MUMBAI: A departmental enquiry can be initiated against a judicial officer if there was verifiable material to substantiate the allegations, in the absence of a written complaint and an affidavit, the Bombay High Court has said.
A division bench of Justices R M Savant and S V Kotwal on May 4 dismissed a petition filed by a civil judge (junior division), Asif Tahasildar, challenging an order of July 15, 2017, issued by the high court registrar, initiating a departmental enquiry against him on two different charges.
The first charge was for allegedly misusing the official position to cause wrongful gain for oneself and loss to the state exchequer when Tahasildar was a civil judge in Jalna district.
The second enquiry was initiated after Tahasildar allegedly assaulted a person and threatened to imprison him in a false case when he was a judge in Kolhapur.
The petition claimed that the departmental enquiry, initiated against Tahsildar, was in breach of the guidelines issued by the Chief Justice of India, which mandated a written complaint accompanied with a duly sworn affidavit against a judicial officer before the initiation of enquiry.
In this case, there was no written complaint, the petition said.
The bench, after perusing the facts of the matter, observed that in both the cases, before initiating the departmental enquiry proceedings, the principal judges of the courts concerned (Jalna and Kolhapur) had carried out a discreet enquiry and had also taken the petitioner's reply into consideration.
The HC registrar passed the order initiating departmental enquiry only after receiving reports from the principal judges concerned, the court said.
"Hence, so far as the departmental enquiries against the petitioner are concerned, there was verifiable material to substantiate the allegations made," the court said.
It is, therefore, not possible to accept the petitioner's contention that in the absence of a written complaint accompanied by a duly-sworn affidavit no departmental enquiry can be initiated, the court said.
The court also refused to accept the petitioner's argument that when he was issued a show cause notice, his side of the story was not heard or taken into consideration.
"The disciplinary authority is under no obligation at the stage of issuing a show cause notice to afford any opportunity of hearing to a delinquent," the court said.
"The disciplinary authority has to only consider whether there are grounds for proceeding with an enquiry so as to ascertain the truth behind the allegations against the judicial officer," the court said.
Merely because no hearing was afforded prior to the disciplinary authority coming to a conclusion to proceed departmentally against the petitioner, does not mean that the principles of natural justice have been violated, the bench said.
The petitioner can participate in the departmental enquiry initiated against him and refute or dispel the charges, the court said.