Bombay High Court denies relief to judge accused of turning up drunk at judicial academy

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The Bombay High Court on Tuesday declined to extend any relief to a judicial officer who was dismissed on allegations of improper conduct [Aniruddha Pathak v. Registrar General & Ors.].

Judges and judicial officers must act with dignity and not indulge in conduct that is likely to adversely affect the image of the judiciary, the Court said while rejecting a plea filed by judicial officer, Aniruddha Pathak.

The charges cited against Pathak for his dismissal included that he did not adhere to court timings, remained absent from court and that he allegedly attended a judicial academy course while under the influence of alcohol.

Earlier, staff members had also complained that Pathak used arrive in court while under the influence of alcohol.

Justices AS Chandurkar and Jitendra Jain rejected Pathak’s petition for reinstatement to service while observing that Courts are not expected to come to the aid of judicial officers who engaging in unbecoming or blameworthy conduct.

“It is a universally accepted norm that judges and judicial officers must act with dignity and must not indulge in a conduct or behavior which is likely to affect the image of judiciary or which unbecoming of a judicial officer. If the members of the judiciary indulge in a behaviour which is blameworthy or which is unbecoming of a judicial officer, the writ courts are not expected to intervene and grant relief to such a judicial officer,” the Court’s April 24 judgment stated.

Justice As Chandurkar and Justice Jitendra Jain
Pathak was appointed as civil judge junior division in March 2010. After there were several complaints about his conduct, the principal judge at Nandurbar district of Maharashtra filed a report in February 2017 before the Registrar General of the High Court.

The report stated that Pathak purportedly came to court while under the influence of liquor. Several lawyers also complained that his behaviour in court and his manner of conducting his court functions were not proper.

In May 2017, a district judge of Jalgaon in Maharashtra filed a discreet enquiry report in respect of more complaints against Pathak.

The officials of Maharashtra Judicial Academy also filed a report on Pathak’s alleged inappropriate behaviour in 2018.

Following this, the law and judiciary department passed an order in 2022 dismissing Pathak from service under the Maharashtra Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules.

This prompted Pathak to approach High Court challenging his dismissal. Before the High Court, Pathak denied the allegations against him and added that the punishment meted out to him was disproportionate.

The High Court noted that Pathak had not alleged bias or malafide against any of the persons who had submitted reports against him. Thus, the findings in the report could not be termed as perverse, the Court said.

The Court further explained that there was no reason to interfere with the order under challenge because Pathak was occupying a post which is looked upon with high respect.

“The fact that the Petitioner was occupying the post of a Judge, his conduct and behaviour has to be above par is a very crucial aspect which has to be considered for imposing the punishment. The evidence on record clearly proves the charges and Pathak had lost the faith of not only the Bar but also the Bench and the staff working with him on account of his conduct. Therefore, in our view, the punishment imposed is justified,” the Court held.  

Advocates Abhijeet A Desai, Vijay Singh, Daksha Punghera and Ankit Jadhav briefed by Desai Legal appeared for Pathak.

Advocate Rajesh Datar appeared for the Registrar General of the High Court.

Additional government pleader AR Deolekar appeared for the State.

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