Sacked district judge reinstated on High Court orders

CHENNAI DEC. 24. The Madras High Court has set aside the dismissal of a district judge on corruption charges and ordered his reinstatement with back wages in full as well as seniority.

Following the order, S. Thirupathy, who was the additional district judge-cum-chief judicial magistrate in 2000 when a two-judge panel of the High Court recommended his dismissal, was today posted as district judge of Tiruvannamalai. His original seniority in the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Service was also restored and fixed above J.A.K. Sampathkumar, who was hitherto the seniormost district judge in the State.

The inquiry against Mr. Thirupathy was initiated on a complaint from members of the Pudukottai Bar Association. Of the four charges, two pertained to the award of a sum more than the actual claim amount in motor accident cases.

He was charged with misusing his power and abusing the process of law when he altered the compensation sum without any petition having been filed. The Bar also alleged that in the open court he had signalled some accused persons to come to his chamber, where he allegedly demanded money for giving them favourable judgments. When the accused expressed their inability to pay the sum, he sentenced them to imprisonment for varying terms, the Bar said.

The two-Judge Committee found him guilty of all charges. Subsequently, the administrative committee of the High Court accepted its recommendations and placed the matter before the Full Court, which too gave its nod for Mr. Thirupathi's dismissal. Accordingly, the Government issued the order of dismissal on October 10, 2000.

But, citing procedural infirmities such as non-examination of the advocates who had signed in the resolution against the judge, the First Bench comprising the Chief Justice B. Subhashan Reddy and Justice D. Murugesan said Mr. Thirupathy should be "lauded" for correcting his order when the error was pointed out to him in the open court. "Only on the joint statement of counsel for the claimants was the error corrected, as the award should not be more than the claim," the judges reasoned.

As for the corruption charges, the Bench said "there are absolutely no witnesses to prove the serious allegations, except the litigants, that too accused in criminal cases." Also, there was "utter contradiction" in their statements. "No relevance can be placed on the uncorroborated testimony of the prosecution witnesses, and that too with utter contradictions," the Bench said.

"It is beyond one's imagination to believe that the district judge had called the accused persons in the open court and demanded money in his chamber. And that on their refusal to pay the sum, he rendered an adverse verdict. These allegations are illusory and an afterthought to wreak vengeance on the petitioner."

Regretting that the enquiry committee of the High Court never considered such vital factors, the Bench said "there are no reasons at all to sustain the charges."

It also went on to say, "the High Court has got the responsibility to see that subordinate judges are not subjected to undue harassment at the hands of unscrupulous litigants and advocates, and see that independence of the judiciary is not shaken and the judicial officers are placed in a safe and strong position enabling them to function efficiently without fear."

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