Case BriefsHigh Courts

Calcutta High Court: Rajasekhar Mantha, J. while adjudicating a case involving serious offences under Section 365, 354B and other provisions of IPC directed the Director General of Police, West Bengal to initiate appropriate departmental proceeding against the ASI, Arnab Chakraborty and any other person that he may feel was responsible for misleading the Court further handing over the investigation to CID, West Bengal.

The Court took on record the report filed by the Additional Superintendent of Police as on 19-04-2022 wherein the lapses on the investigation were admitted. it was further noticeable from the records that there were large number of other lapses which had not been addressed. The Court further posed the question as to why the Superintendent of Police had not signed the report himself. The Court was highly dissatisfied with the punishment of “Censure” on the Investigating Officer, ASI, Arnab Chakraborty imposed by the appointing authority. The above report also revealed that he was recently promoted from Constable to ASI and entrusted investigation.

The Court believed that the entire file as regards the conduct of the investigation by ASI, Arnab Chakraborty must be looked into by a higher authority. The Court directed that a copy of the writ petition by the Counsel for the petitioner shall be transmitted to the DGP along with the report of the Inspector-in-charge, Superintendent of Police dated 19-04-2022.

Finding the investigation of the instant case perfunctory the Court handed over the investigation to CID for an independent investigation. Further matter was adjourned for hearing on 07-06-2022 where DGP’s report would be taken on record.[Madhu Singh v. State of West Bengal,  2022 SCC OnLine Cal 895, decided on 26-04-2022]

Mr Soumya Majumder, Mr Ravi Kumar Dubey: For the petitioner.

Mr Samrat Sen, AAAG, Ms Manali Ali: For the State

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madhya Pradesh High Court: Atul Sreedharan, J. decided on a petition which was filed by the petitioner who was aggrieved by the departmental proceedings against him on the identical charges by the CBI in the criminal case.

The case is one where the petitioner was allegedly apprehended red-hand taking bribe for the clearance of bills of complainant M/s. Sandeep Kapoor Security Agency.

Counsel for the petitioner contended that illegal gratification demanded and received from Sandeep Kapoor was identical to that of article of Charge No.1. The second ground taken by him was that the departmental charge-sheet, which has been served upon him, had been prepared on the basis of a vigilance report whereby those who carried out the vigilance investigation were junior in rank to the petitioner which was impermissible.

Counsel for the respondent submitted that the witnesses and the charge in the CBI charge-sheet were not identical to that of Article 1 in the charge-sheet initiating departmental enquiry.

The Court referred to the judgment of the Supreme Court in Capt. M. Paul Anthony v. Bharat Gold Mines Ltd., (1999) 3 SCC 679 wherein it was held that departmental proceedings and proceedings in a criminal case can proceed simultaneously as there is no bar. It also held that if the departmental proceedings and the criminal case are based on identical and similar set of facts and the charge in criminal case against a delinquent employee is of a grave nature, which involves complicated questions of law and fact, it is desirable to stay the departmental proceedings till conclusion of the criminal case. It also held that the question whether the nature of the charge in a criminal case is grave involving complicated questions of fact and law, will depend upon the nature of the offence, the nature of the case against the employee, based upon evidence and material collected against him during investigation or as reflected in the charge-sheet.

The Court noted that in the instant case charge against the petitioner is under section 120-B read with section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The offence under section 7 is far more complexed in nature than the offences pointed out in the orders of the co-ordinate Benches, which refused to stay the proceedings of the departmental enquiry during the pendency of the criminal trial. The Court was of the view that under such circumstances law laid down in Capt. M. Paul Anthony will squarely apply in the facts and circumstances of this case and, therefore, the department was prohibited from proceedings against the petitioner as far as Article-1 of the departmental charge-sheet is concerned. The department, however, is at liberty to proceed with Article No.2 of the chargesheet which had no relevance, commonality or intended purpose to allegations in the charge sheet against the petitioner before the court trying the criminal case.[Harish Chandra Hinunia v. FCI, Writ Petition No. 453 of 2022, decided on 07-02-2022]

For the petitioner: Mr Sanjay Agrawal

For the respondent: Mr Mukesh Kumar Agrawal

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Explaining the difference between the degree of proof in a criminal proceedings and departmental proceedings, the bench of Hemant Gupta* and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ has held that the burden of proof in the departmental proceedings is not of beyond reasonable doubt as is the principle in the criminal trial but probabilities of the misconduct.

Here’s the elaborate law laid down by the Supreme Court in this point:

State of Haryana v. Rattan Singh, (1977) 2 SCC 491

In a domestic enquiry the strict and sophisticated rules of evidence under the Indian Evidence Act may not apply. All materials which are logically probative for a prudent mind are permissible. There is no allergy to hearsay evidence provided it has reasonable nexus and credibility.

“It is true that departmental authorities and Administrative Tribunals must be careful in evaluating such material and should not glibly swallow what is strictly speaking not relevant under the Indian Evidence Act. (…) The simple point is, was there some evidence or was there no evidence — not in the sense of the technical rules governing regular court proceedings but in a fair commonsense way as men of understanding and worldly wisdom will accept. Viewed in this way, sufficiency of evidence in proof of the finding by a domestic tribunal is beyond scrutiny.”

Union of India v. P. Gunasekaran, (2015) 2 SCC 610

“In disciplinary proceedings, the High Court is not and cannot act as a second court of first appeal.”

The High Court, in exercise of its powers under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India, shall not venture into reappreciation of the evidence. The High Court can only see whether:

(a) the enquiry is held by a competent authority;

(b) the enquiry is held according to the procedure prescribed in that behalf;

(c) there is violation of the principles of natural justice in conducting the proceedings;

(d) the authorities have disabled themselves from reaching a fair conclusion by some considerations extraneous to the evidence and merits of the case;

(e) the authorities have allowed themselves to be influenced by irrelevant or extraneous considerations;

(f) the conclusion, on the very face of it, is so wholly arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person could ever have arrived at such conclusion;

(g) the disciplinary authority had erroneously failed to admit the admissible and material evidence;

(h) the disciplinary authority had erroneously admitted inadmissible evidence which influenced the finding;

(i) the finding of fact is based on no evidence.

Under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution of India, the High Court shall not:

  • reappreciate the evidence;
  • interfere with the conclusions in the enquiry, in case the same has been conducted in accordance with law;
  • go into the adequacy of the evidence;
  • go into the reliability of the evidence;
  • interfere, if there be some legal evidence on which findings can be based.
  • correct the error of fact however grave it may appear to be;
  • go into the proportionality of punishment unless it shocks its conscience.

Ajit Kumar Nag v. General Manager (PJ), Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd., (2005) 7 SCC 764

  • 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. In a departmental enquiry, on the other hand, penalty can be imposed on the delinquent officer on a finding recorded on the basis of “preponderance of probability”.
  • Acquittal by a criminal court would not debar an employer from exercising power in accordance with the Rules and Regulations in force. The 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 the offender, the purpose of enquiry proceedings is to deal with the delinquent departmentally and to impose penalty in accordance with the service rules.
  • In a criminal trial, incriminating statement made by the accused in certain circumstances or before certain officers is totally inadmissible in evidence. Such strict rules of evidence and procedure would not apply to departmental proceedings.

Noida Entrepreneurs Association v. NOIDA, (2007) 10 SCC 385

The criminal prosecution is launched for an offence for violation of a duty, the offender owes to the society or for breach of which law has provided that the offender shall make satisfaction to the public, whereas, the departmental inquiry is to maintain discipline in the service and efficiency of public service.

[Union of India v. Dalbir Singh, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 768, decided on 21.09.2021]

*Judgment by: Justice Hemant Gupta

Know Thy Judge| Justice Hemant Gupta

Case BriefsHigh Courts

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.


  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

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Sudhanshu Dhulia and Alok Kumar Verma, JJ., dismissed a writ petition which was filed in the nature of certiorari and mandamus for quashing of certain orders passed by the enquiry officer and with a prayer to change the enquiry officer on grounds of bias.

The petitioner who is a judicial officer is facing departmental proceedings before an Enquiry Officer, who is a sitting Judge of this Court. By the means of the petition he had challenged the charge-sheet which has been filed against him, the second challenge was regarding the order dated 01-10-2020, by which the defence of the Delinquent Officer has been closed by the Enquiry Officer as he was not prepared to place his defence on the date fixed and sought an adjournment and the third challenge being to change of the Enquiry Officer. A complaint was filed against the petitioner by a IV class employee alleging that the petitioner made an attempt to sodomise him which led to departmental proceeding against him. The counsel for the petitioner, P.S. Patwalia submitted that he was not pressing his challenge to the charge- sheet but liberty may be given to the petitioner to challenge the same, in case the occasion so arises. He further submitted that the Committee, constituted by the Full Court also had the present Enquiry Officer as its member and therefore the Enquiry Officer was biased against him, since he recommended for a full Departmental proceeding due to which petitioner moved an application to change the Enquiry Officer which was rejected by the Chief Justice. He further that five applications of the petitioner, including the application for recusal were rejected by the Enquiry Officer and this shows that the Enquiry Officer is biased against the petitioner.

The Court held that it would not be proper to change the Enquiry Officer at that stage of the inquiry. The Court quoted the observations of the Division Bench of this Court about the change of Enquiry Officer in Writ Petition (S/B) No. 442 of 2019, where the earlier petition of the petitioner (which was primarily for seeking a writ of certiorari to quash the order passed by the Enquiry Officer dated 23-08-2019), was dismissed on 25-09-2019,

“28. Since the claim of the petitioner that he has suffered prejudice on the failure of the Enquiry Officer to defer cross-examination of PW2 is required to be examined by the Disciplinary Authority in the first instance after completion of the inquiry, and as this Court would ordinarily not interfere with the inquiry proceedings at an interlocutory stage, we see no reason to entertain this Writ Petition. While declaring the law in this regard on whether or not prejudice is suffered on the failure of the Enquiry Officer to defer cross-examination of a witness, suffice it to make it clear that it is open to the petitioner on completion of the inquiry, and on his being afforded an opportunity to put forth his objections to the inquiry report, to also raise this contention of having suffered prejudice, on the failure of the Enquiry Officer to defer cross-examination of PW2. We have no reason to doubt that, on any such objection being raised, the Disciplinary Authority would consider such contentions uninfluenced by any observations made in this order.”

The Court while dismissing the petition stated that after perusal of records they find that Enquiry Officer has shown a lenient approach in giving opportunity to the petitioner, considering the numbers of adjournments granted to the petitioner. The Court further added that they have no doubt as to any question of bias as alleged, nor do they feel that any principles of natural justice and fair play will be violated if the learned Enquiry Officer continues to hear the matter.[Kanwar Amninder Singh v. High Court of Uttaranchal, 2020 SCC OnLine Utt 722, decided on 31-10-2020]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. DY Chandrachud and Indira Banerjee, JJ has held that the conclusion of the criminal trial does not conclude the disciplinary enquiry.

Background of the case

A police constable, who was tried and acquitted in a murder case, had challenged his dismissal from service after a disciplinary enquiry. The Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court granted the respondent reinstatement in service with no back wages for the seventeen years that elapsed since his termination. The State had, hence, challenged the reinstatement before the Supreme Court.

  • On 13 August 2002, the respondent proceeded on leave and had to report back on duty on 16 August 2002. He failed to do so and eventually reported for work on 19 August 2020.
  • On 15 August 2002, one Daulat Singh lodged a written complaint in relation to the death of his brother Bhanwar Singh, caused by an accident with an unknown vehicle. However, it appeared during the course of the investigation that the death was homicidal. The respondent, along with 2 co-accused was arrested on 9 September 2002.
  • The respondent was tried for the offence of murder and was acquitted by the Sessions Court on 8 October 2003.
  • Departmental proceedings were also initiated against the respondent wherein the charges that were leveled against the respondent were:
    • Over-staying leave by a period of three days beyond the leave that was sanctioned;
    • Not seeking an extension of leave from the superior officer;
    • Involvement in the murder of Bhanwar Singh (the respondent was alleged to have run away from the scene of offence and tried to give it the colour of an accident);
    • Getting additional leave sanctioned by suppressing the correct reason on a misrepresentation to the superior officer; and
    • Conduct which has hurt the image of the police department.
  • In the finding of the Disciplinary enquiry it was noticed that the Court had not completely acquitted the said constable rather acquitted by giving him the benefit of doubt.

“From this it is clear that the Hon’ble Court has not acquitted charged constable in free form. Thus, I found said charge as completely proved due to which the image of police has blurred.”

What the Supreme Court said

On effect of acquittal in criminal trial on disciplinary proceedings

Though the acquittal brought finality to the question as to whether he had committed the offence of murder punishable under the Penal Code, however, the disciplinary enquiry stood on a broader footing. The disciplinary proceedings related not merely to the involvement of the respondent in the murder, but to the violation of service rules and the impact of his conduct on the image of the police force. Hence, the verdict of the criminal trial did not conclude the disciplinary enquiry.

Noticing that the disciplinary enquiry was not governed by proof beyond reasonable doubt or by the rules of evidence which governed the criminal trial, the Court said,

“True, even on the more relaxed standard which governs a disciplinary enquiry, evidence of the involvement of the respondent in a conspiracy involving the death of Bhanwar Singh would be difficult to prove. But there are circumstances emerging from the record of the disciplinary proceedings which bring legitimacy to the contention of the State that to reinstate such an employee back in service will erode the credibility of and public confidence in the image of the police force.”

On proof of misconduct in disciplinary proceedings

The standard of standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings is different from that in a criminal trial

In Suresh Pathrella v. Oriental Bank of Commerce, (2006) 10 SCC 572, a two judge Bench differentiated between the standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings and criminal trials in the following terms:

“ …the yardstick and standard of proof in a criminal case is different from the disciplinary proceeding. While the standard of proof in a criminal case is a proof beyond all reasonable doubt, the proof in a departmental proceeding is preponderance of probabilities.”

Further, the involvement of a member of the police service in a heinous crime, if established, has a direct bearing on the confidence of society in the police and in this case, on his ability to serve as a member of the force. Such an individual is engaged by the State as a part of the machinery designed to preserve law and order. The State can legitimately assert that it is entitled to proceed against an employee in the position of the respondent in the exercise of its disciplinary jurisdiction, for a breach of the standard of conduct which is expected of a member of the state police service.

“Confidence of the State in the conduct and behaviour of persons it has appointed to the police is integral to its duty to maintain law and order.”

On judicial review over disciplinary matters

In exercising judicial review in disciplinary matters, there are two ends of the spectrum. The first embodies a rule of restraint. The second defines when interference is permissible.

Rule of restraint:

“The determination of whether a misconduct has been committed lies primarily within the domain of the disciplinary authority. The judge does not assume the mantle of the disciplinary authority. Nor does the judge wear the hat of an employer.”

Deference to a finding of fact by the disciplinary authority is a recognition of the idea that it is the employer who is responsible for the efficient conduct of their service. Disciplinary enquiries have to abide by the rules of natural justice. But they are not governed by strict rules of evidence which apply to judicial proceedings. The standard of proof is hence not the strict standard which governs a criminal trial, of proof beyond reasonable doubt, but a civil standard governed by a preponderance of probabilities. Within the rule of preponderance, there are varying approaches based on context and subject. The first end of the spectrum is founded on deference and autonomy – deference to the position of the disciplinary authority as a fact finding authority and autonomy of the employer in maintaining discipline and efficiency of the service.

Interference when permissible

“The ultimate guide is the exercise of robust common sense without which the judges’ craft is in vain.”

At the other end of the spectrum is the principle that the court has the jurisdiction to interfere when the findings in the enquiry are based on no evidence or when they suffer from perversity. A failure to consider vital evidence is an incident of what the law regards as a perverse determination of fact. Proportionality is an entrenched feature of our jurisprudence. Service jurisprudence has recognized it for long years in allowing for the authority of the court to interfere when the finding or the penalty are disproportionate to the weight of the evidence or misconduct.

Judicial craft lies in maintaining a steady sail between the banks of these two shores which have been termed as the two ends of the spectrum. Judges do not rest with a mere recitation of the hands-off mantra when they exercise judicial review. To determine whether the finding in a disciplinary enquiry is based on some evidence an initial or threshold level of scrutiny is undertaken. That is to satisfy the conscience of the court that there is some evidence to support the charge of misconduct and to guard against perversity. But this does not allow the court to re-appreciate evidentiary findings in a disciplinary enquiry or to substitute a view which appears to the judge to be more appropriate. To do so would offend the first principle i.e. the rule of restraint.

[State of Rajasthan v. Heem Singh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 886, decided on 29.10.2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Madras High Court: RMT. Teeka Raman, J., while addressing a petition observed that,

“A plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in departmental proceedings initiated for the misconduct of bigamy under Service Rules/Conduct Rules.”

The instant petition was sought to set aside the punishment order imposed in proceedings under Rule 3(b) Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955.

Petitioner, during his service, married a staff nurse and has two children. Later, in 2007, the petitioner during his service married a Woman Sub Inspector of Police and had two children with her as well.

Grave Misconduct

Petitioner’s grave misconduct was having married Woman Sub Inspector of Police while his first wife was living with two children and thereby violating Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officer’s Conduct Rules, 1964.

Charge Memo

In view of the above-stated act, a charge memo was issued under Rule 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (D&A) Rules, 1955.

The Oral Enquiry Officer held the charge against the petitioner.

Deputy Inspector General of Police also arrived at the conclusion that the petitioner violated Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules, 1964 and awarded the petitioner a punishment of “Reduction in rank by the stage from the post of Head Constable to Gr.I PC for a period of two years to be spent on duty from the date of receipt of the order”.

Senior Counsel, Veera Kathiravan submitted that there was a customary divorce between the petitioner and his first wife and subsequently the petitioner married the widow Woman Sub-Inspector of Police and hence he did not violate any rules.

Analysis & Decision

Crux of the charge framed against the petitioner was that the delinquent was reprehensible conduct in having married the Woman Sub-Inspector of Police when his first wife was living and thereby violating the Rule 23(1)(b) of the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Police Officers’ Conduct Rules 1964 and tarnished the image of Police Force.

Hindu Marriage Act

Bench stated that after the coming into force of the Hindu Marriage Act, 1955, an end to marriage can be sought by either obtaining a declaration that the marriage between them was a nullity on the grounds specified in Section II or to dissolve the marriage between them on any of the grounds mentioned in Section 13 of the Act. While, Section 29 of the Act saves the rights recognized by custom or conferred by special enactment to obtain the dissolution of marriage, whether solemnized before or after the commencement of the Act.

Authorities have established that the prevalence of customary divorce in the community to which parties belong, contrary to the general law of divorce must be specifically pleaded and established by the person propounding such custom.

Core question to be decided in the present matter was whether the plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in the departmental proceedings initiated for action of bigamy as defined in Section 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Rules?

Bench noted the statement of the first wife that due to misunderstandings between the couple, as per the custom prevailing in the community, there was a customary divorce.

Customary Divorce

Hence, the plea raised by the delinquent about the prevalence of customary divorce in their community which was pleaded by the petitioner and the same was accepted by none other than the first wife herself only after the dissolution of the first marriage, he contracted the second marriage.

Court concluded its decision as follows:

  • Disciplinary Proceedings can be initiated even if the second marriage is contracted with the knowledge of the first wife so also even if the first wife does not prosecute the husband for the same and hence the complaint given by the third party alleging contract of the second marriage, departmental proceedings can still be maintainable.
  • A plea of customary divorce is a valid defence in departmental proceedings initiated for the misconduct of bigamy under Service Rules/Conduct Rules.
  • To substantiate plea of customary divorce a specific plea has to be raised in the statement of defence by the delinquent officer and has to be proved on up to the decree of the preponderance of probability and execution of the customary divorce as projected by the delinquent.

Hence, in view of the above, the petition was allowed and the punishment was set aside. [Sudalaimai v. Deputy Inspector General of Police, WP (MD) No. 17504 of 2014, decided on 09-09-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Sanjay Kumar Dwivedi, J. dismissed the petition and no relief given to the petitioners.

The facts of the case are that the petitioners herein were appointed by Jharkhand Staff Selection Commission on the post of constable after clearing the preliminary exam, mains exam, interview and medical examination pursuant to which all were declared successful. The appointment letters were issued and the training was given and completed. However, they were dismissed from service vide order dated 03.07.2018, 27.07.2018 and 01.08.2018. Pursuant to the order of the High Court dated 11.08.2017 medical board was reconstituted and the petitioners appeared for the examination and were declared to be unfit. Hence the instant writ petitions were filed seeking quashing of the dismissal orders as aforementioned.

Counsel Anil Kumar Sinha, Abhishek Sinha, Ranjan Pd. Ram, A.K. Sahani and Piyush Chitresh represented the petitioners. It was submitted that the petitioners have been dismissed from service without any departmental proceeding or any show-cause notice in spite of the petitioners having completed their training post-appointment order. Hence in absence of show cause and without following the principles of natural justice the impugned orders are not tenable and are fit to be quashed by this Court.

Counsel for the respondent, Sanjoy Piprawal, Manoj Kumar, P.A.S. Pati, and Rohan Kashyap submitted that if the petitioners in the present case were aggrieved by the decision to hold a fresh process, they did not espouse their remedy. Instead, they participated in the fresh process of selection and it was only upon being unsuccessful that they challenged the result in the writ petition. This was clearly not open to the appellants. The principle of estoppel would operate.

Court relied on a judgment titled Ashok Kumar v. State of Bihar, (2017) 4 SCC 357 and held that it is a well-settled proposition of law that once a person participated in the proceeding, they are not allowed to challenge the same.  He further observed that if the petitioners were aggrieved by the decision to hold a fresh medical examination they were bound to explore the remedy in the law instead they participated in the fresh process of selection and upon being unsuccessful and dismissal they challenged in these writ petitions. This was clearly not open to the petitioners.  The principles of estoppel would operate.

In view of the above, the petition stands dismissed and disposed of.[Santosh Kumar v. State of Jharkhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 737, decided on 05-08-2020]

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Dr S.N. Pathak, J. dismissed the instant writ petition being devoid of merit.

The brief facts of the case are that the petitioner was appointed as an Assistant Teacher by the State Government in 1994 on qualifying BPSC exam for the same post. After a long service, he was given the charge of Headmaster in Upgraded Middle School, Khudgadda in Bokaro where he was performing his duties honestly and diligently. However, on 07.06.2010 an inspection was held in the petitioner’s school by the Block Development Officer, Gomiya on the basis of complain made by Gomiya Block President of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha on grounds of irregularity in civil work, irregularity in Mid-Day-Meal Scheme, and non-providing of the equipments of sports and instruments of music to the students under ‘Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan’, consequent to which DSE, Bokaro passed an order of suspension. However, the DSE, Bokaro, revoked suspension order and passed punishment order. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner filed a Service Appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, North Chhotanagpur Division, Hazaribag , but the same was dismissed. Hence, the instant writ petition.

The counsel for the petitioner, Bhawesh Kumar placed reliance on Supreme Court’s decision in, M.V. Bijlani v. Union of India, (2006) 5 SCC 88 and submitted that the act of the respondents was beyond their jurisdiction and politically motivated as no opportunity of hearing was given to the petitioner, neither any explanation nor any show cause notice was issued to him, which amounts to violation of principles of natural justice. He further submitted that construction of building is under taken by the school committee constituted for this purpose under supervision of an engineer and there is no misappropriation by the petitioner.

The counsel for the respondents, Brij Bihari Sinha opposed and submitted that in response to charges, petitioner filed a show cause, which was not found satisfactory and a detailed enquiry was held and the petitioner was found guilty of the charges. Considering the enquiry report and other relevant facts, the DEO passed the order of minor punishment and as such, there is no illegality in the impugned order.

The Court relying on the judgment State of Bihar v. Phulpari Kumari held that the petitioner has been found guilty due to lack of evidence proving otherwise as there was no procedural laches in the proceedings rather a full-fledged enquiry was conducted following the provisions of natural justice and an ample opportunity was given to the petitioner. It was further observed that interference with orders passed pursuant to departmental enquiry can only be in case of ‘no evidence’; sufficiency of evidence not being within realm of judicial review.[Vinod Kumar Prasad v. State of Jharkhand,  2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 278, decided on 06-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Anubha Rawat Choudhary, J., dismissed the criminal petition seeking exoneration from criminal proceedings.

In the present case, the petitioner was caught red-handed with bribe money. The petitioner herein seeks to quash all the criminal proceedings in connection with Vigilance Case No. 39/2017 arising out of A.C.B. P.S. Case No. 06/2016 lodged under Section 7/13(2) read with Section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The advocate representing the petitioner, Mahesh Tewari, submitted that the petitioner has already been exonerated in the departmental proceedings on the same set of allegations. The advocate also relied on judgments passed by the Supreme Court and submitted that considering the aforesaid judgments, the entire criminal proceeding against the petitioner is fit to be set aside.

The advocate for the State,  T. N. Verma contended that the petitioner was caught red-handed with bribe money of Rs 4,500 and the present criminal case arises out of a trap case. The advocate further contended that the allegation in contention in with the departmental proceeding has nothing to do with the trap case and the judgments relied upon by the petitioner, P.S. Rajya v. State of Bihar, (1996) 9 SCC 1  and Lokesh Kumar Jain v. State of Rajasthan, (2013) 11 SCC 130 does not relate to the facts and circumstances of the instant case.

The Court upon perusal of the circumstances and materials placed on record stated that the allegation levelled against the petitioner in the criminal proceeding has nothing to do with any departmental proceedings and also the allegation regarding the trap case has nothing to do with the departmental proceedings.

The Court also stated that the judgments relied upon by the petitioner will not be applicable to the present case since in P.S. Rajya v. State of Bihar, (1996) 9 SCC 1  there was no dispute that the allegation which was there in the departmental proceeding was identical with that of the criminal case and in Lokesh Kumar Jain v. State of Rajasthan, (2013) 11 SCC 130 the petitioner was exonerated in the departmental proceeding and in the criminal case, the records were not available due to which the investigation was delayed and there was no likelihood of tracing out the records and considering the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, the Supreme Court had quashed the criminal proceeding against the accused of the said case. [Lal Babu v. State of Jharkhand, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 195, decided on 17-02-2020]

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Orissa High Court: Biswanath Rath, J. dismissed the writ petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India seeking the quashing of the order whereby the petitioner herein was punished for discharging his duty dishonestly and also sought reinstatement of the petitioner in his service with all the consequential benefits.

In the instant case, the petitioner who was the Branch Manager in State Bank of Hyderabad GCP, Bhubaneswar Branch was handed a charge memo with allegations of his failure of discharging his duty with good faith. Further, an enquiry officer was appointed by the Disciplinary Authority (General Manager) to look into the matter. Subsequently, the petitioner denied the aforesaid allegations and finding it to be against natural justice filed the present writ petition.

B. Tripathy, the counsel for the petitioner, pleaded that the enquiry report thereafter provided without informing the petitioner suffered on account of non-supply of document applied for. It did not provide the opportunity of examination of the witnesses of the petitioner and of himself. There was no opportunity to show cause before the imposition of punishment of penalty of compulsory retirement. Appeal was not considered on the grounds raised. Further, the procedure followed by the enquiry officer was also unknown to law. Moreover, the General Manager had no authority to impose punishment merely on the basis of the above-said report and thus the counsel requested for the impugned order of punishment to be nullified to restore the petitioner’s original position.

However, the counsel for the respondent, S. P. Das contended that the petitioner was given the first chargesheet after finding a series of irregularities in his work examined by the Assistant general manager himself. He was also asked to file a show cause thereof. He was given a reasonable time of fifteen days and also an extension of another fifteen days on request. But finding his response unsatisfactory, order for the departmental enquiry was made. Also, the petitioner was given sufficient time to verify his records in the branch office so his claim of non-supply of documents was also false. Further, the benefit of the doubt given by the CBI(Central Bureau of Investigation) Court to the petitioner did not have any bearing on the enquiry. In the context of presenting witnesses, the petitioner himself denied to present any. Further as far as imposition of punishment was concerned, at no occasion, the management made such declaration. So all the allegations made on part of the petitioner thereby fail.

In view thereof, the Court found that the impugned order was not passed by an incompetent officer as has been alleged by the petitioner. It also found that the petitioner was given a reasonable time to get his documents verified. It opined that only after the unsatisfactory reply of the petitioner, the enquiry was initiated. It took into cognizance that there was no complain made by the petitioner during the enquiry to present his witnesses. It made it clear that the petitioner had to get a clean-chit not just in CBI enquiry but also in the departmental proceedings. Therefore holding that there is no merit in this present writ petition brought up by the petitioner, the Court dismissed it. [Bansidhar Senapati v. SBI, 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 10, decided on 17-01-2020]

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Allahabad High Court: A Full Bench of Pankaj Mithal, Suneet Kumar and Rohit Ranjan Agarwal, JJ. dismissed a batch of writ petitions seeking entitlement to receive death-cum-retirement gratuity while judicial proceedings were pending.

The petitioners were government employees (Lekhpal/Police Officials), who had retired on attaining the age of superannuation, and by the impugned orders, their full pension and gratuity had been withheld due to pending judicial proceedings against them. The petitioners had sought quashing of the impugned orders declining full pension and gratuity during pendency of the judicial proceedings and further sought an additional direction to the respondent authority to release/pay full pension and gratuity.

Suneet Kumar, J. after hearing the submissions of the learned counsels for the petitioners and respondents, stated his judgment. He held that pendency of disciplinary/judicial proceedings on the date of retirement or instituted after retirement, provisional pension equal to maximum pension as mandated under Article 919A of the Civil Service Regulations, may be sanctioned to the government servant for the period unto conclusion of the proceedings. (Article 351AA/ Article 919A (1)/(2)) but no gratuity was payable to the government servant during the pendency of disciplinary/judicial proceedings by Administrative Tribunal, until the conclusion of the proceedings and orders being passed thereon by the competent authority under Article 919 A(3).

Reliance was placed on State of U.P. v. Jai Prakash, 2014 (1) ADJ 207 which held that government servant was not entitled to gratuity but to a provisional pension during the pendency of proceedings/enquiry.

Pankaj Mithal, J. also came to the same conclusion and opined that pension of a government servant could be withheld or withdrawn, if he was convicted in a crime or was found guilty of misconduct, but if he was neither convicted nor found guilty of misconduct but a departmental or judicial proceedings or any enquiry by the Administrative Tribunal was pending against him at the time of his retirement or is likely to be instituted, he would be entitled to provisional pension in accordance with Regulation 919A. He emphasized on the sub-clause 3 of Regulation 919-A which laid down that no death cum retirement gratuity shall be paid to the government servant until the conclusion of the departmental or judicial proceedings or the enquiry by the Administrative tribunal and issue of the final order thereon.

Thus, in view of aforesaid facts and authorities, the Court unanimously held that a government employee was not entitled to death cum retirement gratuity unless the conclusion of the departmental proceedings or the enquiry by the Administrative Tribunal or judicial proceedings which included both civil and criminal and the reference to the Full Bench accordingly was answered.[Shivagopal v. State of U.P., 2019 SCC OnLine All 2239, decided on 08-05-2019]

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Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A.M. Babu and V. Chitambaresh, JJ. allowed a petition preferred by the State against the order of Administrative Tribunal granting disbursal of full retirement benefits to an employee who had a criminal case pending against him.

Respondent herein, an Additional Tahsildar, was suspended on 26-11-2014 in connection with a vigilance trap case following his arrest and detention. He was reinstated on 28-09-2015, and he retired from service as Senior Superintendent on 30-11-2015 while the final report in vigilance case was filed on 27-12-2016. He pleaded for disbursement of full retiral benefits on the ground that cognizance of the criminal case was taken after the date of his retirement. The same was allowed by the Administrative Tribunal. Aggrieved thereby, the State preferred this petition.

Senior Government Pleader Mr T. Rajasekharan Nair contended that departmental proceedings commenced after the order of suspension. Therefore, the rigour of Rule 3A of Part III of the Kerala Service Rules was applicable which enabled the government to pay only provisional pension to the respondent and withhold his gratuity until the conclusion of the proceedings.

The Court agreed with the aforesaid contention and noted that the criminal case filed by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau was still pending on the file of Vigilance Court, and the respondent had not yet been given a clean chit. Whether there was any part of the pension still to be recovered was a matter to be considered after the verdict.

Petitioner had already disbursed death-cum-retirement gratuity to respondent, even though it was not obliged to do so under the Kerala Service Rules. Thus, it was held that payment of provisional pension to the respondent at this stage could not be faulted with and the Tribunal was not justified in directing disbursement of entire benefits.[State of Kerala v. Sugunan V., 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1024, Order dated 15-03-2019]

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Jharkhand High Court: The Bench of Ananda Sen, J. set aside a punishment order issued against a police constable in departmental proceedings, for being in violation of principles of natural justice.

Petitioner, a constable in the police department, was served with a departmental charge sheet alleging misconduct. In the departmental inquiry was held. In the inquiry, charges against him were held not to be proved. The disciplinary authority, disagreeing with the findings given of inquiry report, punished him with two black marks and withheld his salary on the basis of no work no pay.  The said order was challenged by the petitioner in departmental appeal, which was also dismissed by the appellate authority. Aggrieved thereby, the instant writ application was filed praying for quashing of the said order.

Petitioner’s only submission was that it is well within the jurisdiction and domain of disciplinary authority to differ with the findings of Inquiry Officer, but if the disciplinary authority wants to punish the delinquent, a second show cause notice has to be served and reasons for his differing from findings of the inquiry report must be mentioned in the show cause notice. This process had not been followed before passing the impugned order, and only on this ground, the impugned order could be set aside.

The Court noted that the respondent had not issued second show cause notice to the petitioner, but punished him after differing with the findings of the inquiry report. It was opined that this procedure was in utter violation of the principles of natural justice, as the petitioner ought to have been issued a second show cause notice indicating the ground of disagreement, before punishing him. Thus, the punishment order was set aside for being unsustainable in the eyes of law.[Lalit Oraon v. State of Jharkhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Jhar 279, Order dated 13-03-2019]

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Calcutta High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of Sambuddha Chakrabarti, J. allowed a writ petition which sought directions to the respondents to release post retiral benefits of the petitioner.

The petitioner was employed at the post of Director (Finance) in National Jute Manufacturers’ Corpn. Ltd. He sought for issuance of a writ in nature of mandamus commanding the respondents to release post retiral benefits including gratuity, leave encashment, maximum allowance and perks as provided for in the conditions of employment. The question for consideration before the High Court was whether NJMC could withhold post retiral benefits of the petitioner on the ground that after his retirement, certain alleged irregularities have been detected.

The High Court was of the opinion that a departmental enquiry is initiated by issuing a formal chargesheet against a delinquent employee. NJMC may have had a preliminary enquiry which was in nature of an informal enquiry but that was no legal basis to proceed against an employee. Moreover, now the petitioner had retired and it was observed as a settled principle of law that no departmental proceeding can be initiated against a former employee unless the relevant service rules provide for the same. The present was a case where neither NJMC Service Regulations, 1982 nor NJMC (Conduct, Discipline, and Appeal) Rules, 1982 contain any provision for initiation of any departmental proceeding against an employee after his retirement. Thus, no departmental proceeding could be initiated against the petitioner now that he had retired. In such case, the High Court held that respondents had no right to sit over retiral dues not released to the petitioner. They were accordingly directed to release the dues within six weeks with interest. The petition was allowed with costs of Rs 10,000 imposed on NJMC. [Sukanta Kumar Mondal v. National Jute Manufacturers’ Corp. Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine Cal 6987, dated 27-09-2018]