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Supreme Court on 21st August held in P.S. Malik v High Court of Delhi that High Court is the appropriate disciplinary authority in matters relating to judicial officers, except for cases of dismissal and removal, wherein it becomes the recommending authority.

Justice Ashok Bhushan and Navin Sinha were hearing the jurisdiction dispute in a sexual harassment case against P.S. Malik.

The petitioner P.S. Malik is a Judicial Officer in Delhi Higher Judicial Services, against whom disciplinary proceedings alleging sexual harassment is underway. On a written complaint by a Junior Judicial Assistant, an Internal Complaints Committee was set up by a Full Court’s resolution. Pending the disciplinary proceedings, Malik was suspended. The Committee submitted a preliminary report to the Full Court, whereby it opined that a disciplinary inquiry be held against the petitioner.

The issues before the court were:

“(i) Whether the High Court is a disciplinary authority of the petitioner, competent to initiate the disciplinary proceedings against the petitioner and suspend him as per Delhi Higher Judicial Service Rules, 1970 and All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1969?

(ii) Whether the decision of the Full Court on 13.07.2016 initiating enquiry against the petitioner and placing him under suspension was beyond jurisdiction?

(iii) Whether the Preliminary Inquiry Report submitted by Internal Complaints Committee dated 05.11.2016 ought to have been supplied to the petitioner and non-supply of such Preliminary Inquiry Report dated 05.11.2016 vitiated the entire proceedings?”

Articles 233 and 235 of the Constitution of India refers to two distinct powers. The first is power of appointment, posting and promotion of District Judges and second is power of control over Judicial Officers of the State. The word “control” occurring in Article 235 means not only the general superintendence of the working of the Courts but includes the disciplinary control of the judicial officers.

A Constitution Bench SC judgement of 1966 (State of West Bengal and Another Vs. Nripendra Nath Bagchi) had held that High Court can hold enquiries, impose punishments other than dismissal or removal.

The provisions of Sections 11 and 13 in no manner affect the control of the High Court under Article 235, which it has with respect to judicial officers as noted above.

Court said there is no error in the decision of the Full Court in suspending the judicial officer as the court is satisfied that sufficient material existed and has hence resolved that inquiry needs to be held.

As regards the third issue, Court held that Section 13(3) contemplates the report of Internal Complaints Committee when it “arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has been proved”. It is not the case of any of the parties that the report of the Committee dated 05.11.2016 is the report where allegation against the petitioner has been proved.

Thus, when the report in which there are no findings, parties are not entitled to have the copy; rather only opinion was expressed that disciplinary inquiry be initiated against the petitioner. Court thus observed that “no prejudice can be held to be caused to the petitioner by non-supply of the Preliminary Inquiry Report dated 05.11.2016.”

Writ petition was thus accordingly dismissed. The allegations will now be inquired into by the committee.

–India Legal Bureau

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