Supreme Court on Standard of conduct Expected from Judicial Officers
This is a bizarre story of a high handed lady magistrate in Mumbai who travelled in local travels in Mumbai without paying for her tickets.
Arundhati Ashok Walavalkar was appointed a Metropolitan Magistrate in Bombay on 28.5.1992.
She travelled between Mulund and Dadar on First Class.
She was caught by the Railway Ticket Checkers on at least three occasions.
She behaved offensively with the Railway officials.
The Railway authorities reported the matter to the Bombay High Court.
The High Court found her guilty of ticketless travel and compulsorily retired her on 27 September 2000.
The matter went up to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court decided against her
in CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6966 OF 2004
ARUNDHATI ASHOK WALAVALKAR …. Appellant
STATE OF MAHARASHTRA …. Respondent
Order Passed by: Dr. MUKUNDAKAM SHARMA, J.
Date of Order: 13 January 2011
The Supreme Court observed:
“1. This appeal was filed by the appellant herein being aggrieved by the judgment and order passed by the Division Bench of the Bombay High Court dismissing the writ petition filed by the appellant herein.
“3. The allegation against the appellant was that she had travelled without tickets on 21.2.1997, 13.5.1997 and also on 5.12.1997 when she was caught. The charges here not only related to such incidents of ticketless travelling but also about misusing her official identity card and for making unnecessary scene on the Railway platform and giving threats to the Railway staff which was considered to be misconduct unbecoming of a judicial officer as per Rule 3(iii) of the Maharashtra Civil Services Conduct Rules, 1979.
“21. In this connection, we may also refer to a letter written by her on 8.12.1997 to the General Manager, Central Railway, Mumbai. The said letter was admittedly written by her and it reads as follows:-
“I would like to mention to you that sometimes, I am required
to enter into your local Trains to reach my Court in time, as the
vehicle given to us is a pooling one which takes a very long
time due to unexpected traffic on the roads or break downs.
During such occasions, I am unable to buy tickets because of
short of time and consequently it had happened so, that I had
to face your nagging ticket collectors. Your lady ticket
collectors at Dadar instead of understanding our difficulties
have further harassed us in the most insulting manner and
this has left a deed scar in our mind. If you care to know how
nasty your people could be, you may depute a representative
to whom we can explain the facts.
I am aware that the Metropolitan Magistrates handling the
matters of any railway police station on central line get first
class free pass right from Nagpur to Igapturi. Even the staff
attached to such Magistrates also get free passes. We also
attend to the work of railways on Saturdays, Sundays and
holidays. Are we therefore, not entitled, at least to stand in
the first class compartments of local trains only for the
purpose of reaching our Courts in time during such
emergencies ? Please do the needful in this matter urgently
by giving necessary instructions to the ticket collectors so that
we are not humiliated by your ticket collectors on this count
and made to pay fine.
If you are of the negative opinion, that even this little courtesy
cannot be extended to us, please communicate to me, so that I
am prepared for such eventualities. Your early response
would be highly appreciated.”
“29. …..This is the case of judicial officer who was required to conduct herself with dignity and manner becoming of a judicial officer. A judicial officer must be able to discharge his/her responsibilities by showing an impeccable conduct. In the instant case, she not only travelled without tickets in a railway compartment thrice but also complained against the ticket collectors who accosted her, misbehaved with the Railway officials and in those circumstances we do not see how the punishment of compulsory retirement awarded to her could be said to be disproportionate to the offence alleged against her. In a country governed by rule of law, nobody is above law, including judicial officers. In fact, as judicial officers, they have to present a continuous aspect of dignity in every conduct. If the rule of law is to function effectively and efficiently under the aegis of our democratic setup, Judges are expected to, nay, they must nurture an efficient and enlightened judiciary by presenting themselves as a role model. Needless to say, a Judge is constantly under public glaze and society expects higher standards of conduct and rectitude from a Judge. Judicial office, being an office of public trust, the society is entitled to expect that a Judge must be a man of high integrity, honesty and ethical firmness by maintaining the most exacting standards of propriety in every action. Therefore, a judge’s official and personal conduct must be in tune with the highest standard of propriety and probity. Obviously, this standard of conduct is higher than those deemed acceptable or obvious for others. Indeed, in the instant case, being a judicial officer, it was in her best interest that she carries herself in a decorous and dignified manner. If she has deliberately chosen to depart from these high and exacting standards, she is appropriately liable for disciplinary action.
30. We fully agree with the conclusions arrived at by the disciplinary authority……..”
Well said and well decided.
The Magistrate has been rightly punished.
But the public expects the same standards from their political leaders…leaders who lead the nation’s destiny.
Such leaders should never say they are innocent till proved guilty.
If the needle of suspicion – supported by loss to the nation, loss to the public is ever raised, they should be thrown over board.