“Misconduct” means wrong conduct or improper conduct. It has to be construed with reference to the subject-matter and the context wherein the term occurs having regard to the scope of the Act or the statute under consideration. In the context of disciplinary proceedings against a solicitor, the word misconduct was construed as professional misconduct extending to conduct “which shows him to be unworthy member of the legal profession”, C. Ravichandran Iyer v. Justice A.M. Bhattacharjee, (1995) 5 SCC 457 : 1995 SCC (Cri) 953. The word “misconduct” though not capable of precise definition, on reflection receives its connotation from the context, the delinquency in its performance and its effect on the discipline and the nature of the duty. It may involve moral turpitude, it must be improper or wrong behaviour; unlawful behaviour, wilful in character; forbidden act, a transgression of established and definite rule of action or code of conduct but not mere error of judgment, carelessness or negligence in performance of the duty; the act complained of bears forbidden quality or character. Its ambit has to be construed with reference to the subject matter and the context wherein the term occurs, regard being had to the scope of the statute and the public purpose it seeks to serve, State of Punjab v. Ram Singh, (1992) 4 SCC 54 : 1992 SCC (L&S) 793.
Corpus Juris Secundum contains the following passage at p. 740 (Vol. 7):“Professional misconduct may consist in betraying the confidence of a client, in attempting by any means to practise a fraud or impose on or deceive the court or the adverse party or his counsel and in fact in any conduct which tends to bring reproach on the legal profession or to alienate the favourable opinion which the public should entertain concerning it.”, R.D. Saxena v. Balram Prasad Sharma, (2000) 7 SCC 264.
Misconduct, inter alia, envisages breach of discipline, although it would not be possible to lay down exhaustively as to what would constitute conduct and indiscipline, which, however, is wide enough to include wrongful omission or commission whether done or omitted to be done intentionally or unintentionally. It means, “improper behaviour, intentional wrongdoing or deliberate violation of a rule or standard of behaviour”. Misconduct is said to be a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, where no discretion is left except what necessity may demand; it is a violation of definite law, Noratanmal Chouraria v. M.R. Murli, (2004) 5 SCC 689.
The word “misconduct” is antithesis of the word “conduct”. Ordinarily the expression “misconduct” means wrong or improper conduct, unlawful behaviour, misfeasance, wrong conduct, misdemeanour etc., Baldev Singh Gandhi v. State of Punjab, (2002) 3 SCC 667.
Misconduct and Dereliction :— Dereliction of duty or carelessness is an abuse of discretion under a definite law and misconduct is a violation of indefinite law. Misconduct is a forbidden act whereas dereliction of duty is the forbidden quality of an act and is necessarily indefinite. One is a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, with least element of discretion, while the other is primarily an abuse of discretion, Dayal Singh v. State of Uttaranchal, (2012) 8 SCC 263 : (2012) 2 SCC (L&S) 583 : (2012) 3 SCC (Cri) 838 : (2012) 4 SCC (Civ) 424.
Misconduct and disgraceful conduct :— The expression “misconduct” has be understood as a transgression of some established and definite rule of action, a forbidden act, unlawful behaviour, wilful in character. It may be synonymous as misdemeanour in propriety and mismanagement. Further, the expression “misconduct” has to be construed and understood in reference to the subject-matter and context wherein the term occurs taking into consideration the scope and object of the statute which is being construed. Misconduct is to be measured in the terms of the nature of misconduct and it should be viewed with the consequences of misconduct as to whether it has been detrimental to the public interest. An action which is detrimental to the prestige of the institution may also amount to misconduct. Acting beyond authority may be a misconduct. The expression “disgraceful conduct” is not defined in the statute. Therefore, the same has to be understood in given dictionary meaning. The term “disgrace” signifies loss of honour, respect or reputation, shame or bring disfavour or discredit. “Disgraceful” means giving offence to moral sensibilities and injurious to reputation or conduct or character deserving or bringing disgrace or shame. Disgraceful conduct is also to be examined from the context in which the term has been employed under the statute. Disgraceful conduct need not necessarily be connected with the official duties of the office-bearer. Therefore, it may be outside the ambit of discharge of his official duty, Ravi Yashwant Bhoir v. Collector, (2012) 4 SCC 407.