Saturday, December 9, 2023

Negligence is not misconduct: Supreme Court on reinstating Judicial officer

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The Supreme Court has reinstated judicial officer Abhay Jain stating that his granting of bail to an accused who had been denied bail by his predecessor was negligent, but couldn’t be treated as “misconduct”. 

The allegations levelled against him was that he should have desisted from granting bail to the accused K.K. Jalia, when there had been no material or substantial change in the facts and circumstances of the case after the rejection of his earlier bail applications.

A two-judge Bench of Justice Uday Umesh Lalit and Justice Vineet Saran has observed,

“Any ‘probability’ of misconduct needs to be supported with oral or documentary material, and this requirement has not been fulfilled in the present case. These observations assume importance in light of the specific fact that there was no allegation of illegal gratification against the present appellant. As has been rightly held by this Court, such relief-oriented judicial approaches cannot by themselves be grounds to cast aspersions on the honesty and integrity of an officer.”

The Court reinstated judicial officer with all consequential benefits including continuity of service and seniority, and 50% back wages.

Abhay Jain was a Judicial Officer who had joined service on July 15, 2013 as Additional District & Sessions Judge, Bharatpur. Subsequently he was appointed as Sessions Judge, Anti- Corruption Department (ACD), Bharatpur on February 2, 2015. It was during this term that he granted a contentious bail, which led to his discharge.

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Three accused namely K.K.Jalia, Alimuddin and Irfan were arrested on 29.12.2014. The said K. K. Jalia, who was the Chairman of the Municipal Corporation, was alleged to have taken a bribe of Rs.5 Lakhs. Alimuddin, who was a Police Constable, was alleged to have taken a bribe of Rs.10 Lakhs and Irfan, was a non-official also alleged to be involved in the case.

The predecessor judge presiding before Jain had rejected the bail of K.K.Jalia and Alimuddin. The second bail application of the accused Alimuddin was rejected by Jain, meanwhile Jalia’s bail application Rajasthan was also rejected by the Rajasthan High Court. Subsequently Jain, by detailed order granted bail to Jalia, upon being intimated that co-accused Allimuddin had been granted bail,

The bail order granting bail to Jalia was called for by the Rajasthan High Court and Jain was directed to submit his comments regarding the same.  Jain through his reply stated that the order of Rajasthan High Court rejecting bail to Jalia was neither argued by the Counsel nor the copy of the order was filed or produced, even though time was granted to the prosecution.

Also Read: RFL fund scam: Supreme Court rejects interim bail plea of former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan

An inquiry was initiated against the Abhay Jain vide Memorandum dated 07.08.2015 for acts amounting to misconduct and violation of Rule 3 and 4 of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Conduct Rules), 1971. The allegations levelled against the him included, inter alia, that he should have desisted from granting bail to the accused K.K. Jalia as there had been no material or substantial change in the facts and circumstances of the case after the rejection of his earlier bail applications by Abhay Jain’s predecessors. Additionally, it was alleged that Jain had already rejected the second bail application of the co-accused/Alimuddin on 04.03.2015 by observing therein that the matter is grave in nature and that there was no change in circumstances after the dismissal of his first bail application.

On January 20, 2016 a Full Court meeting was convened, where upon recommendation Higher Judicial Committee, it was decided to discharge Jain of his duties.

Subsequently, in 2019 the Rajasthan High Court dismissed the Writ Petition filed by Jain, seeking quashing of the discharge order and the enquiry against him, along with reinstatement and consequential benefits.

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