The Supreme Court has cautioned high courts against taking disciplinary action against judicial officers merely on the ground that they had passed wrong judicial orders.
To err is human, a Bench of Justices Deepak Gupta and Aniruddha Bose quoted Alexander Pope to the high courts in a recent judgment.
Justice Gupta challenged his brethren, saying not one of us, who has held judicial office, can claim that we have never passed a wrong order.
The Bench, in its judgment, held that high courts, which have administrative control over the subordinate judiciary, should only resort to disciplinary action against judicial officers if there were clear-cut allegations of misconduct, extraneous influences, gratification of any kind, etc.
Disciplinary proceedings should not be initiated merely on the basis that a wrong order has been passed by the judicial officer or merely on the ground that the judicial order is incorrect, the Supreme Court observed.
Justice Gupta, speaking for the Bench, however, clarified that there has to be zero tolerance for judicial corruption. If there are allegations of corruption, misconduct or of acts unbecoming a judicial officer, these must be dealt with strictly, the apex court judgment said.
Justice Gupta said a judicial officer should not be exposed to disciplinary action merely because he passed order against settled legal norms and there was no evidence to show that he did this due to extraneous influences.
In such cases, the apex court said the appropriate action for the high court concerned would be to take on record such material on the administrative side and place it on the service record of the judicial officer concerned.
Matters concerning wrong orders, etc, could be taken into consideration while considering career progression of the judicial officer.
Once note of the wrong order is taken and they form part of the service record, these can be taken into consideration to deny selection grade, promotion, etc, the judgment explained.