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The Supreme Court last week awarded Rs. 20 lakh to a former judicial officer who was compulsorily retired from service on allegations of corruption and was subsequently exonerated.
The order was passed by a bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose in the appeal filed by the judicial officer, Yogesh M Vyas against a verdict of Gujarat High Court.
Advocate DN Ray appeared for the appellant.
The appellant was a Judicial Officer who had joined judicial service in 1981 and had held various positions. During the period from June 15, 1992 to June 12, 1994, the appellant was working as Civil Judge (JD) and JMFC, Visnagar. It was alleged that he had granted seven bail orders against the provision of law.
These allegations were enquired into and after the inquiry, it was held that there was no direct evidence to show that corrupt practice was done by the appellant but he had exercised jurisdiction not vested in him by enlarging the accused on bail in cases falling under Section 307 IPC. The inquiry officer also noted that there may be the possibility of the appellant having indulged in some corruption. Another allegation was that in a civil case, after granting ex parte order, he had vacated injunction the very next day without notice to the plaintiff.
The appellant was visited with the penalty of compulsory retirement on the basis of the report submitted against him.
The appellant filed a writ petition before the Gujarat High Court challenging the same. The High Court came to the conclusion that no charge of corruption was made out against the appellant. Despite the same, the High Court was of the view that since the appellant had already been out of job for eight years and he was aged about 53 years, he should not be brought back in service after such a long time.
The Supreme Court held that it cannot concur with the view of the High Court on the same. The appellant had not committed any act unbecoming of a judicial officer. Once the High Court held that the charges had not been proved against the appellant, who was a judicial officer, his honour and dignity required that he should be brought back into service.
However, since the appellant had already attained the age of superannuation he cannot be inducted back into service, the Supreme Court noted.
“A bare perusal of these two paragraphs clearly shows that the Division Bench of the High Court itself was aware that no case for imposing punishment was made out. It appears that the High Court was of the view that since the present appellant had already been out of job for eight years and he was aged about 53 years, he should not be brought back in service after such a long time. We are not inclined to agree with this view of the High Court. Once the High Court held that the charges had not been proved against the appellant, who was a judicial officer, his honour and dignity required that he should be brought back into the service. Unfortunately, we cannot do so because now he has already passed the age of superannuation.”
The Court, therefore, proceeded to consider what relief should be granted to the appellant.
Answering the question, the Court said that it was of the view that since the appellant has not worked during all these years, awarding back wages could lead to another round of litigation to decide what he would have earned during the period when he was not in service.
Hence, the Court ordered that a lump-sum amount of Rs. 20 lakh be paid to the appellant.
“We are of the considered view that since the appellant has not worked during all these years and this will lead to another round of litigation to decide what he was earning during this period, in lieu of awarding him back-wages, we direct that a lump-sum amount of Rs.20 lakhs be paid to the appellant.”
If the amount is not paid within six months, it will carry an interest of 9 percent per annum.