Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Division Bench of M.R. Shah* and B.V. Nagarathna, JJ., affirmed impugned judgment of the Gauhati High Court whereby the High Court had reversed the findings of the Single judge who had interfered with the order of disciplinary authority and remanded the matter for re-consideration.

The Court held that punishment/penalty to be imposed on a particular employee depends upon various factors, like the position of the employee in the department, role attributed to him and the nature of allegations against him. The Court opined,

“…merely because one of the employees was inflicted with a lesser punishment cannot be a ground to hold the punishment imposed on another employee as disproportionate, if in case of another employee higher punishment is warranted and inflicted by the disciplinary authority after due application of mind.”

Facts

The petitioner-appellant was serving as a Head Constable (Ministerial) in Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) when he was charged with violation of good order and discipline under Section 43 of the Shashastra Seema Bal Act, 2007, for having entered the Mahila Barrack of the Battalion at around 00:15 hours. Resultantly, the petitioner-appellant was charged for compromising the security of the occupants of the Mahila Barrack. The Summary Force Court (SFC) found him guilty of the charges and initially ordered for his dismissal but subsequently, converted the pentaly to ‘removal from service’.

The Single Judge interfered with the order of punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority of ‘removal from service’ solely on the ground that female constable, Rupasi Barman, who allowed the entry of the delinquent during her sentry duty, was inflicted a lesser penalty – forfeiture of two years seniority in the rank of constable and also forfeiture of two years’ service for the purpose of promotion only. Whereas the petitioner-appellant was inflicted the punishment of ‘removal from service’, which was disproportionate.

Analysis and Findings  

The Court noted that the petitioner-appellant was imposed the penalty of ‘removal from service’ after following the procedure prescribed under the SSB Rules. Therefore, opining that the nature of allegations against the petitioner-appellant was grave in nature, the Court remarked,

“He entered the Mahila Barrack in the midnight at around 00:15 hours, may be to meet his alleged friend Rupasi Barman, but such an indisciplined conduct leading to compromising the security of the occupants of the Mahila Barrack cannot be tolerated.”

Relying on the decision in Union of India v. Diler Singh, (2016) 13 SCC 71, the Court held that a member of the disciplined force is expected to follow the rules, have control over his mind and passion, guard his instincts and feelings and not allow his feelings to fly in a fancy. Observing that the nature of misconduct proved against the petitioner-appellant was unpardonable, the Court opined that when the disciplinary authority considered it appropriate to punish him with the penalty of ‘removal from service’, which was confirmed by the appellate authority, thereafter it was not open for the Single Judge to interfere with the order of punishment. The Court noted,

“The misconduct committed by the delinquent official, being a male Head Constable cannot be equated with the misconduct committed by the female constable.”

Conclusion

In the backdrop of above, the Court opined,

“The misconduct of entering the Mahila Barrack of the Battalion in the midnight is more serious when committed by a male Head Constable. Therefore, the learned Single Judge committed a grave error in comparing the case of female constable with that of the appellant – delinquent, male Head Constable.”

Hence, the appeal was dismissed and the order of the Division Bench of the High Court was upheld.

[Anil Kumar Upadhyay v. Director General, SSB, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 478, decided on 20-04-2022]


*Judgment by: Justice M.R. Shah


Appearance by:

For the Petitioner-appellant: Ankita Patnaik, Advocate

For the Respondent: Vaishali Verma, Advocate


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together 

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: Allowing the review petition in the 34-year-old road-rage case involving cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu that resulted into the death of one 65-yer-old Gurnam Singh, the bench of AM Khanwilkar and Sanjay Kishan Kaul, JJ has imposed a sentence of one-year rigorous imprisonment on Sidhu in addition to the fine of Rs.1,000/- imposed in the order dated 15.05.2018.

In 1988, Sidhu got into a fight with the deceased over his right to way at a traffic light in Patiala. Sidhu had pulled the deceased out of his vehicle and inflicted fist blows. The incident eventually culminated in the death of Gurnam Singh. The Court, however, held that Sidhu had voluntarily caused hurt to Gurnam Singh punishable under Section 323 IPC.

While dealing with the review petition, the Court noticed that some material aspects which were required to be taken note of appear to have been somehow missed out at the stage of sentencing, such as the physical fitness of Sidhu as he was an international cricketer, who was tall and well built and aware of the force of a blow that even his hand would carry. The blow was not inflicted on a person identically physically placed but a 65-year-old person, more than double his age.

The Court observed that Sidhu cannot say that he did not know the effect of the blow or plead ignorance on this aspect.

“It is not as if someone has to remind him of the extent of the injury which could be caused by a blow inflicted by him. In the given circumstances, tempers may have been lost but then the consequences of the loss of temper must be borne.”

The Court went on to state that to some extent it had been indulgent in ultimately holding Sidhu guilty of an offence of simple hurt under Section 323 of the IPC.

Observing that the hand can also be a weapon by itself where say a boxer, a wrestler or a cricketer or an extremely physically fit person inflicts the same, the Court said that,

“When a 25-year-old man, who was an international cricketer, assaults a man more than twice his age and inflicts, even with his bare hands, a severe blow on victim’s head, the unintended consequence of harm would still be properly attributable to him as it was reasonably foreseeable. That it would cause the death of a person is another matter since the conviction is only under Section 323 of the IPC. Even though any harm might not be directly intended, some aggravated culpability must be attached if the person suffers a grievous hurt or dies as a result thereof.”

On the aspect of sentencing, the Court said that a disproportionately light punishment humiliates and frustrates a victim of crime when the offender goes unpunished or is let off with a relatively minor punishment as the system pays no attention to the injured’s feelings.

Noticing that indifference to the rights of the victim of crime is fast eroding the faith of the society in general and the victim of crime in particular in the criminal justice system, the Court observed,

“The society cannot long endure under serious threats and if the courts do not protect the injured, the injured would then resort to private vengeance and, therefore, it is the duty of every court to award proper sentence having regard to the nature of the offence and the manner in which it was executed or committed.”

[Jaswinder Singh v. Navjot Singh Sidhu, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 652, decided on 19.05.2022]

Counsels

For Complainant: Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra

For Sidhu: Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi