order of compulsory retirement = judicial officer of the rank of Additional District and Sessions Judge -The appellant while posted as a Chief Judicial Magistrate granted acquittal to the accused on 17.09.2007 in Criminal Case No.4670 of 2005 “State vs. Mohd. Ayub” under Sections 467, 468, 1 471, 474, 420, 406 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. -A complaint was lodged against the appellant with regard to the acquittal. After calling for comments from the appellant, and perusing the judgement and the order of reversal in appeal, the Administrative Judge on 24.02.2009 recommended an enquiry. -The enquiry report dated 10.05.2012 was adverse to the appellant. His comments were called for on 28.06.2012. On 20.12.2012, the appellant was informed that on basis of the enquiry, a censure entry had been recorded in his character roll. The order of punishment was accepted by the appellant without any challenge.- On 01.04.2016, a committee of three Hon’ble Judges constituted for screening of judicial officers for compulsorily retirement under the Rules recommended the compulsory retirement of the appellant which was endorsed by the Full Court on 14.04.2016 leading to the impugned order of compulsory retirement. The challenge laid out by the appellant to his order of retirement before the High Court was unsuccessful and thus the present appeal.= Quite apart from the scrutiny of his service records by the Screening Committee and again by the Full Court, the Division Bench again perused his ACRs and opined as follows: “We have perused the expunged portion of the annual remarks of the petitioner and found that rating of the petitioner as fair officer has not been expunged. Likewise, in the year 2008­09, 2009­10, 2010­11, the petitioner was posted as Additional District & Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court No.8, Pratapgarh and his disposal of work prescribed as Additional District Judge, Fast Track Court was found inadequate. Censure entry, recorded against the petitioner and considered by the Screening Committee and Full Court, still has not been expunged. The petitioner has never challenged the said censure entry, therefore, there is no substance in the arguments of the learned counsel for the petitioner that single censure entry relating to integrity could not be considered by the Screening Committee and Full Court. The expositions of law relied upon by the learned counsel for petitioner are of no help for the petitioner. The expositions of law relied upon by the learned counsel for the respondent is squarely applicable to the facts and circumstances of this case.” A person entering the judicial service no doubt has career aspirations including promotions. An order of compulsory retirement undoubtedly affects the career aspirations. Having said so, we must also sound a caution that judicial service is not like any other service. A person discharging judicial duties acts on behalf of the State in discharge of its sovereign functions. Dispensation of justice is not only an onerous duty but has been considered as akin to discharge of a pious duty, and therefore, is a very serious matter. The standards of probity, conduct, integrity that may be relevant for discharge of duties by a careerist in another job cannot be the same for a judicial officer. A judge holds the office of a public trust. Impeccable integrity, unimpeachable independence with moral values embodied to the core are absolute imperatives which brooks no compromise. A judge is the pillar of the entire justice system and the public has a right to demand virtually irreproachable conduct from anyone performing a judicial function. Judges must strive for the highest standards of integrity in both their professional and personal lives. The standard or yardstick for judging the conduct of the judicial officer therefore has necessarily to be strict. Having said so, we must also observe that it is not every inadvertent flaw or error that will make a judicial officer culpable. The State Judicial Academies undoubtedly has a stellar role to perform in this regard. A bona fide error may need correction and counselling. But a conduct which creates a perception beyond the ordinary cannot be countenanced. For a trained legal mind, a judicial order speaks for itself.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). 8875 OF 2019
(arising out of SLP (Civil) No(s). 22709 of 2018)
RAM MURTI YADAV …APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
STATE OF UTTAR PRADESH
AND ANOTHER …RESPONDENT(S)
JUDGMENT
NAVIN SINHA, J.
The appellant, a judicial officer of the rank of Additional
District and Sessions Judge, assails his order of compulsory
retirement dated 03.05.2016 at 56 years of age under Rule 56 (C) of
the U. P. Fundamental Rules (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Rules’).

  1. The appellant while posted as a Chief Judicial Magistrate
    granted acquittal to the accused on 17.09.2007 in Criminal Case
    No.4670 of 2005 “State vs. Mohd. Ayub” under Sections 467, 468,
    1
    471, 474, 420, 406 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. A complaint
    was lodged against the appellant with regard to the acquittal. After
    calling for comments from the appellant, and perusing the
    judgement and the order of reversal in appeal, the Administrative
    Judge on 24.02.2009 recommended an enquiry. A vigilance enquiry,
    V.B. Enquiry No.26/2009, was held by the OSD, Enquiry, High
    Court of Allahabad. The enquiry report dated 10.05.2012 was
    adverse to the appellant. His comments were called for on
    28.06.2012. On 20.12.2012, the appellant was informed that on
    basis of the enquiry, a censure entry had been recorded in his
    character roll. The order of punishment was accepted by the
    appellant without any challenge. On 01.04.2016, a committee of
    three Hon’ble Judges constituted for screening of judicial officers for
    compulsorily retirement under the Rules recommended the
    compulsory retirement of the appellant which was endorsed by the
    Full Court on 14.04.2016 leading to the impugned order of
    compulsory retirement. The challenge laid out by the appellant to
    his order of retirement before the High Court was unsuccessful and
    thus the present appeal.
    2
  2. Learned senior counsel Shri R. Basant, appearing on behalf of
    the appellant, submitted that since joining the service in 1996­97 as
    a Civil Judge (Jr. Division) his Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs)
    till 2014­15 certify his integrity. The quota of cases allocated to the
    appellant being inadequate, his percentage of work was considered
    adequate. The adverse remark in 1996­97 for below performance
    had been expunged. An error of judgment in deciding a criminal
    case, while discharging judicial functions, cannot ipso facto lead to
    an inference of dishonesty. There was in fact no material to infer
    dishonesty or lack of integrity on part of the appellant in granting
    acquittal in the criminal case. Merely because a different view was
    possible does not justify the extreme step of compulsory retirement.
    The order of compulsory retirement being stigmatic in nature, the
    failure to hold departmental enquiry vitiates the same. The
    appellant was promoted to the post of Additional District and
    Sessions Judge on the basis of merit­cum­seniority and was
    confirmed in 2013. He had also crossed the efficiency bar. The
    punishment of censure therefore stands obliterated and was
    irrelevant for the purpose of compulsory retirement. The conclusion
    that the appellant had lost his utility and efficiency as a judicial
    3
    officer to be declared deadwood was unsustainable without
    adequate consideration of his ACRs in the recent past years before
    retirement, at least from 2012 to 2015. Reliance in support of the
    submissions was placed on Ram Ekbal Sharma vs. State of
    Bihar and Anr., (1990) 3 SCC 504; Baikuntha Nath Das and
    Anr. vs. Chief District Medical Officer, Baripada and Anr.,
    (1992) 2 SCC 299; P.C. Joshi vs. State of U.P. and Ors., (2001) 6
    SCC 491, and Ramesh Chander Singh vs. High Court of
    Allahabad and Anr., (2007) 4 SCC 247.
  3. Learned counsel for the respondent contended that the adverse
    remarks against the appellant for the year 1996­97 was never
    expunged as the explanation furnished was not found satisfactory
    by the District Judge which was informed to the appellant on
    12.10.1998. His disposal was also found to be inadequate in
    subsequent years. The complaint against the appellant for granting
    acquittal was examined at several levels before the impugned action
    followed. The appellant never questioned the punishment of censure
    in connection with the very same order of acquittal. The entire
    4
    service record of the appellant was considered by the Screening
    Committee and again by the Full Court. The fact that the appellant
    may have been promoted subsequently is irrelevant for the purpose
    of consideration of compulsory retirement. Reliance in support of
    the submissions was placed on Baikuntha Nath Das (supra);
    Union of India & Ors. vs. K.K. Dhawan, (1993) 2 SCC 56; Union
    of India & Ors. vs. Duli Chand, (2006) 5 SCC 680; Nawal Singh
    vs. State of U.P. and Another, (2003) 8 SCC 117; Pyare Mohan
    Lal vs. State of Jharkhand and Ors., (2010) 10 SCC 693; R.C.
    Chandel vs. High Court of M.P. and Anr., (2012) 8 SCC 58, and
    Punjab State Power Corpn. Ltd. and Ors. vs. Hari Kishan
    Verma, (2015) 13 SCC 156.
  4. We have considered the submissions on behalf of the parties
    and also the precedents sought to be relied upon by them
    respectively. The High Court also noticed that another vigilance
    enquiry VB No.06 of 2009 had also been initiated but was dropped.
    The enquiry which followed on the complaint against acquittal
    manifests that the appellant was provided proper opportunity of his
    5
    defence at every stage. Quite apart from the scrutiny of his service
    records by the Screening Committee and again by the Full Court,
    the Division Bench again perused his ACRs and opined as follows:
    “We have perused the expunged portion of the
    annual remarks of the petitioner and found that
    rating of the petitioner as fair officer has not been
    expunged. Likewise, in the year 2008­09, 2009­10,
    2010­11, the petitioner was posted as Additional
    District & Sessions Judge, Fast Track Court No.8,
    Pratapgarh and his disposal of work prescribed as
    Additional District Judge, Fast Track Court was
    found inadequate. Censure entry, recorded against
    the petitioner and considered by the Screening
    Committee and Full Court, still has not been
    expunged. The petitioner has never challenged the
    said censure entry, therefore, there is no substance
    in the arguments of the learned counsel for the
    petitioner that single censure entry relating to
    integrity could not be considered by the Screening
    Committee and Full Court. The expositions of law
    relied upon by the learned counsel for petitioner are
    of no help for the petitioner. The expositions of law
    relied upon by the learned counsel for the respondent
    is squarely applicable to the facts and circumstances
    of this case.”
  5. The service records of the appellant have been examined by the
    Screening Committee, the Full Court as also by the Division Bench
    of the High Court. The scope for judicial review of an order of
    compulsory retirement based on the subjective satisfaction of the
    employer is extremely narrow and restricted. Only if it is found to be
    6
    based on arbitrary or capricious grounds, vitiated by malafides,
    overlooks relevant materials, could there be limited scope for
    interference. The court, in judicial review, cannot sit in judgment
    over the same as an Appellate Authority. Principles of natural
    justice have no application in a case of compulsory retirement.
  6. The performance chart, as furnished by the appellant,
    demonstrates that his assessment from 1996­97 till 2014­15 rates
    him as a “fair” or “good officer” only, except for one entry of “very
    good” in the year 2011­12. The submission that his integrity was
    certified on each occasion leaves us unimpressed. There can hardly
    be any direct evidence with regard to integrity as far as a judicial
    officer is concerned. It is more a matter of inference and perceptions
    based on the conduct of the officer. The inadequacy of the present
    system of writing ACRs of judicial officers has deficiencies in several
    ways, was noticed in Registrar General, Patna High Court vs.
    Pandey Gajendra Prasad and Ors., (2012) 6 SCC 357.
  7. The complaint against the appellant with regard to the
    acquittal granted by him was first considered by the Administrative
    7
    Judge, who was satisfied that it is a matter for further enquiry. The
    comments of the appellant were called for. A vigilance enquiry was
    recommended by the Administrative Judge, who obviously was not
    satisfied with the explanation furnished. The officer holding the
    vigilance enquiry was also a judicial officer who opined that the act
    of acquittal by the appellant was not above board. The comments of
    the appellant were again called for. The Screening Committee
    consisting of three Hon’ble Judges, on an overall assessment of the
    appellant’s service record, recommended his compulsory retirement.
    The Full Court scrutinised the service records of the appellant again
    while considering the recommendation of the Screening Committee
    and arrived at the conclusion that it was in public interest to
    compulsory retire the appellant. It is undisputed that the
    punishment of censure meted out to the appellant was never
    assailed by him.
  8. The submission of Shri Basant that compulsory retirement
    could not have been ordered for mere error of judgment in decision
    making merits no consideration in view of K.K. Dhawan (supra)
    and Duli Chand (supra). Likewise, what has been euphemistically
    8
    described as “washed­off theory” by reason of any subsequent
    promotion after adverse entry being relevant for further promotion
    but not for compulsory retirement has to be rejected in view of
    Pyare Mohan Lal (supra). A single adverse entry could suffice for
    an order of compulsory retirement as held in Pyare Mohan Lal
    (supra) as follows :
    “29. The law requires the authority to consider the
    “entire service record” of the employee while
    assessing whether he can be given compulsory
    retirement irrespective of the fact that the adverse
    entries had not been communicated to him and the
    officer had been promoted earlier in spite of those
    adverse entries. More so, a single adverse entry
    regarding the integrity of an officer even in remote
    past is sufficient to award compulsory retirement.
    The case of a judicial officer is required to be
    examined, treating him to be different from other
    wings of the society, as he is serving the State in a
    different capacity. The case of a judicial officer is
    considered by a committee of Judges of the High
    Court duly constituted by the Hon’ble the Chief
    Justice and then the report of the Committee is
    placed before the Full Court. A decision is taken by
    the Full Court after due deliberation on the matter.
    Therefore, there is hardly any chance to make the
    allegations of non­application of mind or mala
    fides.”
  9. This Court in Syed T.A. Naqshbandi & Ors. vs State of
    Jammu & Kashmir & Ors., (2003) 9 SCC 592, considering the
    9
    scope of judicial review of an assessment of the conduct of a judicial
    officer approved by a Full Court, observed as follows:
    “7. … As has often been reiterated by this Court,
    judicial review is permissible only to the extent of
    finding whether the process in reaching the decision
    has been observed correctly and not the decision
    itself, as such. Critical or independent analysis or
    appraisal of the materials by the courts exercising
    powers of judicial review unlike the case of an
    appellate court, would neither be permissible nor
    conducive to the interests of either the officers
    concerned or the system and institutions of
    administration of justice with which we are
    concerned in this case, by going into the correctness
    as such of ACRs or the assessment made by the
    Committee and approval accorded by the Full Court
    of the High Court.”
  10. The question was again considered in Rajendra Singh Verma
    (D) thr. Lrs. vs. Lt. Governor (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 10 SCC 1,
    reiterating the principle laid down in High Court of Judicature at
    Bombay vs. Shashikant S. Patil & Anr., (2000) 1 SCC 416, this
    Court observed as follows:
    “191. … in case where the Full Court of the High
    Court recommends compulsory retirement of an
    officer, the High Court on the judicial side has to
    exercise great caution and circumspection in setting
    aside that order because it is a complement of all the
    Judges of the High Court who go into the question
    and it is possible that in all cases evidence would not
    10
    be forthcoming about integrity doubtful of a judicial
    officer….”
    It was further observed that:
    “192. … If that authority bona fide forms an opinion
    that the integrity of a particular officer is doubtful,
    the correctness of that opinion cannot be challenged
    before courts. When such a constitutional function is
    exercised on the administrative side of the High
    Court, any judicial review thereon should be made
    only with great care and circumspection and it must
    be confined strictly to the parameters set by this
    Court in several reported decisions. When the
    appropriate authority forms bona fide opinion that
    compulsory retirement of a judicial officer is in public
    interest, the writ court under Article 226 or this
    Court under Article 32 would not interfere with the
    order.”
  11. P.C. Joshi (supra) was a case relating to an order of
    punishment in a departmental proceeding held to be vitiated for
    want of any legally acceptable or relevant evidence in support of the
    charges of misconduct. Ramesh Chander Singh (supra) related to
    an order of bail dealing with exercise of discretionary powers
    specially when a co­accused had been granted bail by the High
    Court. An order of compulsory retirement not been a punishment,
    much less stigmatic in the facts and circumstances of the present
    case. Ram Ekbal Sharma (supra) was dealing with the issue that
    11
    the form of the order was not conclusive and the veil could be lifted
    to determine if it was ordered as punishment more so in view of the
    stand taken in the counter affidavit with regard to grave financial
    irregularities, again has no relevance to the present controversy.
  12. A person entering the judicial service no doubt has career
    aspirations including promotions. An order of compulsory
    retirement undoubtedly affects the career aspirations. Having said
    so, we must also sound a caution that judicial service is not like any
    other service. A person discharging judicial duties acts on behalf of
    the State in discharge of its sovereign functions. Dispensation of
    justice is not only an onerous duty but has been considered as akin
    to discharge of a pious duty, and therefore, is a very serious matter.
    The standards of probity, conduct, integrity that may be relevant for
    discharge of duties by a careerist in another job cannot be the same
    for a judicial officer. A judge holds the office of a public trust.
    Impeccable integrity, unimpeachable independence with moral
    values embodied to the core are absolute imperatives which brooks
    no compromise. A judge is the pillar of the entire justice system and
    the public has a right to demand virtually irreproachable conduct
    12
    from anyone performing a judicial function. Judges must strive for
    the highest standards of integrity in both their professional and
    personal lives.
  13. It has to be kept in mind that a person seeking justice, has the
    first exposure to the justice delivery system at the level of
    subordinate judiciary, and thus a sense of injustice can have
    serious repercussions not only on that individual but can have its
    fall out in the society as well. It is therefore absolutely necessary
    that the ordinary litigant must have complete faith at this level and
    no impression can be afforded to be given to a litigant which may
    even create a perception to the contrary as the consequences can be
    very damaging. The standard or yardstick for judging the conduct
    of the judicial officer therefore has necessarily to be strict. Having
    said so, we must also observe that it is not every inadvertent flaw or
    error that will make a judicial officer culpable. The State Judicial
    Academies undoubtedly has a stellar role to perform in this regard.
    A bona fide error may need correction and counselling. But a
    conduct which creates a perception beyond the ordinary cannot be
    13
    countenanced. For a trained legal mind, a judicial order speaks for
    itself.
  14. In conclusion, we are of the considered opinion that the order
    of compulsory retirement of the appellant calls for no interference.
    The Appeal is dismissed.
    .……………………….J.
    (Ashok Bhushan)
    ………………………..J.
    (Navin Sinha)
    New Delhi,
    December 10, 2019
    14