21 Sep 2121

Burden of departmental proceedings is not of much reasonable doubt - Supreme Court of India

Case : Union of India and Ors. v. Dalbir Singh Civil Appeal No. 5848 of 2021

Court : Supreme Court of India

Bench : Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice V. Ramasubramanian

Decided on : 21 Sep 2121

The Relevant Statutes

Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India

Sections 302 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860

Section 27 of the Arms Act, 1959

Section 11(1) of the Central Reserve Police Force Act, 1959

Rule 27(ccc) of Central Reserve Police Force Rules, 1955

Rule 19 of CCS (CCA), 1965

The Brief Facts of the Case

1. Dalbir Singh was a general duty constable in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). An FIR no. 16/1993 was lodged against him for committing an offence under sections 302 and 307 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and section 27 of Arms Act, 1959 as he fired from his service revolver on Head Constable Sri Harish Chander and Deputy Commander Sri Hari Singh which resulted in Sri Hari Chander’s Death and Sri Hari Singh suffered injuries.

2. Dalbir Singh returned to Unit Headquarter after 60 days of earned leave on 10th April 1993 and was asked to do fatigue duty for which he refused to do. Instead of doing his fatigue duty, he sat at a tailor shop and when asked by BHM Harish Chandra for his non-compliance with orders, he misbehaved with the officers.

3. Dalbir Singh was served with a charge sheet on 27th June 1993 as he committed an offence under section 11(1) of Central Police Reserve Force Act, 1949 and committed misconduct and disobedience of lawful orders and refused to perform fatigue duty between 0900 hours to 1000 hours.

4. Dalbir Singh was served another charge sheet on 27th August 2012 but it was withdrawn as a writ petition was pending against him at the High Court of Delhi. So, writ petition no. 6354 was disposed off on 21st November 2012 for serving the charge sheet to Dalbir Singh.

5. Another charge sheet was served to Dalbir Singh on 25th February 2013 for misusing the government weapons and ammunition without the permission of competent authority and also committed remissness of duties which is a serious offence under section 11(1) of Central Police Reserve Force Act, 1949 read with Rule 27 of Central Police Reserve Force Rules, 1955.

6. For committing an abovementioned act, Dalbir Singh was convicted by the trial court on 11th March 1996 and was sentenced to life imprisonment and was also dismissed from his service. He appealed against that decision in the High Court of Punjab and Haryana, where he was acquitted against the charges framed against him giving the benefit of the doubt as 20 cartridges were fired but only 7 empties were recovered and no bullets were recovered.

7. In giving the above decision High Court doubted on prosecution’s version as the investigation agency failed to collect evidence against him. So, criminal appeal no. 117 of 2006 was dismissed by the court.

The Issue of the Case

Whether High Court was right in acquitting the writ petitioner i.e., Dalbir Singh against the orders of the trial court?

The Observations of the Court

1. The Honourable Supreme Court of India opined that High Court exceeded the jurisdiction in exercising the powers of judicial review over orders passed in judicial proceeding adhering to principles of natural justice and also failed to notice that the issued on 27th June 1993 allegation was imposed on petitioner that he failed to perform his fatigue duty from 9 to 10 am and was also disobedient to a lawful order issued to him. No allegation was made regarding the death of Sri Hari Chander and injuries to Sri Hari Singh with the use of a firearm.

2. The Honourable Supreme Court of India opined that the petitioner completed his fatigue duty at 10 am. The statement of departmental witnesses include that the writ petitioner used his personal weapon but such statements amount to hearsay evidence. Writ petitioner can lead the evidence for proving the fact that he was not using an official weapon.

3. The Honourable Supreme Court of India relied on the judgment of State of Haryana and Anr. vs. Rattan Singh (1977) 2 SCC 491 in this case it was held that in a domestic inquiry, strict and sophisticated rules of evidence under the Indian Evidence Act may not apply and all materials which are logically probative for a prudent mind are permissible.

4. The Honourable Supreme Court of India also relied on the judgment of Union of India and Ors. vs. P. Gunasekaran (2015) 2 SCC 610 in this case parameters were laid down regarding exercise of jurisdiction of judicial review by the court.

5. The Honourable Supreme Court of India also relied on the judgment of B.C. Chaturvedi vs. Union of India and Ors. (1995) 6 SCC 749 in this case it was held that the power of judicial review is meant to ensure that the individual receives fair treatment and not to ensure that the conclusion which the authority reaches is necessarily correct in the eyes of the court.

6. The Honourable Supreme Court of India also relied on the judgment of Management of Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (Coimbatore) Ltd. vs. M. Chandrasekaran (2016) 16 SCC 16 in this case it was held that in the exercise of the power of judicial review, the Labor Commissioner exceeded his jurisdiction in reappreciating the evidence adduced before the inquiry officer and in substituting his own judgment to that of disciplinary authority.

7. The Honourable Supreme Court of India also relied on the judgment of Ajit Kumar Nag vs. General Manager (PJ), Indian Oil Corpn. Ltd., Haldia and Ors. (2005) 7 SCC 764 in this case it was held that degree of proof that is necessary to order a conviction is different from the degree of proof necessary to record the commission of delinquency.

8. The Honourable Supreme Court of India relied on the judgment of Noida Entrepreneurs Association vs. Noida and Ors. (2007) 10 SCC 385 in this case it was held that the criminal prosecution is launched for an offence for violation of a duty which the offender owes to the society or for breach of which law has provided that the offender shall make satisfaction to the public.

9. The Honorable Supreme Court of India relied on the judgment of Depot Manager A.P. State Road Transport Corporation v. Mohd. Yusuf Miya and Ors. (1997) 2 SCC 699 in this case it was held that 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.

The Decision held by the Court

An order passed by the High Court of Delhi is set aside and the order of punishment of dismissal passed on 21st December 1996 was affirmed in appeal and revision stands restored. Accordingly, the appeal is allowed.

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