P&H HC orders reinstatement of employee dismissed for misconduct under Art. 311(2) without recording sufficient reasons

Punjab and Haryana High Court: While deliberating over a matter of wrongful termination of a public servant’s services, Anil Kshetarpal, J., allowed the writ petition granting relief to the petitioner and observed that, “Mere observation that the departmental inquiry at this stage does not appear to be justified is not sufficient to invoke powers under Clause (b) of the 2nd Proviso to Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India.”

The factual matrix in the present matter is such that the present writ petition has been filed by the petitioner under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for issuance of a writ in the nature of certiorari for quashing of order dated 04-03-2020 passed by the respondent, dismissing the petitioner from service under Clause (b) of the 2nd Proviso to Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India. The petitioner was dismissed from the post of Constable in Punjab police basis his involvement in two grave offences. The first offence is that of rape and subsequent blackmail and FIR No. 14 had been registered in connection with the same. The second offence dates back to the time when the police party went in for the arrest of the petitioner when the petitioner ran away after he was apprehended. Protesting the same, a group of villagers entered into a scuffle with the police personnel and indulged in vandalism. As a result of the attack, a police official endured serious physical harm and another’s wallet and id card was snatched from him.

As a result of the above-stated acts, the respondent invoked Clause (b) of the 2nd Proviso to Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India to remove/dismiss the petitioner from service while doing away with the requirement of holding a departmental inquiry.

Counsel for the petitioner, Abhimanyu Tiwari has contended that the respondent did not state the reasons behind the act of dispensing with the requirement of holding inquiry and hence the order is unsustainable in the eyes of law. Several judgments were cited by him in order to substantiate his claim including that of Union of India v. Tulsi Ram Patel, (1985) 3 SCC 398 and Reena Rani v. State of Haryana, (2012) 10 SCC 21.

Counsel for the respondent, Anu Chatrath, in his defence has cited the judgments passed in Kuldip Singh v. State of Punjab, (1996) 10 SCC 659 and Chandigarh Administration, U.T. Chandigarh v. Ajay Manchanda, (1996) 3 SCC 753.

The question of law that came before this Court for resolution is-

“Whether in absence of sufficient reasons recorded in writing dispensing with the requirement of holding inquiry in the alleged misconduct of employee by the authority, order of dismissal/removal from service of employee, passed in exercise of the powers under Clause (b) of the 2nd Proviso to Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India is sustainable?”

The Court examined the order dated 04-03-2020 carefully and observed that it is evident that no reason whatsoever has been recorded as to why holding of the inquiry is not reasonably practicable. The only thing mentioned is that “it does not seem justified to conduct departmental inquiry at this stage”. The court is of the opinion that Article 311 of the Constitution has been insufficiently complied with.

Article 311 clearly states that authority is empowered to dismiss or remove a person or to demote him but the reasons as to why it’s not reasonably practicable to conduct an inquiry have to be recorded in writing. In the present case, no such reasons have been stated by the respondents.

In both the FIR’s where the petitioner has been accused, it has to be established beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused committed those acts and that the concerned police department left no stone unturned to unearth the truth.

The Court is of the opinion that both the cases cited by the respondent’s counsel are irrelevant in the present case’s perspective.

In view of all the above, the Court allowed the writ petition directing the reinstatement of petitioner along with consequential benefits. However, the respondent is free to initiate any departmental inquiry with respect to the petitioner’s misconduct.[Sarabjit Singh v. State of Punjab,  2020 SCC OnLine P&H 1404, decided on 01-09-2020]

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