Acquittal From Criminal Case Does Not Ipso Facto Absolve Delinquent From Disciplinary Action, Reiterates: SC
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 disciplinary authority, the Supreme Court has observed.
In Shashi Bhusan Prasad vs. Inspector General Central Industrial Security Force, a CISF Constable was tried on charges of murder and under the Arms Act on the allegation that he had provided a country made revolver to Subash Chandra Agarwalla, who murdered his aunt with it. Disciplinary proceedings were also initiated against him for gross misconduct being committed by him in discharge of his duties. He was acquitted in the criminal case though he was dismissed from service as the authority found him guilty of the charges levelled against him. As the High court dismissed his challenge against dismissal from service, he approached the Apex Court.
The three judge bench comprising of Justice NV Ramana, Justice Mohan M. Shanthanagoudar and Justice Ajay Rastogi, noted that, in this case, the facts in a disciplinary inquiry and in the judicial proceedings indisputably are based on different allegations and the set of evidence were not based on the same facts and circumstances. It said:
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 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.
The judgments relied on by the appellant were distinguished on the ground that the charge levelled against the delinquent in the criminal case and departmental proceedings of which detailed reference has been made were on different sets of facts and evidence having no nexus/co-relationship. The court further observed:
It is not the case of the appellant that any error committed in the procedure prescribed under the scheme of Rules 1969 has been violated or opportunity to hearing has not been afforded or the principles of natural justice has been violated, in absence thereof, it is otherwise not open for the Courts to interfere in the disciplinary proceedings under its limited scope of review under Articles 226 & 227 of the Constitution of India.