A Division Bench of Justices R Subbiah and C Saravanan of the High Court of Madras, in 2019, upheld the dismissal of a Madurai-based Judicial Magistrate for Judicial Misconduct.
In a Democratic county, the Judiciary, as a guardian of the constitutional rights and obligations cannot be held above public accountability. Independence of the judiciary and accountability are completely interlinked.
In the case of M.Narasimha Prasad S/O Shri ... vs The Registrar General High Court, the court held that the Judicial officer (magistrate) have failed to uphold absolute truthfulness and devotion to his duties and committed several act which are inappropriate of a Judicial Officer amounting to misconduct within the meaning of the Karnataka Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1966. The Magistrate in this case was accused of not listening to the witnesses present, ignoring the contention and delaying the proceedings.
Code of ethics for the Judges -
• No man shall be a judge in his own cause.
• Judges must not fear to administer justice. “Fiat justitia, ruat caelum” should be upheld by a Judge.
• Parties to the dispute are to be treated equally and in accordance with the principles of law and equity.
• Distances have to be maintained from the relations and acquaintances, parties to the dispute and their lawyers.
• Too much of activity and participation in social functions should be avoided.
• Media Publicity should be avoided by the judges.
• Need of retainment not to be overlooked.
• Judges not to yield to tactics of procrastination by the lawyer.
• Judicial decision to be honest, fair and in accordance of law.
If a judge is acting in a judicial capacity then no he cannot be charged with contempt of court. If a person wants to complain against a lower court judge one can make a complaint to the high court.
The high court and Supreme court are empowered to punish for their contempt of court under Article 215 and Article 129
A judge can be charged for contempt of court under the Contempt of Courts Act. A proper code of conduct applies to both the lawyers and also the judges.
A judge or a magistrate shall be held liable like any other individual for contempt of his court or any other court according to the provisions of this act.
However, section 16 of the Contempt of Courts Act shall not apply to any observations or remarks or any such statements made by the judge or the magistrate who acted judicially.
Usually, in India, judges are not charged with contempt of court for their rude or aggressive behaviour. Contempt proceedings can only be initiated against a magistrate in cases where he or she intentionally disobeys the command or order of any superior judge.
You can observe in all past cases, the judicial department has taken against judges and only in rarest of the rare cases others proceeded against such judge for misbehavior in Courts. ( Remember MADRAS HC recent comments (Elections in COVID) calling SEC/NEC as killers, later SC in a mild language objected for it and finally concluded that oral comments are not parts of judgment)
Judicial misconduct occurs when a judge acts in ways that are considered unethical or otherwise violate the judge's obligations of impartial conduct.
Actions that can be classified as judicial misconduct include: conduct prejudicial to the effective and expeditious administration of the business of the courts (as an extreme example: "falsification of facts" at summary judgment); using the judge's office to obtain special treatment for friends or relatives; accepting bribes, gifts, or other personal favors related to the judicial office; having improper discussions with parties or counsel for one side in a case; treating litigants or attorneys in a demonstrably egregious and hostile manner; violating other specific, mandatory standards of judicial conduct, such as judicial rules of procedure or evidence, or those pertaining to restrictions on outside income and requirements for financial disclosure; and acting outside the jurisdiction of the court, or performance of official duties if the conduct might have a prejudicial effect on the administration of the business of the courts among reasonable people. Rules of official misconduct also include rules concerning disability, which is a temporary or permanent condition rendering a judge unable to discharge the duties of the particular judicial office.
Interestingly the reported incident may also be termed as criminal contempt of court.
Criminal contempt [Section 2(c)]
Section 2(c) defined criminal contempt as the publication of any matter which either Scandalises or lowers the authority of the court, or that such matter interferes or prejudices any judicial proceeding, Interferes or obstructs the administration of justice in any manner.
The expression “scandalizes the authority of court” depends to a great degree on the discretion of the judge as no law in India has defined what constitutes scandalizing the court.
Both the High court and Supreme court are courts of record and as a court of record, they have the power to punish for contempt of itself respectively as well as contempt of courts which are subordinate to it.
Judges and the Judiciary are accountable to the people
The courtroom, sooner or later, becomes the image of the judge. It will rise or fall to the level of the judge who presides over it.” Therefore, the image of the judge is so fundamental for the institution.
In one such interesting case at SC, judgment is reserved and yet to be pronounced. In that case, a CBI Court judge has granted bail to a very influential industrialist and political leader, and with the help of CJ, HC a trap was placed, and it was established beyond reasonable doubts and amounts in crores was confiscated through bank lockers and residence with such CCTV footage, etc. It is interesting because of the discretion to permit bail, and the involved accused is from the ruling party both in his state and center. The fairness in treating an offense equitably is involved in such future judgment.