said.
Justice Kumar held a contrary view.
“A judge has to act at all times in a manner which upholds and promotes the good name, dignity and esteem of the office of a judicial officer and administration of justice. It is an established fact that the conduct of a judicial officer does not end at the door of the courtroom, it goes beyond it. Increased media attention, public awareness and public scrutiny allow very little privacy and the behaviour of judges even in their private capacity can have serious effects on the public perception of their impartiality and on the judicial system."
Now, the Chief Justice will have to constitute a larger bench to settle the matter after the split verdict by the two-judge bench.