While ordering the suspension of a former Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Lakshadweep for allegedly fabricating evidence in a criminal trial to convict an accused, the Kerala High Court stated on Friday that magistrates, judges, and other presiding officers are not above the law and must face consequences for negligence.
Justice P. V. Kunhikrishnan instructed the Administrator of the Union Territory of Lakshadweep to suspend the former Chief Justice of Maharashtra, who is currently the Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority in the island archipelago, while the disciplinary proceedings against him are ongoing.
The additional third respondent (former CJM), who created the evidence of PW7 (one of the witnesses in the criminal case), committed forgery, this court must determine prima facie, given the facts and circumstances of this case. The additional third respondent appeared to have engaged in substantial misconduct and duty neglect, according to the high court.
The statement read, “The Administrator, Union Territory of Lakshadweep is directed to place the additional third respondent under suspension immediately, conduct a thorough investigation into the actions mentioned in this order, and take appropriate legal action, unrestricted by any findings in this judgement.”
The former CJM K Cheriyakoya, as well as the then bench clerk P P Muthukoya and the LD clerk A C Puthunni, received notices from the high court under Section 340 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which deals with perjury proceedings, to undertake preliminary investigations.
On January 23, 2023, all three individuals were ordered to appear before the top court.
The bench clerk and LD clerk, who were posted with the former CJM, were believed by the high court to be working together to cover up his actions.
The convicted individuals submitted a plea in which they claimed that the former CJM had fabricated evidence of the investigating officer out of personal animosity and had sentenced them to four and a half years in prison for the offences of unlawful assembly, rioting, and obstructing a public servant from performing his duties.
A contractor from Agatti filed the lawsuit against the petitioners, alleging that they prevented the collection of coconuts while being assisted by the police and overseen by the Deputy Surveyor.
Because some of them are the plaintiffs in a civil lawsuit, the accused-petitioners asserted before the high court that the former CJM harbours personal animosity toward them. They also claimed that they had complained to the Registrar (Subordinate Judiciary) of the High Court of Kerala about the former CJM’s allegedly biassed opinion in that matter.
The petitioners argued before the high court that the CJM allegedly falsified the investigating officer’s (IO) testimony in order to convict them despite the fact that it was never recorded during the criminal proceedings.
The IO supported the accused’s position by explicitly declaring that he had not provided any evidence before the former CJM in an affidavit submitted to the high court.
The additional third respondent must be assumed to have either produced or falsified PW7’s (IO) evidence, the top court stated, if such is the case.
It said, “The Magistrate, Judges, and other presiding authorities are not above the law and they have to face the penalties if they break any rules. A judge’s pen is extremely potent, but it should be handled with extreme prudence and, of course, without fear or favour. According to the high court, no additional instructions are required on that subject, as it had already issued an interim directive delaying coercive actions against the petitioners so they may appeal the CJM order to the appellate court.
According to the high court, “petitioners are allowed to agitate all their contentions expressed in these original petitions before the appellate court in line with legislation.