“The Advocates before throwing mud on the Judge must realise that by doing so, they are attacking themselves and the Institution”, Justice Pugalendhi observed.
A case involving charges of illegal granite mining recently saw Justice B Pugalendhiof the Madras High Court express his anguish over requests for his recusal from the matter, despite a detailed order justifying why such recusal was not warranted in the matter.
The Court opined that plea for recusal appeared to be part of an attempt by the respondents to prolong the Court’s decision on the matter. He remarked,
“Though there is no complicated legal issue involved in these cases, the appeals are pending for three years…The respondents / accused are enjoying the order of acquittal for three years, even without a trial and they may intend to retain this favourable order of acquittal for some more time. But the Advocates, being the Officers of the Court, owe certain duties not only to their clients, but also to the Court. No party to a litigation may stoop to this extent, without the knowledge of his Advocate.”
The Court added,
Judge’s motivational speech doctored to make it sound biased, says Court
A letter had been addressed to the Registrar Judicial, raising grievance that the Judge ought not to hear the case as he has appeared in several mining cases while he was a Government counsel.
The letter was sent after the High Court had passed an order rejecting the recusal plea by the respondents earlier this month.
The letter cited a speech made by Justice Pugalendhi at a school where he was stated to have commented that his elevation as a judge had been delayed by five years owing to certain lobbies. The letter implied that the Judge had referred to granite companies as being those lobbies.
Referring to other requests made to the Court to adjourn the case, and to refrain from finally hearing the case amid the pandemic, the Judge took critical note that “This is the third attempt made on behalf of the respondents / accused to intimidate this Court to get away from these cases.”
The Judge reiterated that his appearance as a Government Counsel in cases involving mining companies cannot preclude him from performing his duties as a judge.
“One way or the other, I would have appeared as a Government Counsel against almost all the mining lessees … on this ground, it is not proper to state that I should not discharge my duty as a Judge on the Mines and Mineral issues”, Justice Pugalendhi said.
Referring to the speech cited by the respondents, Justice Pugalendhi added that he had only spoken on the imperative to discharge one’s duties sincerely for a better society.
“This motivational speech given to the students has been doctored, by editing in such a way and projected as if this Court is against the respondents / accused”, he observed.
Viewed as a sin if Government servant does his duty sincerely
The genesis of the case was rooted in complaints of illegal granite mining in Madurai, over which the then-District Collector is stated to have registered a complaint.
The Collector is stated to have been transferred out of Madurai by the time the case was taken up by the trial court. After the Collector failed to appear before the trial court, all of the accused in the matter were acquitted.
The trial court also registered a case against the Collector for his non-appearance in the case under Section 256, CrPC, stating that the complaint seemed to have been ante-dated.
In the petition filed to quash the complaint against the Collector, the High Court found, inter alia, that it was not the case of any of the parties to the matter, nor was there any material to show, that the complaint was antedated.
The judge proceeded to set aside the order against the Collector. The manner in which the Collector was proceeded against also prompted the Court to remark,
“Now a days, if anybody, reminds the duty, they are viewed differently. As an individual person, everybody expects their servants to be loyal and sincere to them, but, at the same time, if the Government servant does his duty sincerely and diligently, it is viewed in a different manner, as a sin. This is how our values have evolved.”
“Even for answering 1 + 1 = 2, at times, we have to explain in detail”
The Court proceeded to set aside the lower court order and remand the matter back to trial for fresh consideration on merits, after concluding that:
- The Judicial Magistrate committed an error by referring the 2011 Mining Rules to acquit the accused, without following the basic principle of law that a rule cannot override the provisions of an Act (Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act).
- Both on merits and on violation of principles of natural justice, the lower court order cannot be sustained.
On a parting note, the Judge remarked,
Read the Judgment: