Lakshadweep's Administrator Cannot Initiate Disciplinary Proceedings Against Judicial Officer, Only HC Has Control Over Subordinate Courts: Kerala High Court
The Kerala High Court reviewed and modified its previous direction to the Administrator of Lakshadweep to take disciplinary action against a judicial officer and held that control over the District Court and subordinate Courts of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep lies with the High Court itself under Article 235 of the Constitution of India which included the power to conduct disciplinary proceedings against presiding officers of District and other subordinate Courts under their jurisdiction.
The Single Judge Bench of Justice P.V. Kunhikrishnan observed that “In the light of Article 235 of the Constitution of India, it is declared that the control over the district court and courts subordinate thereto mentioned in Article 235 of the Constitution of India includes the power of disciplinary proceedings against the presiding officers of the district court and courts subordinate thereto.”
The Bench further elaborated that the district court and subordinate courts in Lakshadweep are under the supervision of the High Court of Kerala, and therefore, only the High Court of Kerala has got the power to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the presiding officers.
Senior Advocate S. Sreekumar and Advocate P. Sanjay appeared for the Review Petitioners, whereas Advocate V. Sajith Kumar and Advocate BG Harindranath appeared for the Respondents. Advocate KK Dheerendrakrishnan appeared as Amicus Curiae.
The brief facts of the case are that the petitioner being a former sub-judge of Lakshadweep, had filed a review petition challenging the judgment of the High Court in which the Administrator of Lakshadweep was directed to initiate a detailed disciplinary proceeding against him. This direction was issued on a prayer moved by several persons alleging that while he was presiding as a Magistrate, he manipulated the statement of the Investigation Officer in a 2015 case. Accordingly, the Court had passed extraordinary orders to place the Magistrate under suspension during the pendency of enquiry to ensure that he did not try to influence the witness or intrude into the documents.
It was the case of the review petitioner that the Administrator, being the executive could not be given powers to suspend the review petitioner who was a judicial officer, as this would be against the principles of separation of powers and independence of the judiciary.
However, the Administrator of Lakshadweep argued that under Clause 5(ii) of the Constitution of Civil Codes in the Laccadive, Minicoy and Amindivi Islands (Civil Codes) Regulations 1965, the Administrator, after consultation with the High Court, could make rules regarding who may be appointed as Subordinate Judges and Munsiffs.
After considering the submission, the Bench observed that as per Article 235, the High Court had control over District Courts and its subordinate Courts which included posting, promotion, and grant of leave to persons in judicial service.
Referring to a catena of Supreme Court cases, the Bench reiterated that ‘Control’ in Article 235 included initiating disciplinary proceedings against the presiding officers of District Courts and Courts subordinate to them.
The Bench rejected the contention of the review petitioner that once a portion of the judgment was to be reviewed, the entire judgment was to be recalled and it was the function of the Court to pass a fresh judgment.
“The provisions of the Civil Procedure Code (1908) are not as such applicable while deciding a review petition filed in a writ petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India. That can only be a guiding principle. The jurisdiction of this court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India, to review a judgment is wide and not controlled by the provisions of the Civil Procedure Code”, added the Bench.
The High Court accordingly reviewed and modified a part of its earlier judgment vis-à-vis its earlier direction to the Administrator of Lakshadweep and passed a direction to conduct a detailed enquiry against the review petitioner.
The Bench also made it clear that the review petitioner would be deemed to be in suspension until the High Court of Kerala passes a consequential order in the present case.
Cause Title: K. Cheriya Koya v. U.T Administration of Lakshadweep and Ors.