Pravin Kumar vs Union Of India And Ors on 10 September, 2020


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Supreme Court of India

Pravin Kumar vs Union Of India And Ors on 10 September, 2020

Author: Surya Kant

Bench: N.V. Ramana, Surya Kant, Hrishikesh Roy

                                                                         REPORTABLE


                                  IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                   CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION


                                   CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6270 of 2012



      Pravin Kumar                                                 ..... Appellant(s)
                                               VERSUS
      Union of India and Ors.                                    .....Respondent(s)


                                              JUDGMENT

Surya Kant, J:

The present civil appeal, which has been heard over video­

conferencing, is directed against the order dated 05.05.2009 passed by

a Division Bench of the High Court of Bombay in WP No. 1001/2001,

whereby appellant’s plea for quashing disciplinary proceedings and

setting­aside a dismissal order on charges of corruption and extra­

constitutional conduct while employed as a paramilitary officer, was

rejected.

FACTUAL MATRIX

2.
Signature Not Verified
The appellant joined the Central Industrial Security Force
Digitally signed by
SATISH KUMAR YADAV

(“CISF”) in January, 1995 as a Sub­Inspector. After completing
Date: 2020.09.10
18:35:29 IST
Reason:

requisite training in Hyderabad, he was allocated to Mumbai Office of

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the Western Zone and posted at the local unit of Bharat Petroleum

Corporation Ltd (“BPCL”) in March, 1996. Although he was initially

deputed to perform shift duty, but since July, 1997 he was deployed

in the Crime and Intelligence Wing. As evidenced by an office order

dated 08.05.1998, the appellant was specifically entrusted with

conducting surprise searches of personnel and taking strict action

against anyone indulging in corruption.

3. On 28.02.1999 at around 6PM, Constable Ram Avtar Sharma

(CW­1; hereinafter “Sharma”) was commuting in a CISF bus near the

BPCL compound when Inspector Hiralal Chaudhary (PW­1;

hereinafter, “Chaudhary”) noticed a large bundle of high­denomination

notes in Sharma’s pocket. Suspicious, Chaudhary got the bus turned

back towards the BPCL compound, and forcibly made Sharma

deboard near the North­gate. Amidst witnesses, Chaudhary searched

Sharma’s person, during which a total sum of Rs 10,780 in the form of

100 notes of Rs 100 and the rest in smaller denominations was

recovered. No explanation for the large sum of unaccounted cash was

forthcoming from Sharma, except for a plea for mercy, post which the

amount was seized and the incident recorded in the General Diary

(“GD”) kept at the North­gate of the BPCL compound.

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4. Later, it was found that a conflicting GD entry had been made at

the Main­gate of the BPCL compound a little earlier at around 6:05PM,

noting how an amount of Rs 9,000 had been handed over by dog­

handler Constable KK Sharma (PW­2) on behalf of another official, as

personal loan to Sharma (CW­1). It was discovered over the course of

investigation that this entry was false and had been registered at the

instance of the present appellant who made numerous phone calls

between 6:30 and 7PM to ASI Surjan Singh (PW­5) who was stationed

at the Main­gate and was in­charge of the other GD register.

5. The following morning, KK Sharma (PW­2) who was projected to

have delivered the cash to Sharma, was pressurised by the appellant

to falsely support his alternate ‘loan’ theory by deposing that he

indeed had delivered the impounded sum of money.

6. An FIR was thus registered by the respondent­authorities with

the regional Anti­Corruption Branch of the Central Bureau of

Investigation (“CBI”) on 06.03.1999 under various provisions of the

Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

Simultaneously, an enquiry under Rule 34 of CISF Rules, 1969, with

Assistant Commandant PB Patil as the enquiry officer, was also

initiated and the appellant was placed under suspension vide order

dated 31.05.1999.

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a. Chargesheet

7. The chargesheet contained three charges against the appellant,

first, gross misconduct and indiscipline by virtue of ordering of a false

GD Entry (No. 257, on 6:05PM at 28.02.1999); second, becoming an

extra­constitutional authority by issuing unlawful orders to Constable

KK Sharma to give false statement to substantiate the aforementioned

fake GD entry; and third, corruption for illegally collecting bribes from

contractors of BPCL through his subordinates. All these charges were

contested by the appellant, who sought and was provided a detailed

list of evidence and documents.

b. Investigation and Enquiry Report

8. The enquiry officer submitted a self­speaking report on

17.09.1999, which contained written statements and depositions of

six witnesses who were substantiating the charges, as well as evidence

led by the appellant in the form of five defence witnesses. Inspector

Hiralal Chaudhary (PW­1) testified to the search of Sharma, the

seizure of a sum of Rs 10,780 from his person, and the lack of any

explanation by him on the spot regarding source of the suspicious

sum. Head Constable KK Sharma (PW­2), who as per the appellant’s

defence had handed over the seized amount as loan amount to

Sharma, negated this alternate version and instead implicated the

appellant by mentioning that not only did he not give any money to

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anyone, but that he had instead been threatened by the appellant into

giving a false statement. Head Constable RK Sharma (PW­3) claimed to

have witnessed the search and seizure, and denied any talk of a loan

during such event. ASI Karan Singh (PW­4) deposed that two empty

garbage trucks had entered the BPCL premises earlier in the

afternoon. ASI Surjan Singh (PW­5) testified that at around 6:30PM

when he was on duty at the BPCL Main­gate, he received a call from

the appellant intimidating him into registering a false GD Entry with

earlier time of 6:05PM to substantiate a fictitious loan transaction

with the stated objective of protecting Sharma (CW­1).

9. Additionally, the enquiry officer examined Constable Ram Avtar

Sharma (CW­1) who testified that at around 2PM on 28.02.1999 he

received a bundle of notes totalling Rs 10,000 on behalf of the

appellant from one DK Parmar, who was contracted by BPCL for the

job of lifting garbage/waste. These notes were in his possession, in

addition to his personal cash of Rs 780, when he was caught around

6:15PM by Chaudhary (PW­1) while he was travelling in the CISF Bus.

He admitted that he had falsely claimed that the money had been

given to him by KK Sharma (PW­2), and in response to a question

disclosed that bribes were illegally collected from BPCL’s contractors

at the rate of Rs 20 per vehicle entering the plant and Rs 5 per vehicle

exiting. The seized sum of money, particularly, was to be handed over

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to the appellant for facilitating theft of ‘iron scrap’ and ‘brass’ which

was smuggled out of the compound in the middle of the garbage. CW­

1, later on though, retracted and claimed that the record reflected

something other than what he had stated, and that his signatures

ought not to be relied upon as he had not read the document.

10. The appellant in his defence evidence examined Constable MN

Dhanwat (DW­1) who deposed that although he was posted at North­

gate on the date of the incident, he had left for personal work during

duty hours with the permission of the appellant. Constable Jaimal

Singh (DW­2) testified that he had witnessed the search of Sharma

and recording of the GD Entry by Chaudhary when he reached the

North­gate at around 6:40PM. Further, he claimed that Sharma was

repeatedly trying to get in touch with the appellant, but could only get

through at around 7PM and then informed him that he was caught

carrying his own money. ASI SP Mishra (DW­3) who was on duty at

the CISF Control room in Vashi stated that in his presence no

message had been conveyed to the appellant regarding the incident.

PK Nashkar (DW­4) states that during his duty at the ‘Quarter Guard’

in the Vashi Complex at 7PM, he was directed by ASI SP Mishra (DW­

3) to convey a message to the appellant that there was a phone call for

him from Jaimal Singh (DW­2). Finally, Pravin Dhanji Parmar (DW­5),

who had been performing house­keeping work at the BPCL refinery for

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the past twenty years on behalf of contractor DK Parmar & Co, stated

that he did not hand over any money to Sharma. In addition, the

enquiry officer perused the relevant GD entries and other documents

on record.

11. Based on these numerous evidences and after according the

appellant an opportunity to cross­examine all the witnesses as well as

leading his own substantive arguments, the enquiry officer through

report dated 17.09.1999 held the appellant guilty under each of the

three charges. The enquiry officer found as a matter of fact that the

GD No. 257, entered at 6:05PM on 28.02.1999, was a false entry made

at the instance of the appellant by Surjan Singh (PW­5), so that an

alternate version could be crafted in which Sharma (CW­1) had

allegedly received the seized money as loan. Qua the second charge, it

stood established from the version of KK Sharma (PW­2) that he had

not advanced any loan and that he was approached by the appellant

to give a false statement to substantiate the GD No. 257. Finally, upon

a holistic interpretation of all evidence, that is, falsification of GD,

threatening of KK Sharma (PW­2), as well as indications of wrongdoing

from the statements of other witnesses like DW­1; the enquiry officer

concluded that illegal sums were being collected by the appellant from

BPCL’s contractors through his subordinate officers and therefore, the

third charge of corruption too had been proved.

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c. Proceedings before the Disciplinary Authority

12. This voluminous enquiry report was placed before the

disciplinary authority, which gave the appellant both a copy of the

report as well as an opportunity to respond to it. Detailed rebuttals

put forth by the appellant through his written submission dated

14.10.1999 were examined at length by the disciplinary authority.

Preliminary objections of the enquiry officer being biased and of being

pre­disposed to convict the appellant, were rejected by the disciplinary

authority with cogent reasons. It was noted that not only had proper

opportunity of cross­examining witnesses and of availing assistance

been accorded to the appellant, but that sufficient opportunities of

seeking explanations, clarifications and records of testimonies and

documents had in fact also been availed of by him.

13. The disciplinary authority noted that no material contradictions

could be pointed out in the witnesses’ testimonies, and no compelling

alternate evidence had been produced. Keeping in mind the nature of

the allegations which entailed surreptitious corruption amongst

members of the paramilitary, the disciplinary authority observed that

it was unlikely that there would be independent witnesses to many

incidents like the charge of intimidating KK Sharma (PW­2) to give

false testimony, or of collecting bribe from BPCL’s contractors.

14. The disciplinary authority noticed that it was an undisputed fact

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that a sum of Rs 10,780 had been recovered from Sharma (CW­1),

which was far in excess of the maximum permissible amount of Rs 10.

The testimonies of different officials revealed the appellant’s modus

operandi of collecting illegal monies through a network of subordinate

officers; and more crucially, his attempts at supressing witnesses and

fabricating evidence when caught. The disciplinary authority noted

that the enquiry officer had followed the prescribed procedure and no

challenge had been made earlier to his impartiality and no request to

change the enquiry officer was ever made. Therefore, no malice or bias

could even be suggested at this stage of the disciplinary proceedings.

Similarly, the appellant’s attempt to implicate other officials was held

to be irrelevant, as the present enquiry was limited only to the

appellant’s conduct.

15. Thus, considering the serious nature of the misconduct and the

rank and duty bestowed upon the appellant, and the multiplicity of

the charges which called into question both the personal integrity of

the delinquent officer and the collective image of the force, the

Disciplinary Authority passed the order dated 20.11.1999, imposing

exemplary punishment of dismissal from service under Rule 29(a) read

with Rule 31(a) ­ Schedule II of CISF Rules, 1969.

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d. Decision of the Appellate Authority

16. The appellant preferred departmental appeal against the order of

his dismissal from service before the Deputy Inspector General of the

CISF Western Zone. In addition to highlighting contradictions in

testimonies and re­interpreting the evidence on record, the appellant

also raised a new defence that the entire proceedings were at the

behest of a particular superior officer.

17. The appellate authority went into each and every contention of

the appellant and after re­appreciating the evidence on record, it

dismissed the appeal vide order dated 12.07.2000, concluding that:

“Further I find that there is no material irregularity or miscarriage of
justice in the departmental enquiry proceedings. After considering
the gravity of proven misconduct, the petitioner is not found fit for
retention in an armed force of the Union of India like CISF. The
contentions made in his appeal petitions are totally devoid of merits
both in fact and in law. The punishment imposed by the disciplinary
authority is not excessive in view of proven misconduct. As such I do
not find any reason to interfere with the orders passed by the
disciplinary authority and do hereby reject the appeal petition being
devoid merits.”

e. Writ before the High Court

18. A further challenge was laid to the orders passed by the

Disciplinary and Appellate authorities by way of a writ petition under

Article 226 before the High Court of Bombay. The appellant sought in

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sum and substance, re­appraisal of the evidence on record, claiming

that it was qualitatively insufficient to hold him guilty of the charges

levelled against him. Additionally, the appellant raised a new ground

of non­compliance with Rule 34(10)(ii)(b) of CISF Rules, 1969 which

specified serving of a second show cause notice and opportunity of

hearing regarding the proposed penalty. The appellant fairly submitted

before the High Court that it was not his case that the penalty

imposed against him was disproportionate, if the charges against him

were held to be proved.

19. The High Court, through the order­under­challenge, conducted a

detailed re­examination of the facts and material­on­record, expanding

the scope of judicial review under Article 226 and concluded that there

existed ample evidence to establish the appellant’s involvement in the

organised collection of illegal monies from BPCL’s contractors and his

role in fabricating official records and intimidating subordinate officers

to falsely testify to support his alternate version.

20. The High Court categorically held that the domestic enquiry

followed all procedures and was in conformity with principles of

natural justice and the appellant had been accorded numerous

opportunities of putting forth his version of events. The CISF Rule

sought to be relied upon by the appellant, was found to have been

amended in 1981, therefore, leaving no requirement for a separate

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show cause notice at the stage of penalty. The writ petition was

accordingly dismissed on 05.05.2009.

CONTENTIONS OF PARTIES

21. The instant appeal being the last resort, learned senior counsel

for the appellant, once more, took us through the enquiry­record and

highlighted how the main witness (CW­1) had retracted his statement,

and how there was no corroboration between witnesses and

documents. The conduct of the enquiry officer was called into

question, contending that his decision to put questions to witnesses

was unfair. Acting as both the judge and prosecutor, the enquiry

officer was alleged to have vitiated the entirety of the proceedings. Till

the last minute, the appellant vehemently stuck to his alternate

version that the recovered sum of Rs 10,780 was nothing but a loan

extended between two officials in a private capacity, and that the false

charges were levelled on him with oblique motives at the instance of

certain superiors. Finally, the appellant sought leniency and urged

that given another 21 years of remaining service, imposition of the

severest punishment of dismissal from service was highly

disproportionate which ought to shock the conscience of this Court.

22. These contentions have dexterously been countered by the

learned counsel for the respondents, who highlights through specific

reference to the impugned order that retraction of CW­1’s statement

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had been noted by all prior authorities and that no significant reliance

had been placed on it while holding the appellant guilty. Adequate

opportunities were granted and had been availed by him. Attention

was drawn to the fact that the present proceedings constituted the

fifth venue where the appellant was pleading his case, with the first

four and the CBI having found his guilt concurrently.

23. The deliberate and planned manner of the falsifications, and the

blatant threats made to subordinate officials was highlighted by the

respondents, and the loan theory propounded by the appellant was

shown as having been recurrently agitated and discarded by all the

previous forums. Given the concurrent findings of the enquiry officer,

disciplinary authority, appellate authority, and the High Court; as well

as the detailed evaluation and reasoned order passed by each, it was

submitted that there remained little scope of re­appreciation or further

adjudication. The ratio of Shashi Prasad v. CISF1 was distilled to

drive home the argument that departmental enquiries don’t stand on

the same pedestal as criminal proceedings. Acquittal in one would not

pre­judge the other owing to a difference in standards of proof. It was

claimed that there could be no re­appreciation of evidence as per Govt

of Andhra Pradesh v. Mohd Nasrulla Khan 2, and that

1
2019 7 SCC 797.

2

2006 2 SCC 373.

Page | 13
Constitutional Courts ought not to act as appellate authorities against

disciplinary proceedings of government employees. Finally, given the

delicate nature of employment in paramilitary forces and breach of the

high trust reposed in him by society, the strict punishment of

dismissal of the appellant from service was justified.

ANALYSIS

24. At the outset, it may be noted that the appellant has chosen to

raise some new grounds before this Court, despite those issues

involving questions of fact. Nevertheless, a few pertinent questions of

service jurisprudence do arise in this appeal, which we deem

appropriate to answer.

I. Scope of Judicial Review in Service Matters

25. Learned counsel for the appellant spent considerable time taking

us through the various evidences­on­record with the intention of

highlighting lacunas and contradictions. We feel that such an exercise

was in vain, as the threshold of interference in the present

proceedings is quite high. The power of judicial review discharged by

Constitutional Courts under Article 226 or 32, or when sitting in

appeal under Article 136, is distinct from the appellate power

exercised by a departmental appellate authority. It would be gainsaid

that judicial review is an evaluation of the decision­making process,

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and not the merits of the decision itself. Judicial Review seeks to

ensure fairness in treatment and not fairness of conclusion. It ought

to be used to correct manifest errors of law or procedure, which might

result in significant injustice; or in case of bias or gross

unreasonableness of outcome.3

26. These principles are succinctly elucidated by a three­judge

Bench of this Court in BC Chaturvedi v. Union of India4 in the

following extract:

“12. Judicial review is not an appeal from a decision but a review of
the manner in which the decision is made. 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 eye of the court. When an inquiry is
conducted on charges of misconduct by a public servant, the
Court/Tribunal is concerned to determine whether the inquiry was
held by a competent officer or whether rules of natural justice are
complied with. Whether the findings or conclusions are based on
some evidence, the authority entrusted with the power to hold
inquiry has jurisdiction, power and authority to reach a finding of
fact or conclusion. But that finding must be based on some evidence.
Neither the technical rules of Evidence Act nor of proof of fact or
evidence as defined therein, apply to disciplinary proceeding. When
the authority accepts that evidence and conclusion receives support
therefrom, the disciplinary authority is entitled to hold that the
delinquent officer is guilty of the charge. The Court/Tribunal in its

3
Government of Andhra Pradesh v. Mohd Nasrullah Khan, (2006) 2 SCC 373, ¶ 11.

4

(1995) 6 SCC 749 ¶ 12.

Page | 15
power of judicial review does not act as appellate authority to
reappreciate the evidence and to arrive at its own independent
findings on the evidence. The Court/Tribunal may interfere where
the authority held the proceedings against the delinquent officer in a
manner inconsistent with the rules of natural justice or in violation of
statutory rules prescribing the mode of inquiry or where the
conclusion or finding reached by the disciplinary authority is based
on no evidence. If the conclusion or finding be such as no reasonable
person would have ever reached, the Court/Tribunal may interfere
with the conclusion or the finding, and mould the relief so as to
make it appropriate to the facts of each case.

13. The disciplinary authority is the sole judge of facts. Where
appeal is presented, the appellate authority has coextensive power
to reappreciate the evidence or the nature of punishment. In a
disciplinary inquiry, the strict proof of legal evidence and findings on
that evidence are not relevant. Adequacy of evidence or reliability of
evidence cannot be permitted to be canvassed before the
Court/Tribunal. In Union of India v. H.C. Goel [(1964) 4 SCR 718 :
AIR 1964 SC 364 : (1964) 1 LLJ 38] this Court held at p. 728 that if
the conclusion, upon consideration of the evidence reached by the
disciplinary authority, is perverse or suffers from patent error on the
face of the record or based on no evidence at all, a writ of certiorari
could be issued.”

27. These parameters have been consistently reiterated by this Court

in a catena of decisions, including:

(i) State of Tamil Nadu v. S Subramaniam, (1996) 7 SCC 509.

(ii) Lalit Popli v. Canara Bank, (2003) 3 SCC 583.

(iii) Himachal Pradesh State Electricity Board Ltd v. Mahesh

Dahiya, (2017) 1 SCC 768.

Page | 16

28. It is thus well settled that the Constitutional Courts while

exercising their powers of judicial review would not assume the role of

an appellate authority. Their jurisdiction is circumscribed by limits of

correcting errors of law, procedural errors leading to manifest injustice

or violation of principles of natural justice. Put differently, judicial

review is not analogous to venturing into the merits of a case like an

appellate authority.

29. The High Court was thus rightly concerned more about the

competence of the enquiry officer and adherence to natural justice,

rather than verifying the appellant’s guilt through documents and

statements. It clearly noted that evidence was led, cross­examination

was conducted and opportunities of addressing arguments, raising

objections, and filing appeal were granted. The conclusion obtained

was based upon these very evidences and was detailed and well­

reasoned. Furthermore, the High Court didn’t restrict the scope of

judicial review, rather adopted a liberal approach, and delved further

to come to its own independent conclusion of guilt. Similarly, we have

no doubt in our minds that the appellate authority had carefully dealt

with each plea raised by the appellant in his appeal and had given

detailed responses to all the contentions to satisfy the appellant’s

mind. The disciplinary authority too was impeccable and no infirmity

can be found in the report of the enquiry officer either.

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30. Even in general parlance, where an appellate or reviewing

Court/authority comes to a different conclusion, ordinarily the

decision under appeal ought not to be disturbed in so far as it remains

plausible or is not found ailing with perversity. The present case is

neither one where there is no evidence, nor is it one where we can

arrive at a different conclusion than the disciplinary authority,

especially for the reasons stated hereunder.

II. Appropriateness of procedure and PNJ

31. Significant emphasis has been placed by the appellant on the

fact that the enquiry officer put his own questions to the prosecution

witness and that he cross­examined the witnesses brought forth by

the defence. This, it is claimed, amounts to making the prosecutor the

judge, in violation of the natural justice principle of “nemo judex in sua

causa”. However, such a plea is misplaced. It must be recognized that,

under Section 165, Evidence Act, judges have the power to ask any

question to any witness or party about any fact, in order to discover or

to obtain proper proof of relevant facts. While strict rules of evidence

are inapplicable to disciplinary proceedings, enquiry officers often put

questions to witnesses in such proceedings in order to discover the

truth. Indeed, it may be necessary to do such direct questioning in

certain circumstances. Further, learned counsel for the appellant,

except for making a bald allegation that the enquiry officer has

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questioned the witnesses, did not point to any specific question put by

the officer that would indicate that he had exceeded his jurisdiction.

No specific malice or bias has been alleged against the enquiry officer,

and even during the enquiry no request had been made to seek a

replacement; thus, evidencing how these objections are nothing but an

afterthought.

32. Rather it appears that the delinquent person received a fair trial,

which can illustratively be determined by analysing whether he

received an opportunity of adducing evidence, cross­examining

witnesses and whether depositions were recorded in his presence. 5

The record clearly elucidates that all these essentials had been duly

observed in the present proceedings. Opportunity to seek assistance of

another officer was accorded, right of making representation was

granted before each authority, multiple opportunities were granted to

lead evidence, cross­examine witnesses, and raise objections. The

appellant exercised most of these options, though some were given up

despite reminders. Minor delays on part of the appellant were ignored

and each concern of his had been addressed through detailed reasons.

III. Effect of criminal enquiry on disciplinary proceedings

33. The incident of 28.02.1999 raised serious questions of

criminality under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of
5
Union of India v. T.R. Varma
, 1958 SCR 499 ¶ 10.

Page | 19
Corruption Act, as well as of violation of Service Regulations and

administrative misconduct. Thus, in addition to appointment of

enquiry officer, the authorities also registered a criminal complaint

with the CBI. After investigation, the CBI though did not find adequate

material to launch criminal prosecution against the appellant but

through its self­speaking report dated 07.03.2000, the CBI

recommended major disciplinary action against the appellant and a

few others.

34. It is beyond debate that criminal proceedings are distinct from

civil proceedings. It is both possible and common in disciplinary

matters to establish charges against a delinquent official by

preponderance of probabilities and consequently terminate his

services. But the same set of evidence may not be sufficient to take

away his liberty under our criminal law jurisprudence. 6 Such

distinction between standards of proof amongst civil and criminal

litigation is deliberate, given the differences in stakes, the power

imbalance between the parties and the social costs of an erroneous

decision. Thus, in a disciplinary enquiry, strict rules of evidence and

procedure of a criminal trial are inapplicable, like say, statements

made before enquiry officers can be relied upon in certain instances. 7

6
Karnataka SRTC v. MG Vittal Rao, (2012) 1 SCC 442, ¶ 11.
7
Ajit Kumar Nag v. Indian Oil Corp Ltd (2005) 7 SCC 764, ¶ 11.

Page | 20

35. Thus, the appellant’s contention that he should be exonerated in

the present proceedings as no criminal chargesheet was filed by the

CBI after enquiry, is liable to be discarded. 8 The employer always

retains the right to conduct an independent disciplinary proceeding,

irrespective of the outcome of a criminal proceeding. Furthermore, the

CBI report dated 07.03.2000 does recommend major disciplinary

action against the appellant. The said report also buttresses the

respondent’s case.

IV. Punishment and plea of leniency

36. In our considered opinion, the appellant’s contention that the

punishment of dismissal was disproportionate to the allegation of

corruption, is without merit. It is a settled legal proposition that the

Disciplinary Authority has wide discretion in imposing punishment for

a proved delinquency, subject of course to principles of proportionality

and fair play. Such requirements emanate from Article 14 itself, which

prohibits State authorities from treating varying­degrees of misdeeds

with the same broad stroke. Determination of such proportionality is a

function of not only the action or intention of the delinquent, but must

also factor the financial effect and societal implication of such

misconduct.9 But unlike in criminal cases, in matters of disciplinary

8
BHEL v. M Mani, (2018) 1 SCC 285, ¶ 20­22, 33.

9

Jameel v. State of Uttar Pradesh, (2010) 12 SCC 532, ¶ 14­16.

Page | 21
proceedings Courts only interfere on grounds of proportionality when

they find that the punishment awarded is inordinate to a high degree,

or if the conscience of the Court itself is shocked. Thus, whereas

imposition of major penalty (like dismissal, removal, or reduction in

rank) would be discriminatory and impermissible for trivial misdeeds;

but for grave offences there is a need to send a clear message of

deterrence to the society. Charges such as corruption,

misappropriation and gross indiscipline are prime examples of the

latter category, and ought to be dealt with strictly.

37. Applying these guidelines to the facts of the case in hand, it is

clear that the punishment of dismissal from service is far from

disproportionate to the charges of corruption, fabrication and

intimidation which have unanimously been proven against the

appellant. Taking any other view would be an anathema to service

jurisprudence. If we were to hold that systematic corruption and its

blatant cover­up are inadequate to attract dismissal from service, then

the purpose behind having such major penalties, which are explicitly

provided for under Article 311 of the Constitution, would be

obliterated.

38. Still further, the appellant’s actions would most probably have

caused huge consequential losses to BPCL and lowered the reputation

of the CISF amongst members of the public. Given the paramilitary

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nature of the appellant’s force, a sense of integrity, commitment,

discipline, and camaraderie is paramount. 10 This expectation is only

heightened in the case of the appellant given how he was specifically

tasked with weeding out corruption and conducting surprise raids.

Once shattered through acts of intimidation, forgery, and corruption;

only the severest penalty ought to be imposed.

CONCLUSION

39. In light of the above discussion, we do not find any merit in this

appeal which is accordingly dismissed.

…………………………….. J.

(N.V. RAMANA)

…………………………… J.

(S. ABDUL NAZEER)

……………………………J.

(SURYA KANT)

NEW DELHI
DATED : 10.09.2020

10
Chandra Kumar Chopra v. Union of India, (2012) 6 SCC 369, ¶ 40.

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