Supreme Court: In a case where Sub-Inspector in the Railway Police was compulsorily retired for gross neglect of duty, the 3-judge bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra* and KM Joseph, JJ has set aside the Bombay High Court order that directed re-instatement with consequential benefits, and payment of backwages to the extent of 50%.
The respondent, the present case, was charged with gross neglect of duty for failing to detect and prevent three instances of theft and abuse of authority by using unnecessary violence towards a passenger.
Holding that the High Court was not justified in setting aside the order of compulsory retirement, the Court said,
“A police officer in the Railway Protection Force is required to maintain a high standard of integrity in the discharge of his official functions. In this case, the charges proved against the Respondent “were of neglect of duty” which resulted in pecuniary loss to the Railways. The Respondent was a Sub-Inspector in the Railway Police discharging an office of trust and confidence which required absolute integrity.”
It was further stated that the primary object of constituting the Railway Protection Force is to secure better “protection and security of the railway property.”
“The restricted power of arrest and search conferred on members of this Force is incidental to the efficient discharge of their primary duty to protect and safeguard railway property, and to uphold the law.”
On the scope of interference by the High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction with respect to disciplinary proceedings, the Court said that it is not the function of the High Court under its writ jurisdiction to review the evidence, and arrive at an independent finding on the evidence. The High Court may, however interfere where,
- the departmental authority which has held the proceedings against the delinquent officer are inconsistent with the principles of natural justice,
- the findings are based on no evidence, which may reasonably support the conclusion that the delinquent officer is guilty of the charge, or in violation of the statutory rules prescribing the mode of enquiry, or the authorities were actuated by some extraneous considerations and failed to reach a fair decision, or allowed themselves to be influenced by irrelevant considerations, o
- the conclusion on the very face of it is so wholly arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person could ever have arrived at that conclusion.
If however the enquiry is properly held, the departmental authority is the sole judge of facts, and if there is some legal evidence on which the findings can be based, the adequacy or reliability of that evidence is not a matter which can be permitted to be canvassed before the High Court in a writ petition.
In the present case, the Court found that there was no allegation of malafides against the disciplinary authority i.e. Chief Security Commissioner, or lack of competence of the disciplinary authority in passing the order of compulsory retirement, or of a breach of the principles of natural justice, or that the findings were based on no evidence.
It hence, held that the High Court was not justified in re-appraising the entire evidence threadbare as a court of first appeal, and substituting the Order of punishment, by a lesser punishment, without justifiable reason.
[Director General of Police, Railway Protection Force v. Rajendra Kumar Dubey, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 954, decided on 25.11.2020]
*Justice Indu Malhotra has penned this judgment