Union Of India vs Ram Bahadur Yadav on 26 November, 2021


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Supreme Court of India

Union Of India vs Ram Bahadur Yadav on 26 November, 2021

Author: R. Subhash Reddy

Bench: R. Subhash Reddy, Hrishikesh Roy

                                                                             REPORTABLE

                                    IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                    CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

                                    CIVIL APPEAL NO. 9334 OF 2010

                      Union of India & Ors.                              ...Appellants


                                                      vs.


                      Ram Bahadur Yadav                                   ...Respondent


                                            J U D G M E N T

R. SUBHASH REDDY, J.

1. This Civil Appeal is filed aggrieved by the

judgment and order dated 07.04.2009, passed by

the High Court of Judicature at Allahabad in

Special Appeal No.230 of 2009. By the aforesaid

order, the intra–Court Appeal filed by the

Appellants is dismissed confirming the order of

the learned Single Judge allowing the writ

petition filed by the respondent.

2. The respondent herein was working as Head
Signature Not Verified

Digitally signed by
Rajni Mukhi
Date: 2021.11.26
Constable in the Railway Protection Force. In the
14:01:35 IST
Reason:

disciplinary inquiry initiated against him, he

was charged for collusion with main accused in
1
the incident involving theft of more than Rs.1

Crore of Non-Judicial Stamp Papers. The competent

Authority, stating that it was not reasonably

practicable to hold an inquiry, has passed order

dated 22.10.1998, dismissing the respondent from

service. The appeal and revision filed by him,

ended in dismissal. When the said orders were

questioned, the learned Single Judge allowed the

writ petition by judgment and order dated

17.02.2009, by setting aside the dismissal order

with a direction for payment of all pensionary

benefits and 50% of back wages. The said order

was passed as the respondent–employee has

attained the age of superannuation. When the said

order was challenged by way of intra–Court

Appeal, the same ended in dismissal. Hence, this

Civil Appeal.

3. We have heard Ms. Kiran Suri, learned Senior

Counsel appearing for the appellants and Sri S.R.

Singh, learned Senior Counsel appearing for the

respondent.

2

4. It is contended by learned Senior Counsel

for the appellants that Rule 161 of the Railway

Protection Force Rules, 1987 (hereinafter,

referred to as ‘RPF Rules’) empower the

authorities to dispense with inquiry, where the

competent Authority is of the view that it is not

reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry. It is

contended that having regard to nature of

allegations, as the delinquent employee has

threatened the witnesses who were not willing to

participate in the inquiry, the Authorities have

invoked Rule 161 and passed orders. It is further

submitted that even if the order of dismissal

does not contain reasons, it is sufficient if the

file discloses recording of reasons before

passing the order. Against the order allowing the

writ petition, though the Special Appeal was

filed before the Division Bench, the High Court

has not considered various grounds raised by the

appellants and erroneously confirmed the order of

the learned Single Judge. Lastly, it is contended

3
that in any event, the High Court has committed

error in ordering payment of 50% of back-wages.

5. In support of the order of dismissal, learned

Senior Counsel has placed reliance on the

judgment of this Court in the Case of Sahadeo

Singh & Others v. Union Of India & Others1.

Against grant of back wages, learned Senior

Counsel appearing for the appellants has relied

on the judgment of this Court in the case of

Tarsem Singh v. State Of Punjab & Others2. It is

submitted that as the allegations made against

the respondent, are serious, no back wages were

to be granted in his favour. Reliance is placed

on the judgment of this Court in the case of

Deepali Gundu Surwase v. Kranti Junior Adhyapak

Mahavidyalaya (D.Ed.) & Others3 and also in the

case of Commissioner of Police, Delhi & Others v.

Jai Bhagwan4 in support of her argument.

6. On the other hand, Sri S.R. Singh, learned

Senior Counsel appearing for the respondent has

1
2003 (9) SCC 75
2
2006 (13) SCC 581
3
2013 (10) SCC 324
4
2011 (6) SCC 376
4
drawn our attention to Rule 161 of the RPF Rules

and submitted that no reasons are recorded for

passing such order by invoking the said rule. It

is submitted that the very rule requires

recording of reasons, order passed without

recording any reason cannot stand to legal

scrutiny. Further, it is contended that the

allegation against the respondent that he

conspired with the other Head Constable in

commission of theft of Non-Judicial Stamp Papers,

is vague and is no ground at all, to dispense

with the inquiry. It is submitted that conduct of

inquiry before any punishment, is a normal rule

and Rule 161 of the RPF Rules can be invoked only

in exceptional cases, but not in a routine

manner. It is submitted that when the Rule itself

mandates recording of reasons, the argument of

the other side that it is sufficient if file

contains reasons, is no ground to sustain the

order. Learned Senior Counsel appearing for the

respondent has placed reliance on the judgment of

this Court in the case of Jaswant Singh v. State

5
of Punjab & Others5
to support the view taken by

the High Court.

7. We have heard learned Senior Counsel for the

parties and perused the material on record.

8. The disciplinary proceeding against the

respondent is governed by the RPF Rules, 1987.

The regular inquiry against a member of Force, is

governed by Rules 132, 148 and 153 of the RPF

Rules. The respondent was only a Head Constable

at the relevant point of time. Allegation against

him is that he conspired and colluded with

another Head Constable by name Mr. Jai Veer Singh

in commission of theft of Non-Judicial Stamp

Papers. The alleged incident was on 17th/18th

September 1998, and order of dismissal was passed

against the respondent on 22nd October, 1998 by

dispensing with inquiry by invoking Rule 161 of

the RPF Rules. Rule 161 of the RPF Rules itself

indicates special procedure in certain cases. The

relevant portion of Rule 161 of RPF Rules, reads

as under:

5

1991 (1) SCC 362
6
“161.Special Procedure in certain cases:

Notwithstanding anything contained
anywhere in these rules –

(i) where any punishment is imposed on
an enrolled member of the Force on the
ground of conduct which has led to his
conviction on a criminal charge; or

(ii) where the authority competent to
impose the punishment is satisfied for
reasons to be recorded by it in writing
that it is not reasonably practicable to
hold an inquiry in the manner provided in
these rules;

(iii) where the President is satisfied
that in the interest of security of State
and the maintenance of integrity in the
Force, it is not expedient to hold any
inquiry in the manner provided in these
rules;

the authority competent to impose the
punishment may consider the circumstances
of the case and make such orders thereon
as it deems fit.”

9. From a reading of the above said Rule, it is

clear that to pass an order as disciplinary

measure, by adopting special procedure in certain

cases, Rule 161 itself mandates recording of

reasons. The normal rule for conducting an

inquiry is governed by Rules 132, 148 and 153 of

the RPF Rules. If the Authorities invoke special

procedure, unless they record reasons, as

contemplated in the Rule itself, no order could

7
have been passed by invoking Rule 161. At no

point of time, appellants have produced file to

show that any reasons are recorded in such file

also. It is a settled legal position that when

Rules contemplate method and manner to adopt

special procedure, it is mandatory on the part of

the authorities to exercise such power by

adhering to the Rule strictly. Dismissal of a

regular member of Force, is a drastic measure.

Rule 161, which prescribes dispensing with an

inquiry and to pass order against a member of

Force, cannot be invoked in a routine and

mechanical manner, unless there are compelling

and valid reasons. The dismissal order dated

22.10.1998 does not indicate any reason for

dispensing with inquiry except stating that the

respondent had colluded with the other Head

Constable for theft of Non Judicial Stamp Papers.

By merely repeating the language of the Rule in

the order of dismissal, will not make the order

valid one, unless valid and sufficient reasons

are recorded to dispense with the inquiry. When

8
the Rule mandates recording of reasons, the very

order should disclose the reasons for dispensing

with the inquiry. The argument of learned Senior

Counsel for the appellants that if file contains

reasons, same is sufficient to maintain the

order, deserves rejection. When inquiry is not

conducted, member of the Force is entitled to

know the reasons for dispensing with inquiry

before passing any order as a disciplinary

measure. The respondent was only a Head Constable

during the relevant point of time and he was not

in powerful position, so as to say that he would

have influenced or threatened the witnesses, had

the inquiry was conducted. The very fact that

they have conducted confidential inquiry,

falsifies the stand of the appellants that it was

not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry.

The words ‘not reasonably practicable’ as used in

the Rule, are to be understood in a manner that

in a given situation, ordinary and prudent man

should come to conclusion that in such

circumstances, it is not practicable. In the

9
present case, there appears no valid reason to

dispense with inquiry and to invoke Rule 161 of

the Rules. We are in agreement with the view

taken by the High Court. In the case of Sahadeo

Singh & Others v. Union of India & Others 1, this

Court has held that in the facts and

circumstances of the said case, it was not

reasonably practicable to hold a fair inquiry, as

such, it was held to be justifiable on the facts

of the case. Whether it is practicable or not to

hold an inquiry, is a matter to be considered

with reference to the facts of each case and

nature of charge, etc.

10. In the judgment in the case of Tarsem Singh

v. State of Punjab & Others2, this Court has

categorically held that when the Authority is of

the opinion that it is not reasonably practicable

to hold inquiry, such finding shall be recorded

on the subjective satisfaction by the authority,

and same must be based on the objective criteria.

In the aforesaid case, it is further held that

10
reasons for dispensing with the inquiry must be

supported by material.

11. With regard to plea of the appellants for

grant of back wages, in the case of Tarsem Singh2,

this Court has held that payment of back-wages

would depend on result of the inquiry. In the

present case on hand, by the time, the order came

to be passed by the learned Single Judge, the

respondent had retired from service on attaining

the age of superannuation. In normal course, we

would have permitted to hold inquiry, but keeping

in mind that the respondent had retired from

service even before the judgment was rendered by

the learned Single Judge, we are not inclined to

do so at this stage. Though, it is alleged that

the respondent had conspired with the main

accused for commission of theft of Non-Judicial

Stamp Papers nearly worth of Rs.1 Crore, but not

even a police complaint was filed for reasons

best known to the appellants. Opposing the award

of back wages, learned Senior Counsel for the

appellants has placed reliance on the judgment of

11
this Court in the case of Deepali Gundu Surwase3.

Grant of back wages depends on facts and

circumstances of each case. In the aforesaid

case, while dealing with grant of back-wages,

this Court has held that in the case of wrongful

termination of service, reinstatement with

continuity of service and back-wages is normal

rule and the adjudicating authority to take into

consideration the length of service of the

employee, nature of misconduct, financial

condition of the employer and similar other

factors. Coming to the case on hand, the

respondent was not given any opportunity to

defend his case at all. It is clearly well

settled that any amount of suspicion cannot be

equated to proof. Keeping in mind ratio in the

judgment of this Court in the case of Deepali

Gundu Surwase3, we are of the considered opinion

that grant of 50% of back-wages is just and fair

in the facts and circumstances of the case. The

judgment relied on by the learned Senior Counsel

12
for the appellants would not, in any way, support

their case.

12. On the other hand, in the case of M/s.

Hindustan Tin Works Pvt. Limited v. The Employees

of M/s. Hindustan Tin Works Private Limited &

others6, this Court has held that reinstatement

with back-wages, fully or partially, is a matter

of discretion of the Tribunal.

13. In the facts of the present case, we are of

the view that the High Court has correctly

granted 50% of the back wages to the respondent.

14. For the aforesaid reasons, we do not find any

good ground to interfere with the impugned order

passed by the High Court. Accordingly, this Civil

Appeal is dismissed, with no order as to costs.

……………………………………………J
(R. SUBHASH REDDY)

………………………………………………J
(HRISHIKESH ROY)
NEW DELHI;

November 26, 2021

6
(1979) 2 SCC 80
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