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Mathew Z Pulikunnel Vs Chief Justice Of India: Remedy Available Under Article 226 In Appropriate Cases, When The Action Of The Chief Justice Is Of An Administrative Nature

Tushar Bansode ,
  04 September 2021       Share Bookmark

Court :
The Kerala High Court
Brief :
In this case, the petitioner had filed a plea for an in-house investigation against judicial misconduct of the judges, who presided over his case and ordered the apartment complex where he resided, to be demolished.
Citation :
Unnumbered Writ Petitions (C) of 2021 (F.Nos. 9031715 and 9031706 of 2021)

Date of judgement:
31 August 2021

Bench:
Justice P.B Suresh Kumar

Parties:
Appellant – Mathew Z Pulikunnel
Respondent – Chief Justice of India

Subject

In this case, the petitioner had filed a plea for an in-house investigation against judicial misconduct of the judges, who presided over his case and ordered the apartment complex where he resided, to be demolished.

Overview

  • The petitioner, in this case, was the owner of an apartment complex situated in the Maradu region of Kochi, Kerala. However, in a legal dispute, the Supreme Court in 2012 had passed an order for the demolition of the said apartments because it did not comply with the norms of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ).
  • The petitioner, aggrieved by the court order, filed a writ petition in the High Court of Kerala through Advocate Yeshwanth Shenoy. Through this petition, he sought the setting up of an in-house committee to look into the matter of judicial misconduct in his case. It comprised of two separate pleas.
  • Under the first plea, he urged the Chief Justice of India (CJI) to adopt an in-house procedure to investigate against the sitting judge. The second plea sought the direction of the Chief Justice of Kerala High Court and the CJI to investigate against the two retired judges who presided over his case.
  • When the Registry of the High Court raised a doubt and asked for clarification as to whether a writ petition is maintainable against the CJ of the High Court, the counsel for the petitioner affirmed that it is allowed. However, it also pointed out that the registry is not authorized to seek such clarification.
  • The Registry, clearly not impressed by the stand taken by the petitioner's counsel, placed the matter before the court as unnumbered petitions.

Issues

  • Whether a writ petition would lie against the Chief Justice?

Legal Provisions

  • Article 226 of the Indian Constitution – Power of the High Court to issue writs.

Judgement Analysis

  • The counsel for the petitioner argued that once the Registry’s doubt was answered, it had no further authority to probe into the issue and seek clarification. They should have numbered the matter and placed it before the Court. Contrarily, it has entered the domain of the judicial function. Such practice is denounced by the Apex Court in Surendran P. V. State by Inspector of Police.
  • As for the matter in question, the counsel relied on Pradyat Kumar Bose V. Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court and submitted that his petition was relating to the administrative function of the Chief Justice and hence is certainly maintainable. He also said that nowhere is it explicitly mentioned in Article 226 that the power cannot be exercised against the administrative function of the Chief Justice.
  • Justice PB Suresh Kumar only examined whether the pleas were maintainable and did not go into the allegations of judicial misconduct. He adjourned the matter for the next Monday, but also condemned the petitions and made some preliminary oral remarks. He said that judges are also human beings and if every decision of theirs is called into question, how can they exercise their duties fearlessly?
  • The court opined that if such petitions are readily entertained, then the judges will always be in apprehension of some allegations relating to misconduct or malpractice, which will invariably be detrimental to the process of justice dispensation. It also held that judges occupy a high position and disciplinary actions cannot be initiated against them like any other employee.
  • The matter was adjourned to Monday and the counsel for the petitioner was directed to make himself familiar with the judgement of the Apex Court in Indira Jaising V. Registrar General & Anr, which dealt with the in-house procedure for looking into complaints against judges.

Conclusion

Considering the submissions of the petitioner, Justice P.B Suresh Kumar directed the writ petitions to be numbered and list them for admission. Also, making a reference to Ayub Khan P.A. V. State of Kerala & Anr, he observed that the Registry is also free to consider the maintainability of the matter and empowered to refuse to number the matter.

Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
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