Judicial Dictionary

Control over sub-ordinate judicial officers

Subordinate judicial service

The test of control is not the passing of an order against a member of the subordinate judicial service, but the decision to take such action.

It may be that so far as the members of the subordinate judicial service are concerned, it is the Governor, who being the appointing authority, has to pass an order of compulsory retirement or any order of punishment against such a member. But passing or signing of such orders by the Governor will not necessarily take away the control of the High Court vested in it under Article 235 of the Constitution. An action against any Government servant consists of two parts. Under the first part, a decision will have to be made whether an action will be taken against the Government servant. Under the second part, the decision will be carried out by a formal order. The power of control envisaged under Article 235 of the Constitution relates to the power of making a decision by the High Court against a member of the subordinate judicial service. Such a decision is arrived at by holding an enquiry by the High Court against the member concerned. After the High Court comes to the conclusion that some action either in the nature of compulsory retirement or by the imposition of a punishment, as the case may be, has to be taken against the member concerned, the High Court will make a recommendation in that regard to the Governor and the Governor will act in accordance with such recommendation of the High Court by passing an order in accordance with the decision of the High Court. The Governor cannot take any action against any member of a subordinate judicial service without, and contrary to, the recommendation of the High Court.

In the State of West Bengal v. Nripendra Nath Bagchi, (1966) 1 SCR 771 a question arose whether Article 311 takes away the control of the High Court vested in it under Article 235 of the Constitution. In that context, Hidayatullah, J. (as he then was) speaking for the Court observed as follows :-

“There is, therefore, nothing in Art. 311 which compels the conclusion that the High Court is ousted of the jurisdiction to hold the enquiry if Art. 235 vested such a power in it. In our judgment, the control which is vested in the High Court is a complete control subject only to the power of the Governor in the matter of appointment (including dismissal and removal) and posting and promotion of District Judges. Within the exercise of the control vested in the High Court, the High Court can hold enquiries, impose punishments other than dismissal or removal, subject however to the conditions of service, to a right of appeal if granted by the conditions of service, and to the giving of an opportunity of showing cause as required by cl. (2) of Art. 311 unless such opportunity is dispensed with by the Governor acting under the provisos (b) and (c) to that clause. The High Court alone could have held the enquiry in this case. To hold otherwise will be to reverse the policy which has moved determinedly in this direction.”

Thus, it appears that this Court brought about a harmony between the power of the Governor and the power of control of the High Court.

The question was again considered by this Court in State of Haryana v. Inder Prakash Anand, (1976) Suppl. SCR 603. In that case A. N. Ray, C.J. observed as follows:-

“The control vested in the High Court is that if the High Court is of opinion that a particular Judicial Officer is not fit to be retained in service the High Court will communicate that to the Governor because the Governor is the authority to dismiss, remove, reduce in rank or terminate the appointment. In such cases it is the contemplation in the Constitution that the Governor as the head of the State will act in harmony with the recommendation of the High Court. If the recommendation of the High Court is not held to be binding on the State consequences will be unfortunate. It is in public interest that the State will accept the recommendation of the High Court. The vesting of complete control over the Subordinate Judiciary in the High Court leads to this that the decision of the High Court in matters within its jurisdiction will bind the State. “The Government will act on the recommendation of the High Court. That is the broad basis of Article 235”.

The control of the High Court, as understood, will also be applicable in the case- of compulsory retirement in that the High Court will, upon an enquiry, come to a conclusion whether a member of the subordinate judicial service should be retired prematurely or not. If the High Court comes to the conclusion that such a member should be prematurely retired, it will make a recommendation in that regard to the Governor inasmuch as the Governor is the appointing authority. The Governor will make a formal order of compulsory retirement in accordance with the recommendation of the High Court.

It is true that the High Court in its administrative jurisdiction has power to compulsorily retire a member of the judicial service in accordance with any rule framed in that regard, but in coming to the conclusion that a member of the subordinate judicial service should be compulsorily retired, such conclusion must be based on materials. If there be no material to justify the conclusion, in that case, it will be an arbitrary exercise of power by the High Court. Indeed, Article 235 of the Constitution does not contemplate the exercise by the High Court of the power of control over subordinate courts arbitrarily, but on the basis of some materials. As there is absence of any material to justify the impugned orders of compulsory retirement, those must be held to be illegal and invalid.


Ref: AIR 1988 SC 1388 : (1988) 1 Suppl. SCR 332 : (1988) 3 SCC 211 : JT 1988 (2) SC 567 : (1988) 1 SCALE 1034

Categories: Judicial Dictionary

Tagged as: