Tuesday, December 2, 2014

HC upholds order to sack judge

A judge has lost his job because he passed a stay order in a new case related to a dispute already pending before another court. Gujarat high court has upheld the decision to compulsorily retire the judge on the ground that he had failed to maintain the integrity expected of a judicial officer.

Former principal senior civil judge of Gandhinagar, A J Khimani, was asked to put in his papers because he had ordered status quo in a case related to a land-related suit that was pending in his subordinate judge's court. Moreover, Khimani was not supposed to entertain a civil suit at the time as he had been assigned the task of hearing only Land Reference cases.

In 2008, Khimani agreed to take up a civil suit related to a land dispute in Bhat village. He issued the stayed order on basis of a new application. Earlier, the registry had put a notice on the case papers that the suit was related to a dispute already pending before another judge. But Khimani allegedly chose to ignore this instruction.

In 2009, he was charged with corruption, misconduct and dereliction of duty. During the inquiry, Khimani admitted to committing an error but said that it was an administrative mistake and should be taken lightly. Citing his untainted service record of over two decades in the lower judiciary, he gave the assurance that such a mistake would not be repeated in the future. The judge refuted all charges of corruption.

After an order of compulsory retirement as punishment was issued against him, Khimani filed a petition in the Gujarat high court questioning whether his mistake was really so serious as to merit the severe punishment given to him. But the high court agreed with the findings of the inquiry that despite the court registry's notice on the case papers, the judge had kept the matter with him and granted a stay with an ulterior motive to favour a party.

The high court further observed: "Judicial office is essentially a public trust. Judges are not only answerable to the parties before the court but also to society as a whole. Equity, equality, good conscience and fair play are the foundations of justice."

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