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Delhi HC dismisses petition filed by retired judicial officer against the adverse ACR grading

Team SoOLEGAL 4 Sep 2018 6:00pm

Delhi HC dismisses petition filed by retired judicial officer against the adverse ACR grading

A petition filed by a retired judicial officer against the ‘C’ grade given to him in his Annual Confidential Report (ACR) has been dismissed by the Delhi High Court.

The case came up for hearing before the bench of Justices Ravindra S Bhat and AK Chawla, who held that the general impression in the mind of the Full Court regarding a judicial officer’s integrity plays a significant role while recording the officer’s ACR.

The petitioner, who was given ‘C’ grade with the remark “doubtful integrity”, had challenged his ACR grading for the year 1995 citing that it was “entirely unfounded” as it was solely based on hearsay evidence and not any objective material.

The HC bench acknowledged that the reputation of any judicial officer without any ‘material on record’ must not be tarnished. But at the same time, the court said that it is equally important to ascertain that corruption does not creep in judicial services.

After referring to various judgments, the court reiterated that:

in case where the Full Court of the High Court recommends compulsory retirement of an officer, the High Court on the judicial side has to exercise great caution and circumspection in setting aside that order because it is a complement of all the Judges of the High Court who go into the question and it is possible that in all cases evidence would not be forthcoming about integrity doubtful of a judicial officer.”

However, in an appropriate case the decision of the Full Court can be interfered with but only if is not based on any material, the court further said.

In his petition, the retired judicial officer had also challenged the two Full Court decisions dated September 28, 1991 and March 23, 1996.

The petitioner called the decisions to be arbitrary, as they empowered the Full Court to “discard” the grading of the borrowing department and merely left it to “consider” it, without being bound by them.

The petitioner’s counsel then submitted that his client’s case should be governed by Rule 33 of the Delhi Judicial Service Rules, 1970, which mandated the High Court to give effect to the reports of inspecting officers in the borrowing department (i.e. the Government of NCT of Delhi) where the judicial officer worked as Presiding Officer of the Labour Court on deputation with that department.

The Court, however, rejected the petitioner’s counsel submission urging primacy of the borrowing department’s report, and called it “unmerited”.

The court held that by virtue of Article 235 of the Constitution of India, the task of considering and evaluating performance of a judicial officer with respect to judicial or quasi-judicial duties and responsibilities – is that of the High Court.

The performance evaluation of character and integrity of the judicial officer can only be done by his parent organization, i.e. the judicial department represented by the High Court. And, this “primary task” cannot be said to be supplanted, the Court held.

The Court, then, concluded that:

there was no infirmity or illegality in the procedure adopted by the Full Court while recording ‘C’ grading with “doubtful integrity” in respect of the petitioner for the year 1995.”

 

Tagged: ACR Grading   Integrity   Borrowing Department   Delhi High Court   Delhi Judicial Service  
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