1. The petitioner who was a Depute Superintendent of Police had been dismissed on the basis of a charge framed against him on October 26, 1959. Aggrieved by that order, he has come up to this Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution seeking a writ of certiorari by calling for the relevant records and quashing the order made by the Government on February 2, 1962 in pursuance of the charge framed against him.
2. The charge against the petitioner reads :
'Objectionable and unbecoming conduct in a responsible police officer of the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police in that you wilfully connived at the smuggling of rice from Bidar to Bombay State through the Chandakapur police check-post on the night of 24/25 May, 1959 by allowing six lorries bearing Registration Nos.
(1) M.Y.Q. - 662,
(2) B.Y.U. - 11,
(3) M.Y.Q. - 670,
(4) A.P.T. - 3261,
(5) M.Y.Q. - 692, and
(6) A.P.T. - 4142,
Carrying rice bags which were detained by the villagers of Kalyani beyond Chandakapur police check-post near Amrutkund temple on the Chandakapur-Sholapur Trunk Road on the night of May 24, 1959 along with sub-inspector Sri U. A. Jayappa at Kalyani police station, without taking any legal action and further caused the disappearance of documentary evidence by tearing a portion of a page from the vehicle checking register maintained at the Chandakapur check-post, on which you had made some remarks and also by preparing a false document, viz., your tour journal for the month of May, 1959, in which you wantonly did not mention regarding your visit to the Chandakapur check-post on the night on 24/25 May, 1959 though you had actually visited that checkpost on that night.'
3. An enquiry in this case was held by the Deputy Inspector-General of Police. The enquiry officer found the petitioner guilty of the offence with which he was charged. A second notice under Art. 311(2) was given to the petitioner and he was given reasonable opportunity to show cause why he should not be dismissed on the basis of the findings given by the enquiry officer. After examining the explanation offered by the petitioner, the Government was pleased to dismiss him from service.
4. The first contention advanced on behalf of the petitioner by Sri N. V. Ramachandra Rao, his learned counsel, is that the enquiry officer as well as the punishing authority erred in relying on the evidence adduced on behalf of the prosecution. According to him, the case against the petitioner rested entirely on the evidence of witnesses who were accomplices and therefore that evidence should not have been made the basis of the impugned order. The witnesses examined against the petitioner may be classified under two heads, viz. -
(1) police officers who are said to have been present at the scene at the time of the occurrence (P. Ws. 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6), and
(2) villagers who claim to have stopped the lorries in question (P. Ws. 7 to 11).
5. It is contended on behalf of the petitioner that the police officers in question were themselves at one stage implicated in the offence in question. According to the petitioner they were suspended in September, 1959. But sometime before the enquiry the orders suspending them were cancelled and it was only thereafter they were examined in the case. There is no satisfactory proof before us to show that these witnesses had been placed under suspension at any time nor is there any material to show that they had been reinstated just before they were examined as witnessed in this case. No suggestion to that effect was made to these witnesses when they were in the witness-box. It is true that the petitioner had applied to the enquiring officer to make available to him the orders of suspension made against the other police officers as well as orders revoking the suspension orders. That request of his was rejected on the ground that they were not relevant for the purpose of the case. The petitioner did not explain how those orders were relevant. He did not ask for the copies of any order passed with reference to any prosecution witness. His was a vague prayer. Further, as mentioned earlier, he did not cross-examine the witnesses as regards any orders passed against them. Hence the petitioner's contention that P. Ws. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are accomplices remains unestablished.
6. We fail to see why an accomplice's evidence cannot be made the basis of a disciplinary order in a departmental enquiry. The rule of prudence that the evidence of an accomplice should not be made the basis of conviction in criminal cases without material corroboration is based on illustration (b) to S. 114 of the Evidence Act. Because of this illustration the Courts have in practice cut down the wide ambit of S. 133 of the Evidence Act. It has been laid down as a rule of prudence, not as a rule of law, that in criminal cases before convicting an accused on the basis of the evidence of an accomplice the Court will look for material corroboration. This rule has no application even to civil cases. The rules contained in the Evidence Act have no application to departmental enquiries as laid down in State of Orissa v. Murlidhar Jana case [A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 404]. If the concerned authorities choose to rely on the testimony of accomplices in a departmental enquiry, this Court has no say in the matter. That is not a vitiating circumstance.
7. It is urged on behalf of the petitioner that P.Ws. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 were made to give evidence against the petitioner by holding out inducement to them, the inducement being that they would not be proceeded against in the event of their giving evidence in support of the prosecution. No such case was suggested to any of the witnesses during their cross-examination. They had no occasion to meet that accusation. As such, that insinuation must be rejected. These are matters that should have been placed before the fact-finding authorities. These grievances have no relevance in an enquiry under Art. 226. This Court has no competence to reappreciate the evidence on record. All that it can see is whether the findings reached are supported by any evidence whatsoever-see State of Orissa v. Murlidhar Jana [A.I.R. 1963 S.C. 404] (vide supra).
8. It was next urged that the enquiry officer was biased against the petitioner. No such contention appears to have been taken either before the punishing authority, or in the affidavit filed in support of the writ petition. All that is said in Para. 16(h) of the affidavit filed in support of the petition is that the admissions made by certain prosecution witnesses were improperly rejected and that shows the prejudicial mind of the enquiry officer. Beyond this scrappy remark, there is nothing in the affidavit filed in support of the petition to show that it was ever the case of the petitioner that the enquiry held was vitiated by bias. The circumstances that certain admissions made by witnesses had been rejected by the enquiry officer by itself does not yield an inference that the enquiry officer was biased against the petitioner.
9. It was next urged on behalf of the petitioner that the evidence of P. Ws. 7 to 11 to the effect that they did not see at the scene the petitioner on the night in question has been improperly rejected by the enquiry officer. Whether a particular piece of evidence should be believed or not is a matter entirely for the enquiry officer and the punishing authority. We cannot enter into that region. The enquiry officer's conclusion that P. Ws. 7 to 11 had been tampered with by the petitioner was assailed on the ground that there is no basis for it. This contention does not appear to be correct. P.Ws. 7 to 11 had been examined during the preliminary enquiry. The petitioner applied for copies of the statements made by witnesses during that enquiry. The petitioner was permitted to take copies of these statements. It is not known whether he has taken those copies or not. If he has not taken those copies, he has to thank himself. We know of no rule of law nor any principle of justice under which the petitioner should be presented with copies of statements made by witnesses during the preliminary enquiry. We are not able to agree with Sri N. V. Ramachandra Rao that there will be any contravention of the principles of natural justice if the delinquent officer is not given copies of statements made by witnesses during the preliminary enquiry, but he is merely asked to take copies of those statements. In the first place, the statements given by witnesses during the preliminary enquiry in this case were not made use of by the prosecution. The prosecution did not want to rely on those statements. It was the delinquent officer who wanted those statements evidently for purposes of cross-examination. Hence it was for him to take copies of the same. During the cross-examination of P. Ws. 7 to 11 it was suggested to them that they had not read their previous statements, they did not know what they contained and that they gave those statements at the instance of others. Those witnesses appear to have readily clutched at those suggestions. Under those circumstances, there was nothing surprising if the enquiry officer came to the conclusion that they had been tampered with and they were out to help the delinquent officer. It is under those circumstances the enquiry officer refused to place reliance on the admission of P. Ws. 7 to 11 that at the time of the occurrence the delinquent officer was not present at the scene. He was quite competent to do so.
10. No other point was urged before us.
11. For the reasons mentioned above, every one of the contentions raised on behalf of the petitioner is rejected. The petition fails and the same is dismissed with costs. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.