Chh HC | Degree of proof which is necessary to order conviction in a criminal case is different from degree of proof necessary to record commission of delinquency in a departmental proceeding

Chhattisgarh High Court

Chhattisgarh High Court: P. Sam Koshy J., dismissed the petition stating that no interference is required at this juncture keeping in mind the settled position of law.

The facts of the case are such that Petitioner was working with the Respondents as Minig Sirdar, Grade-3. An FIR was lodged against the Petitioner and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) registered a criminal case against him for the offence punishable under Sections 120-B, 420, 468, 471 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. IPC as well as under Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act i.e PCA and the Petitioner is being prosecuted before the Special Judge, CBI, Dhanbad. Meanwhile, the employer, i.e., the Respondents has initiated a departmental enquiry against the Petitioner which is under challenge in the present Writ Petition.

Counsel for the petitioners submitted that the witnesses in both the cases, i.e., the criminal case as also in the departmental enquiry, would be the same and in the event if the Petitioner is made to disclose his defence before the departmental authorities first, it may have an adverse bearing on the outcome of the criminal case wherein evidence would get adversely affected.

The court relied on judgment S. Sreesanth v. Board of Control for Cricket in India, 2019 (4) SCC 660 and Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited v. C. Nagaraju, 2019 (10) SCC 367 wherein it was held that “Acquittal by a criminal court would not debar an employer from exercising the power to conduct departmental proceedings in accordance with the rules and regulations. The two proceedings, criminal and departmental, are entirely different. They operate in different fields and have different objectives. In the disciplinary proceedings, the question is whether the Respondent is guilty of such conduct as would merit his removal from service or a lesser punishment, as the case may be, whereas in the criminal proceedings, the question is whether the offences registered against him under the PC Act are established, and if established, what sentence should be imposed upon him. The standard of proof, the mode of inquiry and the rules governing inquiry and trial in both the cases are significantly distinct and different. It is settled law that the acquittal by a Criminal Court does not preclude a Departmental Inquiry against the delinquent officer. The Disciplinary Authority is not bound by the judgment of the Criminal Court if the evidence that is produced in the Departmental Inquiry is different from that produced during the criminal trial. The object of a Departmental Inquiry is to find out whether the delinquent is guilty of misconduct under the conduct rules for the purpose of determining whether he should be continued in service. The standard of proof in a Departmental Inquiry is not strictly based on the rules of evidence. The order of dismissal which is based on the evidence before the Inquiry Officer in the disciplinary proceedings, which is different from the evidence available to the Criminal Court, is justified and needed no interference by the High Court.”

 In the case of Shashi Bhusan Prasad v. Inspector General, CISF, 2019 (7) SCC 797 wherein it was held that “19. We are in full agreement with the exposition of law laid down by this Court and it is fairly well settled that two proceedings criminal and departmental are entirely different. They operate in different fields and have different objectives. Whereas the object of criminal trial is to inflict appropriate punishment on an offender, the purpose of enquiry proceedings is to deal with the delinquent departmentally and to impose penalty in accordance with the service Rules. The degree of proof which is necessary to order a conviction is different from the degree of proof necessary to record the commission of delinquency. Even the rule relating to appreciation of evidence in the two proceedings is also not similar. In criminal law, burden of proof is on the prosecution and unless the prosecution is able to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt, he cannot be convicted by a Court of law whereas in the departmental enquiry, penalty can be imposed on the delinquent on a finding recorded on the basis of ‘preponderance of probability’. Acquittal by the Court of competent jurisdiction in a judicial proceeding does not ipso facto absolve the delinquent from the liability under the disciplinary jurisdiction of the authority. This what has been considered by the High Court in the impugned judgment in detail and needs no interference by this Court.

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  1. The judgment in G.M. Tank case (supra) on which the learned counsel for the appellant has placed reliance was a case where this Court had proceeded on the premise that the charges in the criminal case and departmental enquiry are grounded upon the same sets of facts and evidence. This may not be of any assistance to the appellant as we have observed that in the instant case the charge in the criminal case and departmental enquiry were different having no nexus/corelationship based on different sets of facts and evidence which has been independently enquired in the disciplinary proceedings and in a criminal trial and acquittal in the criminal proceedings would not absolve the appellant from the liability under the disciplinary proceedings instituted against him in which he had been held guilty and in sequel thereto punished with the penalty of dismissal from service.

 Based on facts, observations and authoritative judgments Court held that it would not be proper to exercise its extraordinary power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to interfere with the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the Petitioner.

In view of the above, petition was dismissed.[Prayag Prasad v. South Eastern Coal Fields Limited, 2020 SCC OnLine Chh 1449, decided on 24-11-2020]


Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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