New Delhi: Judges occupying the highest moral ground go a long way in building public confidence in the justice delivery system and the perception of common man about the credentials and background of a judicial officer is “vital”, the Supreme Court has said.
The apex court said that post of a judicial officer at any level involves applying the “most exacting standards”.
A bench of Justices K M Joseph and P S Narasimha observed this in a judgement delivered on a plea challenging the Rajasthan High Court verdict allowing a petition filed by a man against the decision which had found that he did not deserve to be appointed to the civil judges’ cadre.
The top court said that the judges discharge one of the most important functions of the State, that is, resolution of disputes involving citizens, and post of the civil judge or magistrate is of “highest importance” as the highest volume of litigation instituted in the country takes place at the lowest level.
“The post of a judicial officer at any level of the hierarchy involves applying the most exacting standards. This is for reasons which are obvious. The incumbent of a judicial post discharges one of the most important functions of the State, that is, the resolution of disputes involving the people of the country. Judges occupying the highest moral ground go a long way in building public confidence in the justice delivery system,” the bench said in its judgement delivered on September 16.
Referring to the facts of the case, it noted that some FIRs were lodged earlier against the man and he was acquitted on the basis of compromise.
The bench said that in two of the FIRs, final reports were filed and in the absence of an “honourable acquittal”, the alleged involvement of an officer in criminal cases may undermine public faith in the system.
“In two FIRs, we notice that the matter progressed further and the investigating authorities filed chargesheets. However, it is true that the first respondent (man) stood acquitted. The acquittal is certainly not on the basis that there was no evidence whatsoever against the first respondent. We are unable to describe the acquittals as honourable or acquittals based on there being a complete absence of evidence,” it said, while setting aside the high court verdict.
It said the high court is duty bound to recommend the most suitable persons to occupy the post.
“The post of a civil judge or a magistrate is of the highest importance notwithstanding the fact that in the pyramidical structure of the judiciary, the civil judge or the magistrate is at the lowest rung,” it said, adding, “Character cannot be understood as being limited to a mere certifying of the character by the competent authority”.
It said not many of the cases finally reach the highest court and it is through the civil judge or magistrate that the common man has the greatest interface.
“Most importantly, the perception of the common man about the credentials and background of the judicial officer is vital. We have only highlighted these aspects as a prelude to consider the facts of the case further,” it said.
The Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur, had issued a notification in November 2013 inviting applications for filling up the post of civil judge (junior division) and the man had applied to the same.
While allowing the plea filed by the high court through its registrar general, the apex court noted in its verdict that when the matter was taken for verification, the man had volunteered with the information with regard to his being implicated in certain criminal cases.
In July 2015, the committee of the high court which was tasked by the chief justice to consider the case of 12 candidates, including the man, resolved to not recommend him.
After the matter was referred back to the committee regarding these candidates, the panel again did not recommend the case of the man and later, the full court accepted the same.
Thereafter, the man had filed a petition in the high court which granted him liberty to file representation before the registrar of the Rajasthan High Court, Jodhpur.
Later, the matter was again considered by the lower judiciary committee of the high court which resolved to reject his representation.
The man then filed another petition before the high court which allowed it while noting that admittedly, no criminal case was pending against him when the online application form was submitted by him for recruitment to the post.
The high court had also noted that out of four cases lodged against him, two cases were found to be false after investigation and in two other cases, offences were of simple injuries in which compromise was arrived at between the parties and he was acquitted.
The high court, while noting that the man belonged to the Scheduled Caste category, had referred to an apex court verdict and said that decision of the committee was “not in consonance” with the spirit of the judgment.