NIA judge tenders 'unconditional apology' before Allahabad HC for discriminating against Muslim lawyer

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While appointing an amicus curiae in the case against the wishes of the accused, the NIA Special Judge objected to the absence of the accused's chosen counsel, who had to leave the court to perform religious prayers

An Additional District & Sessions Judge currently posted as a Special Judge (NIA/ATS) tendered an unconditional apology before the Allahabad High Court on Monday, April 15  for his “observations regarding a particular community” while passing orders in a matter. 

On April 3, the bench of Justice Shamim Ahmed had labeled the remarks of the judicial officer as 'judicial misconduct'. Consequently, the judge was ordered to appear before the high court on April 15 and provide a personal affidavit explaining the circumstances surrounding the issuance of the orders in question.

Justice Ahmed had said, "This Court fails to understand the basis and legal aspects on which the findings of the impugned orders were placed by the trial court...This shows judicial misconduct, which breaks down the very fibre of what is necessary for a functional judiciary-citizens who believe their judges are fair and impartial".

Justice Ahmed had then emphasised that the "judiciary cannot exist without the trust and confidence of the people. Judges must, therefore, be accountable to legal and ethical standards".

The orders were passed in an application moved by one Mohammad Idris seeking direction to quash two orders passed by Court of Additional District & Sessions Judge IIIrd/Special Judge, N.I.A-A.T.S., Lucknow in a case registered for the offences under IPC and U.P. Prohibition of Unlawful Conversion of Religion Act, 2021.

During the proceedings, the high court took note of one of the orders passed by Vivekanand Sharan Tripathi, Additional District & Sessions Judge-IIIrd/ Special Judge NIA/ATS, Lucknow where he had given his finding regarding the nonpresence of counsel for the applicant during the trial as they belong to a certain religion.

The trial judge had noted that the counsel frequently left the court to attend religious prayers and, consequently, he had appointed an amicus curiae to represent the accused persons during the trial against their objections.

The high court held that this showed "clear discrimination on the part of the trial court on the basis of religion, which was clear violation of Fundamental Rights enshrined in Article 15 of the Constitution of India".

Justice Ahmed stressed that if there were other grounds they ought to have been stated in the order of the trial court.

"The learned Judge of the trial court has clearly discriminated one community only on the basis of religion," Justice Shamim Ahmed held. 

He emphasised that judicial service is not an ordinary government service and the judges are not employees as such. Judges hold the public office,and in discharge of their functions and duties, the judges represent the State, he said.

"The office that a Judge holds is an office of public trust. A Judge must be a person of impeccable integrity and unimpeachable independence. He must be honest to the core with high moral values. When a litigant enters the courtroom, he must feel secured that the Judge before whom his matter has come, would deliver justice impartially and uninfluenced by any consideration. The standard of conduct expected of a Judge is much higher than an ordinary man. This is no excuse that since the standards in the society have fallen, the Judges who are drawn from the society cannot be expected to have high standards and ethical firmness required of a Judge," Justice Ahmed asserted.

He stressed that "for a democracy to thrive and the rule of law to survive, justice system and the judicial process have to be strong and every Judge must discharge his judicial functions with integrity, impartiality and intellectual honesty".

"There can be no manner of doubt that a Judge must decide the case only on the basis of the facts on record and the law applicable to the case. If a Judge decides a case for any extraneous reasons then he is not performing his duty in accordance with law," Justice Ahmed held. 

Therefore, Justice Ahmed stayed the effects of the orders passed by the Special judge and asked him to appear and explain his conduct. 

On April 15, Vivekanand Sharan Tripathi, Additional District & Sessions Judge-IIIrd/ Special Judge NIA/ATS, Lucknow tendered unconditional apology before the high court and stated that that the impugned orders were passed under misconception, which shall be rectified.

He further assured the court that he will be cautious in future while perusing the orders passed by the high court. 

Since the personal affidavit had not been filed by the Special Judge, the high court posted the matter on April 18, 2024 for further orders. However, court exempted the personal appearance of the Special Judge till further orders.

Case Title: Mohammad Idris (As Per Prosecution Mohammad Idris Qureshi) v. State Of U.P. Thru. Prin. Secy. Home, Lko