Frowning upon the conduct of a Judicial Magistrate "found travelling without ticket in a local train thrice and on each occasion ... asserting that the Magistrates need not have a ticket", Justice M.K. Sharma speaking for the Supreme Court observed in his recent decision [ARUNDHATI ASHOK WALAVALKAR v. STATE OF MAHARASHTRA] that a Judge was required to act with dignity in society. The Supreme Court was dealing with the validity of punishment imposed on a lady judge for charges of misconduct having travelled without ticket in a local train.
Unable to persuade itself for reversing the decision of the Bombay High Court which upheld the punishment of misconduct on the part of the Magistrate in travelling on a train without ticket, the Supreme Court declared that "in a country governed by rule of law, nobody is above law, including judicial officers" and the judges were in fact required to act as role models in societal conduct. The Court inter alia observed as under;
29. We are, however, unable to accept the aforesaid contention for the simple reason that we could probably interfere with the quantum of punishment only when we find that the punishment awarded is shocking to the conscience of the court. This is a 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. We also find no reason to interfere with the findings arrived at by the High Court giving reason for its decision with which we fully agree and find justification.