Ef­fect of ac­quit­tal in a crim­i­nal case on de­part­men­tal in­quiry


The ques­tion as to what is to be done in the case of ac­quit­tal in a crim­i­nal case has been an­swered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in RP Ka­pur v Union of In­dia and an­other [AIR 1964 SC 787 (a five-Judge bench judg­ment)] as fol­lows:

If the trial of the crim­i­nal charge re­sults in con­vic­tion, dis­ci­plinary pro­ceed­ings are bound to fol­low against the pub­lic ser­vant so con­victed. Even in case of ac­quit­tal, pro­ceed­ings may fol­low where the ac­quit­tal is other than hon­ourable.

The is­sue was ex­plained in the fol- low­ing words by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the fol­low­ing words in Ajit Ku­mar Nag v GM, (PJ), In­dian Oil Cor­po­ra­tion Ltd [(2005) 7 SCC 764 ]:

Ac­quit­tal by a crim­i­nal Court would not de­bar an em­ployer from ex­er­cis­ing power in ac­cor­dance with Rules and Reg­u­la­tions in force. The two pro­ceed­ings crim­i­nal and de­part­men­tal are en­tirely dif­fer­ent. They op­er­ate in dif­fer­ent fields and have dif­fer­ent ob­jec­tives. Whereas the ob­ject of crim­i­nal trial is to in­flict ap­pro­pri­ate pun­ish­ment on of­fender, the pur­pose of en­quiry pro­ceed­ings is to deal with

the delin­quent de­part­men­tally and to im­pose penalty in ac­cor­dance with ser­vice Rules. In a crim­i­nal trial, in­crim­i­nat­ing state­ment made by the ac­cused in cer­tain cir­cum­stances or be­fore cer­tain of­fi­cers is to­tally in­ad­mis­si­ble in ev­i­dence. Such strict rules of ev­i­dence and pro­ce­dure would not ap­ply to de­part­men­tal pro­ceed­ings. The de­gree of proof which is nec­es­sary to or­der a con­vic­tion is dif­fer­ent from the de­gree of proof nec­es­sary to record the com­mis­sion of delin­quency. The rule re­lat­ing to ap­pre­ci­a­tion of ev­i­dence in the two pro­ceed­ings is also not sim­i­lar. In crim­i­nal law, bur­den of proof is on the pros­e­cu­tion and un­less the pros­e­cu­tion is able to prove the guilt of the ac­cused `be­yond rea­son­able doubt’, he can­not be con­victed by a court of law. In de­part­men­tal en­quiry, on the other hand, penalty can be im­posed on the delin­quent of­fi­cer on a find­ing recorded on the ba­sis of ‘pre­pon­der­ance of prob­a­bil­ity’. Ac­quit­tal of the ap­pel­lant by a Ju­di­cial Mag­is­trate, there­fore, does not ipso facto ab­solve him from the li­a­bil­ity un­der the dis­ci­plinary juris­dic­tion of the Cor­po­ra­tion.

The judg­ment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in GM Tank v State of Gu­jarat [(2006) 5 SCC 446] has reaf­firmed the prin­ci­ples laid down in RP Ka­pur (supra). In GM Tank case, the Court ob­served that there was not an iota of ev­i­dence against the ap­pel­lant to hold that he was guilty. As the crim­i­nal case and the de­part­men­tal pro­ceed­ings were based on iden­ti­cal set of facts and ev­i­dence, the Court set aside the penalty im­posed in the de­part­men­tal in­quiry also.

Ra­tio in the GM Tank judg­ment should not be mis­con­strued to mean that no de­part­men­tal pro­ceed­ings are per­mis­si­ble in all cases of ac­quit­tal or that in such cases the penalty al­ready im­posed would have to be set aside. What the Hon’ble Court has held is that no de­part­men­tal in­quiry would be per­mis­si­ble when the ev­i­dence clearly es­tab­lishes that no charge against the Gov­ern­ment ser­vant may be made out.

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