calcutta high court

Calcutta High Court: In an appeal preferred against a judgment passed by the single-judge bench in a writ petition challenging the order of discharge, a division bench comprising of Partha Sarathi Chatterjee and Tapabrata Chakraborty,* JJ., while emphasising on the completeness of the appellant’s disclosure and the trivial nature of the charges against him, set aside the order of discharge and directed the appellant’s reinstatement within eight weeks.

Factual Matrix

In the instant matter, the appellant participated in a selection process for the position of Constable (Band) under the Railway Protection Force (RPF). He successfully completed basic training and was undergoing further professional training when he was abruptly discharged from training and served with an order of discharge dated 26-02-2021, alleging suppression of factual information in the attestation form dated 14-03-2020 regarding a pending criminal case against him and a self-declaration dated 31-12-2020. The appellant, through his legal advocate, sent a representation to the respondent 4 seeking reinstatement, explaining that he had made a bona fide mistake in not disclosing the particulars of the pending criminal case. The appellant filed a writ petition challenging an order of discharge dated 26-02-2021, passed by the respondent 4 but the same was dismissed vide order dated 19-09-2023 by the single-judge bench of this Court prompting the appellant to file the present appeal.

Parties’ Contentions

The appellant argued that there was a bona fide mistake in answering the questions in the attestation form and that the appellant did not suppress any material fact. It was contended that the appellant’s disclosure of the nature of the pending criminal case in the attestation form should have been considered by the respondent before discharging him. It was argued that the respondent 4 erred in relying on a declaration made after the attestation form was filled without considering the contents of the form itself.

The respondent argued that strict norms are necessary in a discipline force like the RPF and that candidates must have impeccable character. It was contended that the appellant’s failure to disclose the full particulars of the pending criminal case amounted to deliberate suppression of material fact. The respondent contended that the discharge was justified under Rule 67.2 of the Railway Protection Force Rules, 1987. The respondent asserted that the appellant’s misleading and false statements in the attestation form disqualified him from equitable relief.

Court’s Analysis

The Court noted that the term ‘serious crime’ connotes a crime beyond the ordinary, inviting a more serious major punishment than what may be given in the case of a minor omission. An act which could be viewed as a ‘serious crime’ may take within its comprehension acts of moral turpitude, corruption, or misappropriation. The Court analysed the gravity and nature of the alleged offense against the appellant under Sections 498A/323/34 of the IPC and deemed the same as trivial, with no specific overt act attributed to him. The Court held that the alleged offense against the appellant was not a “serious crime” warranting his discharge. The Court referred to Avtar Singh v. Union of India, (2016) 8 SCC 471, and observed that in respect of offenses trivial in nature, the employer is under an obligation to consider as to whether the suppression of fact or false information can be condoned. The Court noted that, in the present case, there was no consideration to the appellant’s claim, but the same was mechanical rejected without considering the circumstances.

The Court noted that, the appellant disclosed that a criminal case was pending against him in the attestation form where he mistakenly answered clause 15 (i) as ‘No’ and omitted to disclose its registration number but in clause 15 (ii) as regards the nature of the case, stated that ‘the troubles of my family have been falsified and I am innocent. Case pending’. After analysing clause 15, the Court noted that ‘full particulars’ were sought for in respect of separate and specific eventualities and all the said eventualities are separated by a slash mark. The Court noted that “A mark ‘/’ (slash) is used typically to denote ‘or’. The requirement is thus to give the particulars of any one of the eventualities. Having stated the nature of the case pending, the appellant has given a complete answer to the question. Non-disclosure of the number of the criminal case can at best be an omission but cannot be construed to be an act of deliberate suppression of factual information or any false information.”

The Court opined that the appellant had disclosed the nature of the pending criminal case in the attestation form, fulfilling the requirement of providing “full particulars”. The Court found that the appellant’s failure to provide the registration number of the case and his erroneous response to one question did not amount to deliberate suppression or fraud.

“The failure to furnish the registration number of the criminal case and an error in answering clause 15 (i) (c) were also not backed with any dishonest motive and as such the order of discharge suffers from the vice of arbitrariness and the refusal of the respondent no.4 in exercising discretion in favour of the appellant cannot be construed as reasonable.”

Court’s Decision

The Court set aside the order of discharge and directed the appellant’s reinstatement in service as a Constable (Band) with the Railway Protection Force within eight weeks. No costs are awarded.

[Partha Biswas v. Union of India, 2024 SCC OnLine Cal 1457, order dated 13-02-2024]

*Judgment by Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Pritam Chowdhury and Mr. Dipankar Saha, Counsel for the Appellant

Mr. Saikat Basu and Ms. Ananya Adhikary, Counsel for the Respondents

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