Madras HC: Scope of Judicial Review under Article 226 Limited to Test only the Correctness of the Decision-Making Process and not the Decision Itself

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A writ petition was filed before the Madras High Court to quash the proceedings undertaken by the State of Tamil Nadu and the Registrar General, Madras High Court and reinstate the petitioner as Chief Judicial Magistrate since he was, allegedly, wrongfully terminated and by the order passed by the respondents compulsorily made to retire.

Facts of the case

The First-Class Judicial Magistrate was informed about some adverse remarks on his Annual Confidential Report (ACR) holding his reputation as to honesty, integrity and impartiality as unsatisfactory and remarked to avoid close contact with advocates. Upon the representation of this matter to the Madras High Court itself, the said review and remarks were reviewed and removed. While so, he came to know through an article published in “Times of India” that he had been sent out of service at the age of 50 years for misconduct pursuant to a resolution passed by the court. Upon receiving the news, he filed another representation before the court and after the due procedure, it was held that his service was to be discontinued and the State Government subsequently ordered the directions. The Court also ordered the charge to be handed over to the Principal Sub-Judge immediately, which along with the earlier order were challenged under this petition.

Arguments before the Court

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The counsel appearing for the petitioner pointed out that the petitioner had been in service for over 18 years with no complaints or allegiance against him, and that the ingredients for compulsory retirement were absent in this case according to Tamil Nadu Fundamental Rules as the words “compulsory retirement”, “is of the opinion” and “in public interest”, are not found, which is the basic requirement to invoke such a measure. Further, the counsel for the petitioner contended that the government order retiring the petitioner was passed only based on a letter by the Court and that subjective satisfaction of the Government was not fulfilled. Also, that the petitioner didn’t have a poor performance since the remarks against him were quashed upon his merit.

The counsel for the respondents argued that even though all the adverse remarks in the petitioner’s ACR were expunged, it cannot be ignored that the performance of the petitioner during a majority of the period under question, 2010-2017 was only average and during which for a considerable amount of time, he did not fulfil essential norms completely. The counsel also contended that the decision so questioned was arrived at after due consideration and review of the documents on record.

Decision of the Court

The court, on perusal of material records, found that the ACR, work is done statement, etc. of the petitioner was circulated to the judges comprising the Full Court and the decision was taken by majority voting and that it could not be said that the decision taken was not based on any materials. The court also observed that the Full Court had laid its hand in exercising its jurisdiction under Tamil Nadu Fundamental Rules.56(2) and also Article 235 of the Constitution of India.

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The Court found itself conscious of the fact that the scope of Judicial review in the exercise of the power conferred under Article 226 of The Constitution of India, is limited to test only the correctness or otherwise of adherence of the decision-making process and not the decision of the respondents. While exercising this jurisdiction, the court can only ensure as to whether the procedural formalities preceding the order of compulsory retirement have been adhered to in the touchstone of principles of natural justice. In other words, the conclusion arrived at by the respondents to compulsorily retire the petitioner from service could thus, not be interfered with by this Court, unless such conclusion is based on no evidence or irrelevant material, which was held otherwise.

[googlepdf url=”https://libertatem.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/MHC-R.Naraja-vs-State-of-Tamil-Nadu.pdf” download=”Download Judgement PDF” width=”100%” height=”900″]

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