Compulsory Retirement Order Passed Against A Judicial Officer For Being Inefficient Upheld: Orissa High Court

In Ashok Kumar Agarwala v. Registrar General of Orissa High Court, Cuttack, and Others, the Orissa High Court rejected a writ petition filed by a Judicial Officer challenging the order of mandatory retirement passed against him in 2012 on the grounds that he lacked the standard efficiency necessary to carry out the duties of a Judge. The bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice B.P. Routray further noted that situations where an order of compulsory retirement is made have a very narrow scope of judicial review.

Brief Facts Of The Case: According to Rule 44 of the OSJS and OJS Rules from 2007, the Petitioner received mandatory retirement at the age of 50. According to the aforementioned Rule 44 of the OSJS and OJS Rules 2007, the High Court is permitted to retire any member of the service who has reached the age of 50 in the interest of the general public. Currently, the petitioner was forced into retirement in 2012 after the complete Orissa High Court bench reached the conclusion that he lacked the necessary efficiency to carry out the duties of the position he held.

The Registrar General of the HC stated before the Court that the Petitioner was ruled ineligible for promotion under the ACP-II scale and that he failed to receive even three consecutive “Good” ratings during his service term as a judicial officer. It was further argued that the Petitioner’s total performance was evaluated throughout the course of his whole service career, and it was determined that he was unfit to continue in that capacity. As a result, the impugned compulsory retirement order was issued.

Judgement: After reviewing the petitioner’s general personal history, the Court found that he failed to get an “excellent” grade for at least three years in a row during his military career, which lasted fourteen years and eight months. He was also previously allowed off with a warning to use caution moving forward. The Court further noted that the petitioner’s performance was frequently graded as “average,” and that neither a promotion to a higher position nor a pay raise under the ACPII scale were deemed appropriate for him. The Court also took into account claims that he had issued orders without due process in some situations or that he had failed to pass directives with consistency or uniformity. Lastly, stressing that the scope of judicial interference in such matters involving compulsory retirement is very limited, the Court did not find any reason to interfere and therefore, the writ petition was dismissed as being without merit.

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