SC: Adverse entries regarding integrity sting a judicial officer at every stage

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on February 27th 2020, in the matter of Arun Kumar Gupta vs. State Of Jharkhand & Anr. pronounced that adverse entries with regard to integrity of a judicial officer do not lose their sting at any stage. The washed off theory does not apply in case of judicial officers.

The standard of integrity and probity expected from judicial officers is much higher than that expected from other officers. (Para 4)

(Para 16) The law on the subject of compulsory retirement, especially in the case of judicial officers may be summarised as follows:

  • An order directing compulsory retirement of a judicial officer is not punitive in nature;
  • An order directing compulsory retirement of a judicial officer has no civil consequences;
  • While considering the case of a judicial officer for compulsory retirement the entire record of the judicial officer should be taken into consideration, though the latter and more contemporaneous record must be given more weightage;
  • Subsequent promotions do not mean that earlier adverse record cannot be looked into while deciding whether a judicial officer should be compulsorily retired;
  • The ‘washed off’ theory does not apply in case of judicial officers specially in respect of adverse entries relating to integrity;
  • The courts should exercise their power of judicial review with great circumspection and restraint keeping in view the fact that compulsory retirement of a judicial officer is normally directed on the recommendation of a high­powered committee(s) of the High Court.

Adverse entries with regard to integrity do not lose their sting at any stage. (Para 22)

A judicial officer’s integrity must be of a higher order and even a single aberration is not permitted. (Para 22)

Unless there are allegations of mala fides or the facts are so glaring that the decision of compulsory retirement is unsupportable the Supreme Court would not exercise its power of judicial review. In such matters the court on the judicial side must exercise restraint before setting aside the decision of such collective bodies comprising of senior High Court Judges.  (Para 23)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_27-Feb-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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