Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Patna HC drops proceedings against judge who cleared POCSO case in 1 day

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The Patna High Court on Saturday dropped proceedings against a Special Judge – POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) from Bihar, who had been placed under suspension with effect from February this year, for sentencing a man to life imprisonment in a POCSO case, after just one day of hearing.

The move followed the Supreme Court order of August 6, 2022, which had directed to drop the disciplinary proceedings against the Additional Sessions Judge from Araria, stating that the same may send a negative message to other efficient Judges.

An Apex Court Bench, comprising Justice U.U. Lalit and Justice S. Ravindra Bhat, had stated that the Judge was only following up on his orders and the action was “extremely unfair” on him.

The Supreme Court further told the High Court not to be ‘over zealous’ to punish.

Additional Sessions Judge from Araria, Shashi Kant Rai, had knocked on the doors of top court of the country against the suspension order passed and recently renewed by the High Court.

Representing Rai, Senior Advocate Vikas Singh told the Apex Court that the judge was willing to submit a statement to the High Court, rebutting the charges against him.

Rai claimed in his plea before the top court of the country that action was taken against him only for questioning the new evaluation system in place for promotions in the district judiciary.

He said after rounds of non-consideration for promotion as civil judge (senior division), he had written to the High Court to consider restoring seniority as a basis for such elevations.

The petition alleged that because he questioned the process of evaluation of judgements, the High Court had issued showcause notice to him and later suspended him without giving any reasons, thereby “failing in its constitutional obligation to guide and protect the judicial officers”.

In November 2021, the petitioner had convicted and sentenced a man to life imprisonment for sexual assault of a minor after having heard the case just for one day.

Rai also alleged in his petition before SC that he had received death threats after he passed that order.

He said the suspension order and pending disciplinary proceedings against him did not record any reasons and led to mental pain, “as he stands condemned for an action that otherwise garnered the praise of the state”.

One of the contributing factors to his suspension was the fact that he issued a death sentence after hearing a case for four days.

Case title: Shashi Kant Rai vs High Court of Judicature at Patna & Anr

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