The Patna High Court on Monday quashed one of its orders that had made observations on alleged corruption in the judiciary last week, PTI reported. However, Justice Rakesh Kumar, who was taken off all cases a day after he passed the order, was reassigned cases from Monday.
Kumar had taken suo motu cognisance of the bail granted to former bureaucrat KP Ramaiah in a corruption case. In his 20-page order on August 28, Kumar asked for a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the matter and stated several instances of alleged wrongdoing by the judiciary. Kumar himself had denied the officer anticipatory bail last year.
On August 29, the Patna High Court withdrew all judicial work from Kumar and an 11-judge bench of the High Court stayed the order.
The order was set aside on Monday by a full bench of the High Court, which called it an instance of “judicial and administrative overreach and a complete nullity”. The bench declared the order “coram non judice” (not before a judge with the authority to rule on a case) and said it suffered from “dual incompetence of exercise of administrative as well as judicial authority”.
The bench comprised Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justices Anjana Mishra and Anil Kumar Upadhyay.
“A wrong order requires setting aside if it has travelled beyond the objective boundaries and has far-reaching consequences in setting a trend which no law recognises,” the bench said. “The passing of such an order has the inherent danger of creating uncertainty and a feeling that all things can be set right on exercise of authority by a judge even though he may not have legal power to do so.”
“We may only observe that there are regrettable limits and compulsory restraints that control jurisdiction,” the High Court said. “The jurisdiction to summon a file and then to pass strictures, comments and issuing administrative directions were all totally outside the scope of the authority of the learned judge...It should be kept in mind that the freedom of expression and the legal authority to express and adjudicate are entirely different concepts.”
Kumar had assumed jurisdiction on suspicion about the trial court, which could have been a matter of administrative enquiry, the bench said. “The entire order nowhere speaks of any notice having been issued or any party having been heard,” the bench added. “This, therefore, is a clear case of violation of principles of natural justice.”
Kumar and Sahi had reportedly met Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Sunday.
In his August 28 order, Kumar had asked how the former bureaucrat was granted bail by a lower court when the Supreme Court as well as the High Court had rejected his plea for anticipatory bail because of the seriousness of the allegations. Ramaiah is accused of embezzling over Rs 5 crore during his tenure as the Bihar Mahadalit Vikas Mission chairperson.
Staying the order on August 29, the High Court had claimed the “uncharity unleashed” by Kumar was based on “personal prejudice” as the order was “full of anguish tending towards vengeance” instead of reformation.
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