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The Allahabad High Court was witness to high drama earlier this week when a Family Court judge who was summoned for passing a questionable order was reprimanded for his unruly conduct in court.
Principal Judge of the Family Court at Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Manoj Kumar Shukla was hauled up by the Allahabad High Court for wrongly passing an order under the Hindu Marriage Act in a case between Muslim parties.
The Muslim couple in question were married for four years and had a child out of wedlock before becoming estranged. The respondent-wife left her matrimonial home, following which the appellant-husband filed a petition under Section 9 of the Hindu Marriage Act for restitution of conjugal rights.
An application for interim maintenance was filed along with this petition. Vide an order passed on December 9, 2015, Judge Shukla granted interim maintenance in favour of the respondent. The appellant-husband then challenged this order before the High Court under Section 19 of the Family Courts Act.
When the matter was taken up by the High Court on October 23 this year, the Bench of Justices Anil Kumar and Saurabh Lavania held that the order of interim maintenance passed under the Section 9 petition was an incorrect application of the law. Thus, the High Court stayed the order and listed the matter for November 18. The Bench also directed Judge Shukla to be present in court on that date to explain the circumstances under which he passed the said order.
Before the hearing, Judge Shukla wrote a letter to the High Court, stating among other things, that the order was not passed by him, but by another judge who was Principal Judge of the Sultanpur Family Court from May 2015 to May 2017.
When the Bench sought clarification on this aspect on the November 18 hearing, Judge Shukla responded by saying that he was unnecessarily summoned to Court even though he had not passed the order in question. He also stated that the Supreme Court has time and again held that judicial officers should not be summoned to court.
Judge Shukla went on to say that such mistakes are committed owing to the “heavy rush of work” in the Family Court, which has only one stenographer for writing down judgments and orders.
In response, the Bench told him that irrespective of the heavy work burden and lack of infrastructural facilities, a judge is duty-bound to ensure that he passes a correct order.
However, the Bench’s advice rubbed Judge Shukla the wrong way, as he began questioning the working of the High Court in a “loud voice” and started shouting in louder voice before the Members of the Bar present in the courtroom.
A frustrated Judge Shukla further pointed out that this was not the first time he has been summoned by the High Court. He had previously been hauled up by a Bench of Justice (retd.) Abdul Mateen and “other Judge Upadhyay”.
On being asked to take the judge’s (Justice Upadhyay) name with respect, a defiant Judge Shukla told the Bench that he was unnecessarily summoned by the High Court in both instances. He paid no heed to the Bench’s warning that his attitude might lead to unwarranted consequences and said,
“(a) What I have said is correct and I do not care about anything. (b) I was appointed in judicial service through U.P. Public Service Commission. (c) You may observe what I have stated before this Court and the manner in which I have made the statement.”
This left the Bench no choice but to state in its order:
“In view of the above, we are constrained to observe, that too, with a heavy heart and affliction that the scene created by the Judicial Officer, Sri Manoj Kumar Shukla today inside the Courtroom has diminished the image of Judiciary which was unwarranted and also it manifested disrespect to this Court which is not expected of a Judicial Officer.
The conduct of the Judicial Officer in full view of the members of the Bar was not only disrespectful but was an attempt to show this Court in poor light…In such a hierarchy, if a Judge of a subordinate court fails to conduct himself in a manner expected of the Judicial Officer, it is not only bound to lower the dignity and majesty of the Court but it may even tend to shake the faith and trust of the litigant who is the most important stakeholder in the justice dispensation system.”
However, the Bench stopped short of taking action against Judge Shukla, instead referring the matter to Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court Justice Govind Mathur for taking appropriate and necessary action.
The matter has been listed for three weeks from November 18.
Read the order: