Justice T.S. Thakur declines to hear J&K Judge petition against his removal

SC to hear the matter after vacation

          Justice Mr. T.S. Thakur presiding over a Supreme Court bench today expressed his inability to hear a petition of Shri Shakti Gupta, Principal District & Sessions Judge, Kargil (J&K) against his illegal, unconstitutional and mala fide removal by ordering his premature retirement by the full bench of the J&K High Court in June 2013. Justice T.S. Thakur told Prof.Bhim Singh, Sr. Advocate representing Shri Shakti Gupta that he (Mr. T.S. Thakur) cannot hear the matter as he knows one of the judicial members personally.

          On the request of Prof.Bhim Singh Justice T.S. Thakur directed the registry to list the matter after vacation before an appropriate bench. The Supreme Court shall reopen after vacation on 30th June, 2014.

          The petition filed by Shri Shakti Gupta has challenged the validity of the order of J&K Govt. based on the recommendation of the full bench of J&K High Court dated 11.06.2013 as communicated to Shri Shakti Gupta and two other District & Sessions Judges namely, Shri Muzaffar Iqbal Qureshi and Shri Brij Mohan Gupta.

          The petition filed by Shri Shakti Gupta as settled by Prof.Bhim Singh has raised serious questions of law. The petitioner has taken the plea that Rule 24 of the J&K High Court has been violated as the petitioner was running 57+ years of age whereas Rule 24 applies for premature retirement after the assessment of their performance at the age 50, 55 & 58. The plea has also been taken that J&K Govt. failed to satisfy the inquiries made by the J&K Governor had stressed on this point in his letter addressed to the High Court,

“(a)(i). As per Rule (24) of the Jammu and Kashmir Higher Judicial Services Rules, 2009, the assessment and evaluation of the services of Judicial Officers for their continued utility has to be made before they attain the age of 50 years, 55 years and 58 years, by following the procedure for compulsory retirement under the service rules applicable to them. It is observed that the assessment/evaluations of the subject judicial officers, for determining their continued utility, were made after they crossed the age of 55 years and 58 years.”

The petition has said that prominent issues arising out of the present case are violation of procedure and discrimination. The ACR of 2010, 2011 were never communicated to the petitioner for his effective reply nor any opportunity was granted to the petitioner to record his statement. Another important issue involving is the premature retirement with retrospective fact. The order of retirement was issued on 01.01.2014 when the petitioner had attained the age of 57+. The petitioner has strongly contended that there is no scope in this regard for retiring a judicial officer retrospectively. The petitioner also supported this fact that there could be no justification for retrospective dismissal or retirement as per law laid down by the Supreme Court of India in latest case in Sukhdev Singh (2013) 9 SC 566 .

The petitioner has alleged strong mala fides against him by some senior judges of the High Court. This fact has been illustrated in the petitioner that the High Court had issued the letter to the J&K Govt. on 11.06.2013 regarding the compulsory retirement of the petitioner and other two judges namely, Shri Muzaffar Iqbal Qureshi and Shri Brij Mohan Gupta whereas the so-called resolution by the full bench was cleared on 03.06.2013. The petition has produced the statement on behalf of the High Court which has said that,

“With this decision, it has been conveyed that there is no room, for dead-wood, incorrigible and corrupt persons in the judiciary,” sources said, adding “This is for the first time in the history of J&K that such a decision has been taken to keep the dead-wood out of the judiciary.” This was reported in Daily Excelsior dated 07.06.2013 whereas Registrar conveyed the decision on 11.06.2013 as per record. According to Prof.Bhim Singh these adjective used by the High Court are highly objectionable, insulting which cause a permanent stigma not only against the punished judges but also on the face of their families. This is not a premature retirement but punishment unknown in the jurisprudence of law and amount to massacre of the principles of natural justice.

Prof.Bhim Singh was assisted by Shri D.K. Garg, Advocate-on-Record.