Ramesh Chander Singh Vs. High
Court of Allahabad & Anr  Insc 212 (26 February 2007)
CJI K.G. BALAKRISHNAN,LOKESHWAR SINGH PANTA & D.K. JAIN
J U D G M E N T K.G. BALARISHNAN, CJI The appellant is a judicial officer in
the State of Uttar Pradesh. He joined the Provincial Civil Service (Judicial)
in the year 1976 and in May 1994 he was promoted to the Higher Judicial Service
and posted as Addl. District & Sessions Judge at Jhansi. A crime No. 180 of
1995 registered by the Police Station at Nawabad was committed to the Sessions
Court at Jhansi and allotted to the appellant's court for trial and disposal.
There were three accused in that case, namely, Ram Pal, Raghunath and Rajendra.
The crime related to an incident which happened on 22.5.1995. The allegation in
the First Information Report was that accused Ram Pal and Raghunath used
fire-arms and shot dead Pratap Yadubir Singh and Devendra Pipraiya within the
compound of District Panchayat Bhawan at Jhansi. The Police registered the case
for the offences punishable under Sections 302, 307 read with Section 34 IPC.
Accused Rajendra was granted bail on 19.8.1995. The second accused, Raghunath,
who allegedly used the fire-arm and killed one of the victims, was also granted
bail on 20.9.1995 by the High Court. Accused Ram Pal continued to be in custody
and moved his first bail application on 17.11.1995 which was dismissed by the
Sessions Judge, Jhansi. On 11.4.1996, accused Ram Pal moved another bail
application and the same was dismissed for default. In the third application,
which came up for consideration before the second Addl. Sessions Judge, Jhansi,
accused Ram Pal contended that he had no criminal history and that the
Executive Magistrate (Tehsildar) who recorded the dying declaration used to
reside in the house of the deceased Pratap Yadubir and because of his
acquaintance with the deceased, the dying declaration recorded by him was not
to be given much credence. Accused Ram Pal further contended that he was a
local resident and there was no likelihood of he being absconding. The Sessions
Judge dismissed the bail application on 15.5.1996. In the fourth bail
application, moved by accused Ram Pal on 19.6.1996, he contended that he was a
student; he had surrendered before the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Jhansi, on
8.6.1995; had been in custody for more than one year and that his co-accused
had been released on bail. He pleaded that his father was seriously ill and in
support of this contention, he produced a medical certificate from a Professor
of Medical College at Jhansi to show that his father had suffered a
heart-attack on 16.5.1996.
By an order passed on 22.6.1996, the appellant herein granted bail to
accused Ram Pal. The main reasons attributed by the appellant for granting bail
to accused Ram Pal were that the charge sheet had been filed by the police; the
accused had stated that his father was dangerously ill; the accused was a
student; and that the accused had no previous conviction or involvement in any
criminal case. The appellant also observed in the bail order that the Tehsildar
who recorded the dying declaration was a close acquaintance of the deceased.
Considering the totality of the circumstances and as there was no likelihood
of the accused absconding or interfering with the trial of the case influencing
the witnesses or committing any fresh offence, the bail application was allowed
by the appellant.
It may also be noticed that when the bail application of the accused came up
on 22.6.1996, the appellant noticed that the brother of the defacto complainant
had filed an application before the Sessions Judge for the transfer of the bail
application to some other court. It appears that the hearing of bail petition
was adjourned in the morning of 22.6.1996 for want of a specific report from
the Addl. District Govt. Counsel (ADGC) and later, on the same day, it was
taken up when the ADGC stated that he had full faith in the court and the
counsel, who was engaged by the complainant, did not raise any objection and
was prepared to argue the bail application.
No stay order was produced before the appellant and therefore, the appellant
proceeded with the hearing of the case and passed the order on the very same
day granting bail to accused Ram Pal on his furnishing a bond for Rs.20,000/-
with two sureties.
On 10.7.1996, complainant Jagdeo Singh sent a complaint to the High Court
alleging that the appellant had accepted illegal gratification for granting
bail to accused Ram Pal. This complaint was placed before the Inspecting Judge
and after going through the material on record the learned Inspecting Judge was
of the view that there was a prima facie case against the officer concerned,
for dereliction of duty and judicial dishonesty while granting bail. The
Administrative Committee initiated departmental enquiry against the appellant.
It may further be noticed that in the complaint filed by Jagdeo Singh, he
alleged that it was being said in the village that a sum of Rs.80,000/- had
been paid to the appellant and bail would be granted by him and that nobody could
stop it. He had also mentioned about the transfer application filed by him
before the Distt. Judge and alleged that despite the filing of the said
transfer application, the bail application was heard and allowed. He prayed for
the transfer of the case to some other court.
In the transfer application filed by the brother of the complainant, there
was an allegation that a sum of Rs. 80,000/- was paid and that it was settled
through a library clerk with the involvement of two other clerks. In the
transfer application, he also alleged that the brother and father of accused
Ram Pal were found going in and coming out of the residence of the appellant.
Despite all these allegations, no charge was framed against the appellant that
he had received illegal gratification for granting bail. The charge sheet
contained the only allegation that the bail order was passed by the appellant
for extraneous consideration with oblique motives on insufficient grounds and
that the appellant was guilty of misconduct and failed to maintain absolute
integrity and devotion to duty within the meaning of Rule 3 of U.P.
Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1956. The charge sheet as well as the
statement of facts are clubbed together and the gist of allegations is
contained in paragraphs 6 and 7 of the charge sheet.
A sitting Judge of the High Court conducted the enquiry and gave his report.
Though there was no charge specifically brought against the appellant that he
had received a sum of Rs.80,000/- as illegal gratification, this aspect also
was considered by the learned Judge. On behalf of the complainant, PW-1 Jagdeo
Singh was examined and he made a specific allegation that the father of the
accused had withdrawn Rs.80,000/- from the bank and that the bail application
was allowed on the next day. He did not, however, claim to have any direct
knowledge. He deposed that he had gathered this information from a labourer. He
did not take any steps to summon the bank record. PW-1 was completely
disbelieved by the learned Judge who conducted the inquiry.
The case set up by the complainant was not supported by other witnesses. The
counsel who appeared for the brother of the deceased and moved the application
for transfer, stated that the brother of the deceased did not tell him that
there was a rumour in the village about payment of Rs.80,000/-. The Judge who
conducted the inquiry elaborately considered the various aspects of the matter
and concluded that there was no element of truth in the allegation that the
appellant had received illegal gratification. The evidence of PW-1 on this
aspect was disbelieved. However, the learned Judge inquiring the matter
eventually came to the conclusion that the bail had been granted by the
appellant in utter disregard of judicial norms and on insufficient grounds and
based on extraneous consideration with oblique motive and the charges had been
proved. It is important to note that the Judge who conducted the enquiry has
not stated in his report as to what was the oblique motive or the extraneous
consideration involved in the matter.
Based on the enquiry report, the appellant was served with a notice to show
cause as to why his two increments should not be withheld with cumulative
effect. The matter was placed before the Full Court on 20.11.1999 and the Full
Court by its resolution imposed a major punishment of withholding two annual
increments of the appellant with cumulative effect. The appellant filed a
review application against the said punishment and the same was rejected.
Thereupon, he filed a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution
challenging the punishment imposed on him.
By judgment dated 3.10.2005, the writ petition was dismissed and in the very
same judgment the appellant was directed to show cause within three weeks from
the date of the judgment as to why the High Court should not consider
substitution of the punishment imposed, by removing him from service.
Pursuant to the notice, the appellant appeared and presented his case before
the Division Bench. By judgment dated 25.11.2005, the appellant was reduced to
the rank next below, that is, Civil Judge (Senior Division). Both the judgments
of the Division Bench are challenged before us.
The learned Counsel for the appellant contended before us that the appellant
was not charged for receiving any illegal gratification for granting bail to
the accused in Crime No. 180 of 1995 registered by the Police Station at
Nawabad. The charge, if at all, was vague and it only stated that the bail
order had been passed by the delinquent officer [appellant] for extraneous
consideration with oblique motive on insufficient grounds, without cogent and
tangible reasons, and that he attempted to justify his order by superfluous
reasoning by making adverse comments on the conduct of the Executive
Magistrate, who recorded the dying declaration, fully knowing that it was a
broad daylight double-murder case and that the grounds were not fit for
granting bail and these factors revealed that the order had been passed for
extraneous consideration. It was argued that there was no specific charge that
the appellant received any monetary consideration from any of the accused or
his relatives. The appellant's counsel also pointed out that though the
complainant specifically alleged that a sum of Rs. 80,000/- was given to the
appellant- officer and that this money had been obtained from the bank on the
previous day by the father of accused Ram Pal, these allegations were not
proved and that the complainant, at the time of enquiry, stated that he had
heard of this story from some servants and from the very nature of the
allegation, they were disbelieved and that was why a specific charge was not
framed against the appellant. It was further argued by appellant's counsel that
though there was no charge against the appellant, the Judge who conducted the
enquiry allowed the complainant to adduce evidence, and eventually he came to
the conclusion that there was absolutely no evidence to show that the
delinquent officer had received any illegal gratification from any party.
The question for consideration is whether the appellant had granted bail on
insufficient grounds or was justified in passing such an order. Granting of
bail to accused pending trial is one of the significant judicial functions to
be performed by a Judicial Officer. In the instant case, neither the State nor
the complainant had filed any appeal against the order passed by the appellant.
The State did not allege that the accused who had been granted bail was likely
to abuse his bail or likely to abscond. It is also pertinent to note that the
accused to whom the appellant had granted bail was one of the three accused
against whom charge sheet had been filed by the police. The other two accused
were Rejendra and Raghu Nath.
As per the First Information Report, Ram Pal, to whom the appellant had
granted bail, and Raghu Nath, who obtained bail from the High Court, had used
fire-arms as a result of which two persons died. As per the prosecution case,
the accused Ram Pal is alleged to have caused the death of one of the victims
while accused Raghu Nath was alleged to have caused the death of the other
victim. Accused Raghu Nath was granted bail by the High Court on 20.9.1995.
Accused Rajendra was granted bail as early as 19.8.1995. Accused Ram Pal had
been in custody for more than one year. The police had already filed the
charge-sheet against him and the court was yet to frame the charge against all
Accused Ram Pal was a student and he alleged that had he suffered a loss of
one year's study. He also alleged that his father was seriously ill due to a
heart ailment and he produced a medical certificate from one of the professors
working in the local medical college. It was under these circumstances that the
bail application filed by Ram Pal came to be heard by the appellant and he
granted bail to him by an order passed on 22.6.1996. It is also important that
the complainant made an attempt to have the bail application transferred from
the court of the appellant to the court of the Principal Sessions Court.
Though he filed the application for transfer, he did not press for stay of
the proceedings. The appellant-officer came to know about the filing of the
transfer application and brought this fact to the notice of the counsel who
appeared for the complainant and also the State prosecutor. Both the counsel
had no objection to the hearing of the bail application by the appellant and
accordingly the appellant heard the bail application and passed the order
granting bail to Ram Pal. It is clear that by filing a frivolous transfer
application the complainant only intended to create a sense of threat so as to
influence the appellant not to grant bail to the accused. The filing of the
transfer application by the complainant could not be viewed from any other
angle. Despite this, the complainant did not file any application for
cancellation of bail granted to the accused.
The learned Judge who conducted the enquiry held that in the facts of the
case where a heinous and daring offence had been committed in broad daylight
and two persons had been shot dead in a crowded area next to the Collectorate
at Jhansi and the accused were named in the FIR as well as in the dying
declarations and their bail applications having been considered and rejected
twice on merits by the respective courts, the third bail application granted by
the charged officer in utter disregard of the judicial norms and on
insufficient grounds appears to be based on extraneous consideration.
The learned enquiry Judge did not care to take notice of the fact that the
co-accused who were similarly situate had been granted bail by the High Court
and that accused Ram Pal, who was a student and had been in jail for more than
one year was granted bail for cogent reasons, set out in the order passed by
the appellant. In the bail order, the appellant stated that there was an
allegation that the Magistrate who recorded the dying declaration was once upon
a time a tenant in one of the houses owned by the complainant. Taking
cognizance of this fact by the appellant in the order could not be said to be a
totally unwarranted and a superfluous reasoning.
The counsel for the respondent pointed out that on three previous occasions
the bail had been declined to the very same accused and as there was no change
in the circumstances, the appellant-officer should not have considered the
fourth bail application as well. Of course, in the previous bail applications,
many of the contentions raised by the accused were considered, but an accused
has the right to file bail application at any stage when undergoing
imprisonment as an under-trial prisoner. The fact that the two other accused
had already been enlarged on bail was a valid reason for granting bail to
accused Ram Pal. Moreover, accused Ram Pal had been in jail for one year as an
under-trial prisoner and the charge-sheet had already been filed. In our
opinion, if accused Ram Pal were to be denied bail in these circumstances, it
would have been a travesty of justice especially when all factors relevant to
be gone into for considering the bail application were heavily loaded in favour
of grant of bail to accused Ram Pal.
We fail to understand as to how the High Court arrived at a decision to
initiate disciplinary proceedings solely based on the complaint, the contents
of which were not believed to be true by the High Court. If the High Court were
to initiate disciplinary proceedings based on a judicial order, there should
have been strong grounds to suspect officer's bona fides and the order itself
should have been actuated by malice, bias or illegality. The appellant-officer
was well within his right to grant bail to the accused in discharge of his
judicial functions. Unlike provisions for granting bail in TADA Act or NDPS
Act, there was no statutory bar in granting bail to the accused in this case. A
Sessions Judge was competent to grant bail and if any disciplinary proceedings
are initiated against the officer for passing such an order, it would adversely
affect the morale of subordinate judiciary and no officer would be able to
exercise this power freely and independently.
This Court on several occasions has disapproved the practice of initiation
of disciplinary proceedings against officers of the subordinate judiciary
merely because the judgments/orders passed by them are wrong. The appellate and
revisional courts have been established and given powers to set aside such
orders. The higher courts after hearing the appeal may modify or set aside
erroneous judgments of the lower courts. While taking disciplinary action based
on judicial orders, High Court must take extra care and caution.
In Iswar Chandra Jain v. High Court of Punjab and Haryana, AIR 1988 SC 1395,
this Court observed that while exercising control over subordinate judiciary
under Art. 235 of the Constitution, the High Court is under a Constitutional
obligation to guide and protect subordinate judicial officers.
An honest and strict judicial officer is likely to have adversaries. If
complaints are entertained in trifling matters and if the High Court encourages
anonymous complaints, no judicial officer would feel secure and it would be
difficult for him to discharge his duties in an honest and independent manner.
It is imperative that the High Court should take steps to protect honest
judicial officers by ignoring ill- conceived or motivated complaints made by
unscrupulous lawyers and litigants.
In K.P. Tiwari v. State of Madhya Pradesh, AIR 1994 SC 1031, where the High
Court reversed the order passed by the lower court making remarks about
interestedness and motive of the lower court in passing the unmerited order,
this Court observed that one of the functions of the higher court is either to
modify or set aside erroneous orders passed by the lower courts. Our legal
system acknowledges fallibility of judges. It has to be kept in mind that a
subordinate judicial officer works mostly in a charged atmosphere. He is under
a psychological pressure -- contestants and lawyers breathing down his neck. He
does not enjoy the detached atmosphere of the higher court. Every error,
however gross it may be, should not be attributed to improper motives. The
Judges of the High Court have a responsibility to ensure judicial discipline
and respect for the judiciary from all concerned. No greater damage can be done
to the administration of justice and to the confidence of the people in the
judiciary if the higher courts express lack of faith in the subordinate
judiciary for some reason or other. That amounts to destruction of judiciary
In Kashi Nath Roy v. The State of Bihar, AIR 1996 SC 3240, this Court
observed under a similar circumstance that in our system appellate and
revisional courts have been set up with the presupposition that the lower
courts in some measure of cases can go wrong in decision making in law and in
The higher courts have been established to correct errors. In cases where
intolerable error is pointed out, it is functionally required to correct the
error in an appropriate case and in a manner befitting maintaining dignity of
the court and independence of the judiciary. The higher court should convey its
message in the judgment to the officer concerned through a process of
reasoning, essentially persuasive, reasonable, mellowed but clear and result
oriented and rarely a rebuke.
In series of other cases also, this court disfavoured the practice of
passing strictures or orders against the subordinate officers. (See : Braj
Kishore Thakur v. Union of India, AIR 1997 SC 1157; Alok Kumar Roy v. Dr. S.N.
Sarma, AIR 1968 SC 453) In Lunjarrao Bhikaji Nagarkar v. Union of India, AIR
1999 SC 2881, this Court held that wrong exercise of jurisdiction by a quasi
judicial authority or mistake of law or wrong interpretation of law cannot be
the basis for initiating disciplinary proceeding. Of course, if the Judicial
Officer conducted in a manner as would reflect on his reputation or integrity
or good faith or there is a prima facie material to show recklessness or
misconduct in discharge of his duties or he had acted in a manner to unduly
favour a party or had passed an order actuated by corrupt motive, the High
Court by virtue of its power under Art. 235 of the Constitution may exercise
its supervisory jurisdiction. Nevertheless, under such circumstances it should
be kept in mind that the Judges at all levels have to administer justice
without fear or favour.
Fearlessness and maintenance of judicial independence are very essential for
an efficacious judicial system. Making adverse comments against subordinate
judicial officers and subjecting them to severe disciplinary proceedings would
ultimately harm the judicial system at the grassroot level.
Apart from the merits of the case before us, we have also gone into the
Confidential Reports of the appellant officer. His integrity and honesty had
never been doubted at any point of time. In some of the confidential reports
except stating that the appellant-officer was not having smooth relationship
with the advocates, no other adverse remarks had been entered.
Two Senior Judges of the High Court have entered in his confidential register
that the appellant is an officer of honesty and integrity. The fact that it was
a case of daylight murder wherein two persons died, is not adequate to hold
that the accused were not entitled to bail at all. Passing order on a bail
application is a matter of discretion which is exercised by a Judicial Officer
with utmost responsibility. When a co- accused had been granted bail by the
High Court, the appellant cannot be said to have passed an unjustified order
granting bail, that too, to an accused who was a student and had been in jail
for more than one year. If at all, the Inspecting Judge had found anything
wrong with the Order, he should have sent for the officer and advised him to be
careful in future. The punishment of reverting the appellant to the post of
Civil Judge (Sr. Division), in the facts and circumstances of this case could
only be termed as draconian and unjust. The appellant had been in the cadre of
District Judge for eight years at the time this grave punishment of reversion
to a lower rank was imposed on him. In our opinion, the punishment was clearly
disproportionate to the lapse alleged to have been committed by him. The
imposition of the punishment of withholding two increments with cumulative
effect also appears to be disproportionate to the alleged lapse.
Consequently, we set aside the Judgment of the High Court dated 3.10.2005
and also the Judgment rendered by the very same court on 25.11.2005. The
appellant shall be immediately posted to the cadre of District Judge and paid
all monetary benefits due to him as a consequence thereof. We also set aside
the initial order passed by the Full court of the High Court imposing the
penalty of withholding two increments to the appellant with cumulative effect.
As the Full Court alone is the ultimate competent authority to consider all
disciplinary matters and has indeed taken the decision impugned before us, we
remit the matter to the Full Court to consider afresh the question of
imposition of appropriate punishment on the appellant.
The appeal is disposed of accordingly.