Natural Justice in case of Illegal Gratification

Chief Judicial Magistrate – Illegal Gratification – Compulsory Retirement – Preliminary Enquiry – Regular Enquiry – Chargesheet – Natural Justice

The disciplinary proceedings are not a criminal trial, and in spite of the fact that the same are quasi-judicial and quasi-criminal, doctrine of proof beyond reasonable doubt, does not apply in such cases, but the principle of preponderance of probabilities would apply. The court has to see whether there is evidence on record to reach the conclusion that the delinquent had committed a misconduct. However, the said conclusion should be reached on the basis of test of what a prudent person would have done.

20. A Constitution Bench of this Court in Amlendu Ghosh v. District Traffic Superintendent, North-Eastern Railway, Katiyar, AIR 1960 SC 992, held that the purpose of holding a preliminary inquiry in respect of a particular alleged misconduct is only for the purpose of finding a particular fact and prima facie, to know as to whether the alleged misconduct has been committed and on the basis of the findings recorded in preliminary inquiry, no order of punishment can be passed. It may be used only to take a view as to whether a regular disciplinary proceeding against the delinquent is required to be held.

para 27. The issue, as to whether in the instant case the material collected in preliminary enquiry could be used against the appellant, has to be considered by taking into account the facts and circumstances of the case. In the preliminary enquiry, the department placed reliance upon the statements made by the accused/complainant and Shri C.B. Gajjar, advocate. Shri C.B. Gajjar in his statement has given the same version as he has deposed in regular enquiry. Shri Gajjar did not utter a single word about the meeting with the appellant on 17.8.1993, as he had stated that he had asked the accused/complainant to pay Rs. 20,000/- as was agreed with by Shri P.K. Pancholi, advocate. Of course, Shri C.B. Gajjar, complainant, has definitely reiterated the stand he had taken in his complaint. The chargesheet served upon the appellant contained 12 charges. Only first charge related to the incident dated 17.8.1993 was in respect of the case of the complainant. The other charges related to various other civil and criminal cases. The same were for not deciding the application for interim reliefs etc.

28. The chargesheet was accompanied by the statement of imputation, list of witnesses and the list of documents. However, it did not say that so far as Charge No. 1 was concerned, the preliminary enquiry report or the evidence collected therein, would be used/relied upon against the appellant.

There is nothing on record to show that either the preliminary enquiry report or the statements recorded therein, particularly, by the complainant/accused or Shri C.B. Gajjar, advocate, had been exhibited in regular inquiry. In absence of information in the chargesheet that such report/statements would be relied upon against the appellant, it was not permissible for the Enquiry Officer or the High Court to rely upon the same. Natural justice is an inbuilt and inseparable ingredient of fairness and reasonableness. Strict adherence to the principle is required, whenever civil consequences follow up, as a result of the order passed. Natural justice is a universal justice. In certain factual circumstances even non-observance of the rule will itself result in prejudice. Thus, this principle is of supreme importance. (Vide: S.L. Kapoor v. Jagmohan, AIR 1981 SC 136; D.K. Yadav v. JMA Industries Ltd., (1993) 3 SCC 259; and Mohd. Yunus Khan v. State of U.P. & Ors., (2010) 10 SCC 539.

** HELD: In view of the above, we have no option except to allow the appeal. The appeal succeeds and is accordingly allowed. The order of punishment imposed by the High Court in compulsorily retiring the appellant is set aside. However, as the appellant has already reached the age of superannuation long ago, it is not desirable under the facts and circumstances of the case, to grant her any substantive relief, except to exonerate her honourably of all the charges, and allow the appeal with costs, which is quantified to the tune of Rs.5 lacs. The State of Gujarat is directed to pay the said cost to the appellant within a period of 3 months from today.

POINT OF LAW DISCUSSED IN THE BELOW MENTIONED JUDGEMENT:
Nirmala J. Jhala. Vs. State of Gujarat And Anr.

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