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A Travel Allowance (TA) bill came to the rescue of a Magistrate who was removed by Madras High Court for seeking personal favours from a lawyer.

The Supreme Court set aside the high court’s judgment and government’s order, and reinstated the judicial officer with all consequential income benefits.

In 2004, a lawyer, M S Senthil Kumar, lodged a complaint against R Alexander, a District Munsif-cum-Judicial Magistrate, Kattumannarkoil, Tamil Nadu. Kumar alleged that Alexander travelled with him and two other persons in a taxi to Coimbatore to record his evidence in a court case, and stayed at a hotel. Kumar incurred the expenses. Alexander contested the charges stating that he traveled by bus to Coimbatore and stayed at his sister’s house, and after recording his evidence in the case, he returned by bus. “Alexander attached the bills in the travel allowance form and submitted to the concerned authorities. His deposition in the case was an official journey. The TA was approved and paid to him. During the inquiry against him, the concerned officer never summoned the record of TA bill,” said K K Mani, advocate for Alexander.

The Registrar, Vigilance of the High Court in a report to the Administrative Committee of the High Court ordered disciplinary against Alexander, and he removed in December 2012. The committee noted that Alexander in a reply to a chargesheet against him never made a whisper on the TA bill, and he only mentioned it at fag end of the inquiry against him. The committee claimed that the absence of the bill had not caused any prejudice to Alexander. A bench headed by Justice A K Sikri said “We do not agree with the aforesaid reasoning of the High Court that non-production of the said record has not caused any prejudice to the appellant… findings of the Inquiry Officer by the Administrative Committee without giving prior opportunity to show cause against that is concerned, the appellant has been prejudiced.”

Alexander’s counsel informed the court that Kumar was nursing a grudge against him, as he had appeared before Alexander in many cases. “Some of the orders which were passed by Alexander in those cases were not of the liking of the complainant and because of this reason the complainant had made the complaint against the appellant,” said counsel for Alexander.

The SC set aside the High Court judgment and government order imposing disciplinary action against Alexander and ordered restoring consequential benefits of pay during the intervening period.

—India Legal Bureau

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