Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a petition filed by Naveen Arora, a judicial officer with the Delhi Higher Judiciary Service challenging the imposition of the major penalty of dismissal from service with immediate effect in view of the Inquiry Report dated 28-06-2021 and the decision of the Full Bench of the Delhi High Court dated 26-10-2021 dismissing him from service and the subsequent order dated 23-11-2021 issued by the Office of the Principal District & Sessions, a Division Bench of Manmohan and Saurabh Banerjee, JJ., upheld the termination order refusing the relief of reinstatement with complete exoneration, arrears along with other consequential benefits of continuity of service.

The petitioner while serving as a judicial officer, in February 2016, after requisite permission for travelling abroad along with his family members which was thereby granted. However, upon return in June 2016, he submitted documents to the High Court, noticing a few discrepancies regarding the hotel bookings abroad made by an unknown person, the High Court called for an explanation from the petitioner. Being unsatisfied, the High Court issued a Memorandum containing the ‘Statement of Article of Charge’. The Inquiry officer was appointed who later dismissed the petitioner from service being found him guilty.

The Court noted that on perusal of the prayer clause, the petitioner is essentially seeking a judicial review of all the aforesaid impugned Orders. Thus, the issue under consideration is whether the petitioner has questioned or raised any doubts regarding first, the appointment/ constitution of the Officer, and/ or second, the manner of the proceedings conducted by the Officer, and/ or third, the decision-making process followed by the Officer.

The Court further noted that on perusal of the record, it is revealed that the petitioner was found lacking in giving a material response to the repeated queries put by the High Court since the very inception. The payment for the hotel bookings was made by a ‘stranger’ whose name/ details could have been made available by the petitioner even before advancing for the trip abroad is not in doubt. There were no compelling circumstances for not doing so. Further, the relationship of the petitioner, his wife and his younger brother, and friend/ client and the ‘stranger’ is unclear. Also, strangely no online hotel bookings were made by the petitioner or anyone from his side, even though his younger brother belonged to the IT industry.

The Court observed that the present is not a case of no evidence or perverse findings or that the findings arrived at by the Officer shock the conscience of the Court or such where there have been any procedural irregularities. On the contrary, the conclusion arrived at, by the Officer is well-reasoned and well-supported, and plausible in the eyes of the law. There is no fault therein.

Thus, the Court held that the present petition does not call for any kind of interference by this Court under Article 226 as the scope of interference itself in a petition challenging/ questioning/ raising doubt over the order passed by the Officer and the other impugned order(s) is extremely limited and is only permissible in rare cases.

[Naveen Arora v High Court of Delhi, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 1762, decided on 23-03-2023]

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Mukul Talwar, Sr. Advocate with Mr. Ankur Chhibber, Mr. Rajesh Sachdeva, Ms.Shobha Gupta, Mr. Vineet Budhiraja, Mr. Vivek Singh and Mr. Apurva, Advocates for the Petitioner;

Mr. Rajat Aneja and Ms. Aditi Shastri, Advocates for the Respondent.

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