A trial court judge on Monday apologised before the Allahabad High Court after he was summoned for religious discrimination against a Muslim lawyer and making observations about the Muslim community in his orders, reported Bar and Bench.

The bench of Justice Shamim Ahmed had last month stayed the orders passed by Additional District and Sessions Judge Vivekanand Sharan Tripathi in a case pertaining to alleged forced religious conversions by Muslim clerics. This was after one of the persons accused in the case moved the High Court.

The case in the trial court was filed by the Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad against two Muslim clerics, Mohammad Umar Gautam and Mufti Qazi Jahangir Alam Qasmi, and other persons.

On January 19, Tripathi had acted against the men’s wishes in appointing an amicus curiae to represent them in the trial. Tripathi did so citing that the counsel for the accused men, a Muslim, often left the court to offer prayers.

On April 3, the High Court said that this move shows “clear discrimination on the part of the trial court on the basis of religion, which is a clear violation of fundamental right enshrined in Article 15 of the Constitution of India”.

Article 15 guarantees that the state will not discriminate against any person on the basis of their religion, caste or sex. The High Court held that Tripathi had “clearly discriminated” against one community solely on the basis of religion.

The High Court also observed that the trial court had failed to provide the accused men with electronic copies of the evidence being relied on to prosecute them.

“It is a cardinal principal that a person tried of serious offence should be furnished with all the material and evidences in advance,” the High Court said. “Any other view would not only impinge upon the statutory mandate contained in CrPC [Code of Criminal Procedure] but also the right of the applicant to a fair trial.”

Following the court’s orders, Tripathi appeared before the single-judge bench and offered an unconditional apology for his conduct, reported Bar and Bench. Tripathi said that he had passed the orders “under misconception” and would remain cautious in future.

The High Court in its order on April 3 remarked that judges must be held accountable to legal and ethical standards. “In holding them accountable for their behavior, judicial conduct review must be performed without invading the independence of judicial decision-making,” the court said.