While Exercising Writ Jurisdiction the High Court can’t Re-appreciate Evidence led during Disciplinary Enquiry: SC
The Top Court has ruled that while exercising writ jurisdiction relating to disciplinary proceedings, the High Court must not act as an appellate authority, and re-appreciate the evidence led before the enquiry officer.
The Court made this observation while restoring an order of compulsory retirement passed against a Sub-Inspector of Railway Protection Force.
Brief background of the Case
The issue before the Apex Court was to consideration the validity of the Judgment passed by the Bombay High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction to set aside the order of compulsory retirement passed by the statutory authorities against the respondent, and substituting it by an order of re-instatement with all consequential benefits, and 50% backwages. The authority had found that the charges against the employee were proved (Theft of 19 CST-9 plates and 11 coach trolley). The punishment of compulsory retirement from service with immediate effect was imposed.
Observation and findings of the Court
- “Under Articles 226 / 227 of the Constitution of India, the High Court shall not (i) re-appreciate the evidence; (ii) interfere with the conclusions in the enquiry, in the case the same has been conducted in accordance with law; (iii) go into the adequacy of the evidence; (iv) go into the reliability of the evidence; (v) interfere, if there be some legal evidence on which findings can be based; (vi) correct the error of fact however grave it may appear to be; (vii) go into the proportionality of punishment unless it shocks its conscience,” the Judgment states.
- It further held that, in the instant case, there is no allegation of malafides against the disciplinary authority i.e. Chief Security Commissioner, or lack of competence of the disciplinary authority in passing the order of compulsory retirement, or of a breach of the principles of natural justice, or that the findings were based on no evidence. The High Court was not justified in re-appraising the entire evidence threadbare as a court of first appeal, and substituting the Order of punishment, by a lesser punishment, without justifiable reason, the court observed.
“A police officer in the Railway Protection Force is required to maintain a high standard of integrity in the discharge of his official functions. In this case, the charges proved against the Respondent “were of neglect of duty” which resulted in pecuniary loss to the Railways. The Respondent was a SubInspector in the Railway Police discharging an office of trust and confidence which required absolute integrity. The High Court was therefore not justified in setting aside the order of compulsory retirement and directing re-instatement with consequential benefits, and payment of backwages to the extent of 50%.”
- Reliance was made on the following judgments regarding interference by the High Court’s with findings in a departmental enquiry against a public servant: State of Andhra Pradesh v S.Sree Rama Rao, State of Andhra Pradesh v. Chitra Venkata Rao, State of Rajasthan & Ors. v. Heem Singh, Union of India v. P. Gunasekaran, Union of India v. G. Ganayutham, Director-General RPF v. Ch. Sai Babu, Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board v T.T. Murali, Union of India v. Manab Kumar Guha. It noted the following observations made in P. Gunasekaran
Thus, while restoring the order of compulsory retirement, the Court directed the authority to release Gratuity, if due and payable to the former employee from 05.12.2007, within a period of six weeks from today, along with interest.
Case Name: DIRECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE, RAILWAY PROTECTION FORCE vs. RAJENDRA KUMAR DUBEY
Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3820 OF 2020
Coram: Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and KM Joseph
[ While Exercising Writ Jurisdiction the High Court can’t Re-appreciate Evidence led during Disciplinary Enquiry: SC ]