Rajasthan High Court: In a case wherein, the petitioner had challenged the orders dated 17-02-2011 and 08-11-2011, Anoop Kumar Dhand, J.* opined that the impugned orders dated 17-02-2011 and 08-11-2011 passed by the Disciplinary and Appellate authority, respectively, revealed that these orders were totally non-speaking orders and accordingly, aside the impugned orders and granted liberty to the respondents to hold fresh enquiry against the petitioner in accordance with the law.
In the instant case, the charge-sheet was filed against the petitioner under Rule 17 of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeals) Rules, 1958 (‘1958 Rules’). It was stated that on 17-12-2010, the petitioner was in the drunken state and due to his imbalance, he sustained certain injuries for which he was medically examined. He was also found in the drunken state wandering around quarters of the police line.
However, the petitioner submitted that a detailed reply to the charge-sheet, wherein he stated that on that day, he was not on duty and was suffering from mental illness, for which he took medicine and due to the reaction of the said medicine, he fell down on the road and sustained injuries.
However, vide order dated 17-02-2011, the petitioner was found guilty and was punished with the penalty of withholding one annual increment without cumulative effect. Further, the petitioner filed an appeal, which was dismissed vide order dated 08-11-2011.
Thus, the petitioner filed the present petition to set aside the orders dated 17-02-2011 and 08-11-2011.
The issue for consideration before the Court was whether the punishment order against an employee must provide the reasons or recording one line conclusion was enough to punish him for the alleged misconduct.
Analysis, Law, and Decision
The Court opined that the perusal of Rule 14 of the 1958 Rules indicated that wide discretionary powers had been bestowed on the Disciplinary Authority to punish the delinquent employees. Such discretion of the punishing authority should be sound, legal, regular, guided by law and must not be arbitrary, vague and forceful. Further, the Rule 14 of 1958 provided that ‘good and sufficient reasons’ should be recorded on the basis of which penalty had been imposed and if the person was aggrieved by the punishment order, appeal could be filed under Rule 30 of 1958 Rules. The Court upon perusal of the Rules, opined that the Discipline Authority and the Appellate Authority must consider that the penalty order must contain ‘good and sufficient reasons’.
The Court opined that there was no doubt that the Enquiry Officer was not duty bound by the strict rules of evidence, but the report of the Enquiry Officer must be a reasoned one and failure to do so rendered the punishment order illegal.
The Court opined that the punishment order passed in quasi-judicial proceedings must contain some reasons and mere recording of conclusions was not sufficient for compliance of principles of natural justice and Rule 14 of 1958 Rules. Further, the punishment order must contain reasons which could show the application of mind and disclose mental application of the competent authority.
The Court noted that prior to passing the order dated 17-02-2011, a preliminary enquiry was conducted and it was concluded that the petitioner was not on duty on 17-12-2010 and he suffered from mental disease and was under treatment, hence he used to walk around in the night. The petitioner submitted a detailed reply with the charge-sheet but without considering the petitioner’s defence and preliminary enquiry report, the penalty order was passed against the petitioner without recording the good and sufficient reasons.
The Court opined that the impugned order did not disclose the reason which could disclose the mental application of mind. Thus, the impugned order was not a speaking order and no reasons had been assigned in it. No finding was recorded by the Disciplinary Authority that the petitioner was found in the drunken condition. Similarly, the order dated 08-11-2011, passed by the Appellate Authority was also not a speaking order, as no reasons were assigned in it. Thus, the Court opined that the Appellate Authority had not acted in accordance with the provisions contained under Rule 30 of the 1958 Rules.
The Court opined that if the respondents believed that the petitioner had acted in violation of Rule 26 of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1971 (‘1971 Rules’), they could have recorded such finding in the impugned order. But, in the instant case, no such findings were recorded. Thus, the Court opined that the enquiry so conducted was not in consonance with the procedure laid down in 1958 Rules.
The Court relied on S.N. Mukherjee v. Union of India (1990) 4 SCC 594, and set aside the orders dated 17-02-2011 and 08-11-2011, and granted liberty to the respondents to hold fresh enquiry against the petitioner in accordance with the law within six months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order.
[Jasram Jat v. Rajasthan Police, 2023 SCC OnLine Raj 2509, decided on 11-10-2023]
*Judgment authored by- Justice Anoop Kumar Dhand
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: J.P. Goyal, Senior Advocate with Jyoti Swami;
For the Respondents: P.S Naruka for Rupin Kala, Advocates