Canons Of Judicial Ethics: Conduct, Character, And Integrity Of Judicial Officer


Introductory:-

‘Ethics’ means the basic principles of right action. “Ethics of a Profession” means the general body of rules, written or unwritten relative to the conduct of the members of the profession intended to guide them in maintaining certain basic standards of behaviour. Every judge is a role model to the society to which he belongs. A judge must respect and honour his judicial office. It is an institution of public trust and he must endeavor to leave such office with higher respect and public confidence than when he inherited it. The judicial living is not an easy thing. Things in judicial life do not always run smoothly. Living by canons of judicial ethics enables the occupant of judicial office to draw a line of life with an upward trend traveling through the middle of peaks and valleys. Judicial Officers are advised to go through important observations in K.P.Singh vs. High Court of H.P. & ors. in LPA No. 163 of 2009, decided on 21.4.2011, by Division Bench of Hon’ble H.P. High Court, comprising of: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph, Chief Justice and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Deepak Gupta, Judge. Per Justice Kurian Joseph, C.J, as to Judicial Ethics and Conduct of Judicial Officers.

Canons of judicial ethics:

1. Judicial officers must exercise their judicial functions independently and free of extraneous influence.

2. Judicial officers must firmly reject any attempt to influence their decisions in any matter before the Court outside the proper process of the Court.

3. Judicial officers should encourage and uphold arrangements and safeguards to maintain and enhance the institutional and operational independence of the judiciary.

4. Judicial officers should exhibit and promote high standards of judicial conduct so as to reinforce public confidence which is the cornerstone of judicial independence.

Conduct of Judicial officer:-

Judges are not only held responsible for their own conduct but also for that of their families. Such relationships may sometimes give rise to complex ethical challenges as they may place additional restrictions on the family members of a judge. Therefore, great caution also needs to be exercised by a judge and his family and friends while conducting themselves.

A judge entrusted with the task of administering justice should be bold and feel fearless while acting judicially and giving expression to his views and constructing his judgment or order. It should be ho deterrent to formation and expression of an honest opinion and acting thereon so long as it is within four-corners of law that any action taken by a subordinate judicial officer is open to scrutiny in judicial review before a superior forum with which its opinion may not meet approval and the superior court may upset his action or opinion. The availability of such fearlessness is essential for the maintenance of judicial independence. However, sobriety, cool, calm and poise should be reflected in every action and expression of a judge. (CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 165 of 2001, BENCH: DR. A.S. ANAND CJ & R.C. LAHOTI ).
To become a good judge, the top seven most mentioned qualities in order of frequency were as follows:
1. industry, diligence
2. courtesy
3. empathy
4. patience
5. knowledge of the law
6. intelligence
7. sense of fair play

These judges esteemed humanity, patience and courtesy at roughly the same level as knowledge of the law or intelligence. Equally interesting were some of the qualities that were mentioned only once or twice: independence and objectivity. It is ironic to note that text writers and judicial councils tell us this is the very essence of being a judge. This clashes with the judicial self-assessment of the qualities required for good judging. A Code of Judicial Conduct provides a standard against which to assess judicial behaviour. It also serves as a guide to judges about what is and is not acceptable behaviour.

Character of Judicial Officer:-

1. A Judicial officer uphold and apply the law, and should perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially.

2. A Judicial officer should perform the duties of judicial office without any bias or prejudice.

3. A Judicial officer should not permit family, social, political, financial or other interests or relationships to influence their judicial conduct.

4. A Judicial officer should perform judicial and administrative duties competently and diligently.

5. A Judicial officer should be dignified, patient, and courteous to litigants, witnesses, advocates, court staff and other with whom he deals in an official capacity.

6. The qualities of a good judge are the qualities of a good man. There are additional demands on a judge, to be sure– knowledge of the law, a willingness to suspend judgment until all the evidence is in. But at last it must be the depth and texture of his humanity that qualify and define the judge. (See. Donald Dale Jackson, Judges, (New York: Atheneum, 1974), 300)

As was pointed out in A.M.Mathur v. Pramod Kumar Gupta, [1990] 2 SCC 533, ‘’Judicial restraint and discipline are as necessary to the orderly administration of justice as they are to the effectiveness of the army. The duty of restraint, this humility of function should be constant theme of our judges. This quality in decision making is as much necessary for judges to command respect as to protect the independence of the judiciary. Judicial restrain in this regard might better be called judicial respect, that is, respect by the judiciary. Respect to those who come before the court as well to other co-ordinate branches of the State, the executive, and legislature. There must be mutual respect. When these qualities fail of when litigants and public believe that the judge has failed in these qualities, it will be neither good for the judge nor for the judicial process.”

Integrity of Judicial Officer:-

Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others. It is high time the judiciary took utmost care to see that the temple of justice does not crack from inside, which will lead to a catastrophe in the judicial-delivery system resulting in the failure of public confidence in the system. It must be remembered that woodpeckers inside pose a larger threat than the storm outside.” (Ref: Tarak Singh vs. Jyoti Basu, (2005)1 SCC 201). “Integrity according to Oxford dictionary is moral uprightness; honesty. It takes in its sweep, probity, innocence, trustfulness, openness, sincerity, blamelessness, immaculacy, rectitude, uprightness, virtuousness, righteousness, goodness, cleanness, decency, honour, reputation, nobility, irreproachability, purity, respectability, genuineness, moral excellence etc. In short it depicts sterling character with firm adherence to a code of moral values. ‘Judiciary is an integrity institution’. Therefore, Judicial Officers should possess the sterling quality of integrity.

“Maintenance of discipline in the judicial service is a paramount matter. Acceptability of the judgment depends upon the credibility of the conduct, honesty, integrity and character of the officer. The confidence of the litigating public gets affected or shaken by lack of integrity and character of Judicial Officer.” (See.  High Court of Judicature at Bombay vs. Uday Singh, (1997) 5 SCC 129). Under the Bar Council of India Rules, an advocate shall, at all times, comport himself in a manner befitting his status as an officer of the court, a privileged member of the community; and a gentleman, bearing in mind that what may be lawful and a moral for a person who is not a member of the Bar, or for a member of the Bar in his nonprofessional capacity may still be improper for an advocate.

In Daya Shankar vs. High Court of Allahabad, (1987) 3 SCC 1, the Hon’ble Supreme Court set the following standard: “Judicial officers cannot have two standards, one in the court and another outside the court. They must have only one standard of rectitude, honesty and integrity. They cannot act even remotely unworthy of the office they occupy.” In Tarak Singh’s case (supra), having regard to the plain truth that the judiciary is also manned by human beings and yet in view of their privileged position, it was cautioned as follows:

“There is nothing wrong in a Judge having an ambition to achieve something, but if the ambition to achieve is likely to cause a compromise with his divine judicial duty, better not to pursue it. Because, if a Judge is too ambitious to achieve something materially, he becomes timid. When he becomes timid there will be a tendency to make a compromise between his divine duty and his personal interest. There will be a conflict between interest and duty.

The Hon’ble Apex Court in High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan vs. Ramesh Chand Paliwal, (1998) 2 SCC 72, described t ‘Judges’  as ‘hermits’, further reminding that, “they have to live and behave like hermits, who have no desire or aspiration, having shed it through penance. Their mission is to supply light and not heat”. In High Court of Judicature at Bombay vs. Shashikant S. Patil, (2000) 1 SCC 416, in more emphatic words, it was stated that dishonesty is the stark antithesis of judicial probity, and “ A dishonest judicial personage is an oxymoron”.
Having regard to certain sporadic instances of lack of probity and integrity among some of the personnel who man this high office, it is high time that specific standards are set with regard to value system to be adopted and followed by the members serving in the temple of justice. No doubt, they are more self imposed than imposed. While dispensing justice, the messenger is also important as the message itself. A judge is judged not only by the quality of his judgments, but also by the quality and purity of his character and the measurable standard of that character is impeccable integrity reflected transparently in his personal life as well. One who corrects corruption should be incorruptible. That is the high standard, the public has set in such high offices of institutional integrity. Therefore, any departure from the pristine codes and values of discipline and disciplined conduct on the part of the judicial officers will have to be viewed very seriously lest the very foundation of the system would be shaken and, if so, that will be the death knell of democracy. ‘Honesty and integrity are the hallmarks of judicial probity. Dishonesty and lack of integrity are hence the basic elements of misconduct as far as a Judicial Officer is concerned.’

The Hon’ble Apex Court in High Court of Judicature at Bombay vs. Shashikant S. Patil, (2000) 1 SCC 416, it was held as follows (para 23): “ The Judges, at whatever level they may be, represent the State and its authority, unlike the bureaucracy or the members of the other service. Judicial service is not merely an employment nor the Judges merely employees. They exercise sovereign judicial power. They are holders of public offices of great trust and responsibility. If a judicial officer “tips the scales of justice its rippling effect would be disastrous and deleterious”. A dishonest judicial personage is an oxymoron.”

In Rajendra Singh Verma (Dead) Through LRs. vs. Lieutenant Governor (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 10 SCC 1, reiterating the principle laid down in Shashikant S. Patil & Anr. (supra), the Hon’ble Court observed as follows: “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 be forthcoming about integrity doubtful of a judicial officer.”

It was further observed that: “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 [pic] 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.”

The Hon’ble Supreme Court regarding the role of the High Court in such situations, reported in High Court of Judicature Vrs. Shashikant Patel held:“ Dishonesty is the stark antithesis of judicial probity. Any instance of a High Court condoning or compromising with a dishonest deed of one of its officers would only be contributing to erosion of the judicial foundation. Every hour we must remind ourselves that the judiciary floats only over the confidence of the people in its probity. Such confidence is the foundation on which the pillars of the judiciary are built.”

In Registrar General, Patna High Court vs. Pandey Gajendra Prasad, 2012 STPL(Web) 305 SC, it was observed that  “ There is no gainsaying that while it is imperative for the High Court to protect honest and upright judicial officers against motivated and concocted allegations, it is equally necessary for the High Court not to ignore or condone any dishonest deed on the part of any judicial officer. It needs little emphasis that the subordinate judiciary is the kingpin in the hierarchical system of administration of justice. It is the trial judge, who comes in contact with the litigant during the day to day proceedings in the court and, therefore, a heavy responsibility lies on him to build a solemn unpolluted atmosphere in the dispensation of justice which is an essential and inevitable feature in a civilized democratic society.

Conclusion:-

  The Judges Bench is a seat of power. Not only do judges have power to make binding decisions, their decisions legitimate the use of power by other officials. The Judges have the absolute and unchallengeable control of the Court domain. But they cannot misuse their authority by intemperate comments, undignified banter or scathing criticism of counsel, parties or witnesses. The Court has the inherent power to act freely upon its own conviction on any matter coming before it for adjudication but it is a general principle of the highest importance to the proper administration of justice that derogatory remarks ought not to be made against persons or authorities whose conduct comes into consideration unless it is absolutely necessary for the decision of the case to animadvert on their conduct. Ref: A.M. Mathur vs Pramod Kumar, 1990 AIR 1737. The ethical obligation rests harder upon their shoulders. Judges must constantly be aware of their role and position in society and cannot be frivolous in the use of their words. It need not be stated that the words from a judge whether inside or out of the court room carry far more weightage than an average citizen.

LATEST CASE-LAW ON
CANONS OF JUDICIAL ETHICS: CONDUCT, CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY OF JUDICIAL OFFICER

1. Registrar General, Patna High Court vs. Pandey Gajendra Prasad, 2012 STPL(Web) 305 SC HELD:- “the subordinate judiciary is the kingpin in the hierarchical system of administration of justice. It is the trial judge, who comes in contact with the litigant during the day to day proceedings in the court and, therefore, a heavy responsibility lies on him to build a solemn unpolluted atmosphere in the dispensation of justice which is an essential and inevitable feature in a civilized democratic society.
2. Bhanwar Lal Lamor vs State Of Raj & Ors (2013), (Writ Petition Civil No.783/2011), Order pronounced on 20.12.2013. Followed the case of Tarak Singh V. Jyoti Basu, (2005) 1 SCC 201. HELD. ‘Judicial discipline is self-discipline. Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others.’

3. Rajendra Singh Verma (Dead) Through LRs. vs. Lieutenant Governor (NCT of Delhi), (2011) 10 SCC 1, reiterated the principle laid down in Shashikant S. Patil & Anr.: HELD:- “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 be forthcoming about integrity doubtful of a judicial officer.”

4. K.Shanmugam vs K.Kamaraj (Cont.P.No.1186 of 2009 In Crl.O.P.No.8771 of 2007, (2011), Hon’ble Madras High Court held that ‘Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others’.

5. K.P.Singh vs. High Court of H.P. & ors. in LPA No. 163 of 2009, decided on 21.4.2011, by Division Bench of Hon’ble H.P. High Court, comprising of: Hon’ble Mr. Justice Kurian Joseph, Chief Justice and Hon’ble Mr. Justice Deepak Gupta, Judge. Per Justice Kurian Joseph, C.J, as to Judicial Ethics and Conduct of Judicial Officers.
6. Tarak Singh vs. Jyoti Basu, (2005)1 SCC 201, HELD:- ‘Judicial Officers should possess the sterling quality of integrity.’ ‘Integrity is the hallmark of judicial discipline, apart from others.’
7. High Court of Judicature at Bombay vs. Shashikant S. Patil, (2000) 1 SCC 416, highlighting a marked and significant difference between a judicial service and other services. HELD:- Judicial service is not merely an employment nor the Judges merely employees. They exercise sovereign judicial power. They are holders of public offices of great trust and responsibility. If a judicial officer “tips the scales of justice its rippling effect would be disastrous and deleterious”.

8. High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan vs. Ramesh Chand Paliwal, (1998) 2 SCC 72. Held: ‘Judges have been described as ‘hermits’, further reminding that, “they have to live and behave like hermits, who have no desire or aspiration, having shed it through penance. Their mission is to supply light and not heat”.

9. High Court of Judicature at Bombay vs. Uday Singh, (1997) 5 SCC 129,Held:- ‘Acceptability of the judgment depends upon the credibility of the conduct, honesty, integrity and character of the officer. The confidence of the litigating public gets affected or shaken by lack of integrity and character of Judicial Officer.’’

10. A.M.Mathur v. Pramod Kumar Gupta, [1990] 2 SCC 533, HELD:- ‘ Quality in decision making is as much necessary for judges to command respect as to protect the independence of the judiciary’

11. Daya Shankar vs. High Court of Allahabad, (1987) 3 SCC 1, HELD:- “Judicial officers cannot have two standards, one in the court and another outside the court. They must have only one standard of rectitude, honesty and integrity. They cannot act even remotely unworthy of the office they occupy.”

12. In the case of Baikuntha Nath Das and Anr. V. Chief District medical Officer, Baripada and AIR 1992 SC 1020 laying down certain guiding principles for the Courts, on which it can interfere in the order of compulsory retirement. See. This ruling to know more.

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