A woman magistrate who routinely travelled without a ticket in Mumbai's local trains has been sacked.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice MK Sharma upheld a Bombay HC verdict dismissing her from service and said: "In a country governed by the rule of law, nobody is above the law, including judicial officers."
The bench turned down Arundhati Ashok Walavalkar's plea that she be allowed to continue for another two years as it would entitle her to post-retirement benefits. It said: "This is a case of judicial officer who was required to conduct herself with dignity and manner becoming of a judicial officer".
The court was of the view that a judge's official and personal conduct must be in tune with the "highest standard of propriety and probity". "If she has deliberately chosen to depart from these high and exacting standards, she is appropriately liable for disciplinary action."
Walavalkar was appointed as a magistrate in May 1992. She was caught traveling without ticket in the local trains thrice in 1997. Each time, she allegedly misbehaved with the railway staff and threatened the officers.
Instead of apologising, Walavalkar justified herself. In her letter to the general manager of central railway she claimed she could not buy tickets due to paucity of time. Walavalkar explained the reasons for traveling in local trains, saying, "I am required to enter into your local trains to reach my Court in time, as the vehicle given to us is a pooling one which takes a long time..."
Walavalkar added magistrates should be allowed to stand in the first-class compartments of local trains as they too handled matters related to railway police on weekends and holidays. She demanded to be treated at par with regular judicial officers, who heard cases registered at the railway police station on weekdays.