Judges should possess sterling quality of integrity: SC

The judiciary is an institution founded on honesty and integrity, the Supreme Court has said, reasserting that it is necessary judicial officers possess the “sterling quality of integrity” to be able to serve the public.

It made the observation while refusing to show any leniency to a Maharashtra-based judicial magistrate, who had challenged his 2004 dismissal from service following allegation he passed orders in favour of the clients of a woman lawyer he had a “proximate relationship”.

Impeccable integrity should be reflected both in the public and personal life of a judge, the top court said, and added judicial officers must always remember they hold high office and serve the public.

A bench of justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose said the petitioner did not live up to the “expectations of integrity, behaviour and probity” and no leniency can be shown to him.

“Hence, we find no merit in the appeal, which is accordingly dismissed,” it said.

The petitioner was appointed as a judicial magistrate in March 1985.

In February 2001, he was put under suspension and dismissed in January 2004.

He challenged his dismissal in the Bombay High Court but his plea was rejected.

He then moved the apex court, which issued a notice on his plea limited to the question of the quantum of punishment.

“In this case, the officer decided the cases because of his proximate relationship with a lady lawyer and not because the law required him to do so. This is also gratification of a different kind,” the bench said, explaining that gratification can be of various types.

“It can be gratification of money, gratification of power, gratification of lust etc,” it said.

The bench said the first and foremost quality required in a judge is integrity. Being a public servant, judicial officers should always remember they are there to serve the public.

“The need for integrity in the judiciary is much higher than in other institutions. The judiciary is an institution whose foundations are based on honesty and integrity.

“It is, therefore, necessary that judicial officers should possess the sterling quality of integrity,” it said.

A judge is judged not only by his quality of judgments but also by the quality and purity of his character,” the apex court said.

“One who stands in judgments over others should be incorruptible. That is the high standard which is expected of judges,” it said in its verdict.

If a judicial officer decides a matter for any “extraneous reasons”, he is not performing his duty in accordance with law, the bench added.


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