Thursday, January 7, 2016

Gujarat HC rejects petition of judicial officer for reinstatement, quashing probe

Gujarat High Court has dismissed the petition of a suspended principal civil judge who had sought reinstatement and quashing of the departmental inquiry against him.

The judicial officer was suspended following allegations of sexual advancements, seeking sexual favours from women and corruption. A chargesheet was filed against him in June 2012.

The division bench of Justices Akil Kureshi and Mohinder Pal last month dismissed the petition moved by Dipak N Tapodhan, who was working as principal civil judge when allegations cropped up against him.

After the order dismissing his reinstatement petition was passed on December 10, the suspended judicial officer filed another plea seeking to modify the earlier petition, but it was too rejected on December 23. Tapodhan sought quashing of the inquiry against him on the ground that it was initiated upon by an “anonymous and pseudonymous complaint”. He argued that such complaints should not have been entertained by the High Court administration. The petitioner mentioned that action of the High Court and subsequent chargesheet were “illegal”, as being a judicial officer he should have been protected by the High Court against “frivolous complaints”. While dismissing the petition, the division bench brushed aside this contention, stating, “…Unless it is pointed out that the allegations are ex-facie (on the face of it) baseless and not supported by any material on record, chargesheet cannot be quashed. This was not even the contention of the advocate of the petitioner.” The petitioner also sought relief based on a circular of the High Court in January 2015, which stated that action against a judicial officer would be taken only after the complaint was submitted with a duly sworn affidavit and verifiable material to substantiate the allegations. The bench, however, did not consider this point, since the case against the petitioner was lodged in 2012. The order mentioned the charges against Tapodhan, which included his close association with a woman (name withheld) and frequent telephone calls to her for purpose other than judicial and passing lenient sentence to another woman in “order to save her”. It was also alleged that he “misused of the authority as a judicial officer by using a vehicle belonging to a police constable” and “decreed the a suit within a period of 21 days on receiving sexual favour from daughter of plaintiff.” The order stated, “This act of yours, if proved, would amount to a misconduct as also a conduct unbecoming of a Judicial Officer.” Besides, there are multiple complaints against Tapodhan related to alleged sexual advancements toward women who were working in the court, and also women whose cases were pending in his court. “Perusal of the charges would demonstrate that there are serious allegations of misconduct and misbehaviour against the petitioner. At this stage it is not possible to judge validity or otherwise of the charges. When the inquiry is in progress, it is not the task of the Court to go into the truth or otherwise of the allegations levelled against the petitioner. As noted, the sole ground pressed in service for quashing the chargesheet is that the inquiry was instituted upon anonymous and pseudonymous complaints which, at the outset, has not been verified and, in any case, by virtue of the said Circular dated 19.01.2015 would be rendered invalid,” the order stated. 

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