Judgment after retirement | Supreme Court criticises former Madras High Court judge T. Mathivanan

Retaining a case bundle for a period of five months after demitting office is an act of gross impropriety on the part of the learned judge, the Supreme Court said

February 20, 2024 03:31 pm | Updated 07:11 pm IST - CHENNAI

Justice T. Mathivanan, former judge, Madras High Court

Justice T. Mathivanan, former judge, Madras High Court | Photo Credit: KUMAR SS

Madras High Court former judge T. Mathivanan has come to the adverse notice of the Supreme Court for having pronounced only a single-line order in open court in a criminal case and then releasing a detailed judgment running to 114 pages nearly five months after his retirement from service.

Justices Abhay S. Oka and Ujjal Bhuyan of the apex court wrote: “According to us, retaining the file of a case for a period of five months after demitting the office is an act of gross impropriety on the part of the learned judge. We cannot countenance what has been done in this case.”

The observations were made while allowing an appeal preferred by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the orders passed by Justice Mathivanan who had quashed a charge-sheet filed by the investigating agency against businessman Naresh Prasad Agarwal of Chennai in a ₹113 crore cheating case.

By the same order dated April 17, 2017, the judge had also discharged the businessman’s son N. Ganesh Agarwal from the cheating case. However, on appeal, the CBI told the Supreme Court that the High Court judge had pronounced only a single-line order on April 17, 2017 declaring the operative part. Thereafter, the judge demitted office on May 26, 2017 and a detailed judgement running to 114 pages was made available only on October 23, 2017. Expressing surprise over how a retired judge could retain the case bundle for so long, the apex court said, the fact regarding the delay remained undisputed.

Since the operative portion was pronounced on April 17, 2017 and the judge retired from service on May 26, 2017, the Supreme Court felt that the detailed judgement could have been released in the interregnum period of three weeks instead of taking five months after retirement to pronounce the orders.

“Thus, it is obvious that even after the learned Judge demitted the office, he assigned reasons and made the judgment ready,” the Bench led by Justice Oka said and set aside Justice Mathivanan’s orders. The Bench also remanded the plea of the two accused in the cheating case to the High Court for a fresh consideration.

“Lord Hewart said hundred years back that ‘justice must not only be done, but must also be seen to be done.’ What has been done in this case is contrary to what Lord Hewart said. We cannot support such acts of impropriety,” the Supreme Court added.

CBI probe

Incidentally, in July 2018, Justice G. Jayachandran of the Madras High Court had ordered a CBI probe into a complaint of several case bundles having gone missing from the residence of Mr. Mathivanan.

 “It is alarming to note that case bundles have disappeared from the radar like missing vessels in the Bermuda Triangle... This court is worried about the missing case records from this chartered High Court which is also a court of record (a court whose proceedings are recorded and available as evidence of fact),” the judge had said while directing the CBI to get to the bottom of the matter.

He had further observed that “reconstruction of missing records may be a solution (to the problem of missing case bundles) but the fact that a hundred case bundles have not returned from the residence of the retired judge cannot be ignored.”

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