Mumbai: Criminal past comes in way of becoming a judge

Mumbai: In a disappointment to a lawyer willing to be a Judge, the Bombay High Court rejected his petition challenging the decision of the Administrative Judges Committee, which denied him recruiting as a Civil Judge.

Vitthal Shelke, an advocate practising in the courts at Nanded, had approached a division bench headed by Justice Satyaranjan Dharmadhikari and sought directions for his appointment at the post of Civil Judge, Junior Division and Judicial Magistrate, First Class.

According to Shelke, he had cleared all the necessary written as well as viva tests for the said post and also the Maharashtra Public Service Commission (MPSC) had marked him on 41st rank in the list of eligible candidates, in August 2011.

Subsequently, the MPSC recommended Shelke’s name to the Administrative Judges Committee, which takes the decision regarding recruitment of judges; however, the committee did not select him in December 2012. It was only after Shelke filed an RTI, he realised that the committee had rejected his application (to become judge) due to his criminal past.

It must be noted that during the course of selection procedures, the candidates are expected to furnish all the details pertaining to any criminal record, like FIR, conviction etc.

Earlier, Shelke was charged under serious sections of 324 (causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons) and 504 (intentional insult) but he was acquitted by a magistrate court later.

While the bench was hearing the matter, Vivek Salunke, the counsel appearing for Shelke, argued that the criminal case against his client was ‘completely frivolous’ and was ‘instituted due to personal enmity with the complainant in the case’.

On the other hand, Amit Borkar, the advocate appearing for the Committee told the bench that the Magistrate had not held that the accusations against Shelke were entirely ‘baseless or malafide’, rather the Magistrate acquitted him by granting the ‘benefit of doubt’, which was not a clean acquittal.

Before going to conclusions, the bench preferred speaking about the role and functions of a Judge at lower judiciary. It said, “A Judge of the lower judiciary, clearly plays a very important and pivotal role in the administration of justice and which is one of the great pillars of our vibrant democracy. Considering the functions that a member of the judicial service is require carrying out, he has to be one who is balanced, has a sense of fairness, has a decent knowledge of the law and his character is unblemished.”

Dismissing the petition the bench said, “The petitioner’s (Shelke’s) character was certainly not one that could be characterized as unblemished. In fact, far from this, we are of the opinion that the decision of the Administrative Judges’ Committee was fully justified.”

Speaking about the importance of the courts, the bench observed, “To an average citizen in a remote area, a Court of Law is a ‘temple of justice’ and the persons dispensing it are looked upon with the highest regard and respect. Therefore, when being selected for judicial service, a candidate like the Petitioner (Shelke), would have to live up to and meet even higher standards than any other candidate applying for a job with the Government or other civil services.”

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