Ticketless travel: SC upholds sacking of woman magistrate

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New Delhi, Jan 16 (PTI) Holding that judges are expectedto maintain impeccable integrity as a role model for thesociety, the Supreme Court has upheld the dismissal of a womanmagistrate for travelling thrice in a train without ticket.

A bench of justices Mukandakam Sharma and A R Dave, in ajudgement, said judges should maintain higher standards ofrectitude as they enjoy a position of public trust and are notabove the law to flout it in any manner.

"This is a case of judicial officer who was required toconduct herself with dignity and manner becoming of a judicialofficer. A judicial officer must be able to discharge his/herresponsibilities by showing an impeccable conduct.

"In the instant case, she not only travelled withouttickets in a railway compartment thrice but also complainedagainst ticket collectors who accosted her, misbehaved withthe Railway officials and in those circumstances we do not seehow the punishment of compulsory retirement awarded to hercould be said to be disproportionate to the offence allegedagainst her," the bench said while dismissing Arundhati AshokWalavalkar''s appeal.

Walavalkar, a judicial magistrate was "compulsorilyretired" from service by the Bombay High Court after aninquiry revealed that she had travelled thrice in the suburbantrain and intimidated the railway staff when they insisted onher buying the ticket.

The allegation against her was that she had travelledwithout tickets on 21.2.1997, 13.5.1997 and also on 5.12.1997.

Besides, she misused her official identity card by creatingnuisance at the railway platform by threating the staff abouther judicial status.

Walavalkar was dismissed from service on September 27,2000 on the ground that her conduct was unbecoming of ajudicial officer.

An aggrieved Walavalkar appealed in the apex courtcontending that the punishment meted out to her was grosslyinadequate to the offence committed by her.

Upholding the dismissal, the apex court said, "In acountry governed by rule of law, nobody is above lawincluding judicial officers. In fact, as judicial officers,they have to present a continuous aspect of dignity in everyconduct.

"If the rule of law is to function effectively andefficiently under the aegis of our democratic setup, judgesare expected to, nay, they must nurture an efficient andenlightened judiciary by presenting themselves as a rolemodel," the bench remarked.

A judge is constantly under public glare and societyexpects higher standards of conduct and rectitude fromjudicial officers.

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