Monday, 17 February 2020

Supreme Court: Discrepancies In Evidence Against Delinquent Not A Ground To Interfere With Findings Of Disciplinary authority

It is not the case of no evidence or that the findings are
perverse. The finding that the respondent is guilty of misconduct
has been interfered with only on the ground that there are
discrepancies in the evidence of the Department. The
discrepancies in the evidence will not make it a case of no
evidence. The Inquiry Officer has appreciated the evidence and
returned a finding that the respondent is guilty of misconduct.
15. The disciplinary authority agreed with the findings of the enquiry
officer and had passed an order of punishment. An appeal before
the State Government was also dismissed. Once the evidence has
been accepted by the departmental authority, in exercise of power
of judicial review, the Tribunal or the High Court could not interfere
with the findings of facts recorded by reappreciating evidence as if
the Courts are the Appellate Authority. We may notice that the
said judgment has not noticed larger bench judgments in S. Sree
Rama Rao and B.C. Chaturvedi as mentioned above. Therefore,
the orders passed by the Tribunal and the High Court suffer from
patent illegality and thus cannot be sustained in law. Accordingly,
appeal is allowed and orders passed by the Tribunal and the High
Court are set aside and the order of punishment imposed is
restored.

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 8071 OF 2014

THE STATE OF KARNATAKA Vs N. GANGARAJ 

HEMANT GUPTA, J.
Dated:FEBRUARY 14, 2020.

1. The State is in appeal aggrieved against an order passed by the
High Court of Karnataka on 25th August, 2011 whereby the
challenge to an order passed by the Karnataka Administrative
Tribunal1 on 12th March, 2009 setting aside the punishment of
dismissal from the service imposed upon the respondent remained
unsuccessful.
2. The respondent was working as a Police Inspector at Mysore from
31st July, 1997 to 31st October, 1998. On the complaint of one
Nirmala, the Lokayukta Police had laid a trap. On the basis of a
criminal complaint lodged, Crime No. 15/1998 was registered
against respondent in Mysore Lokayukta Police Station under
1 for short, ‘Tribunal’

Section 7, 13(1)(d) read with Section 13(2) under the Prevention of
Corruption Act, 1998. A charge sheet against the respondent was
filed in the Court of Special Judge, Mysore for the offences
punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. The said
criminal trial resulted in the acquittal of the respondent.
3. In addition to the criminal trial, the respondent was also
proceeded against for the misconduct in departmental
proceedings. The respondent was served with a charge sheet. The
respondent faced departmental proceedings on the following two
charges:
“1. You, the Accused Police Officer, Sri. N. Gangaraj,
while working as Police Inspector in City Crime Record
Bureau of the office of the Commissioner of Police,
Mysore City from 31/07/97 to 31/10/98, one Miss.
Chandrika resident of Nandanavana, Ulsoor, Bangalore
City, has lodged a complaint dated 08/08/98 with Sri.
Kempaiah, Commissioner of Police, Mysore City, against
one Mr. Mahendra of Indiranagar, Bangalore, stating
that he promised to marry her and taken her in car No.
KA-05-9795 along with his friends and raped her. She
has requested therein to take action against Mr.
Mahendra and his friends. The Commissioner of Police,
Mysore City has sent the said petition to Police
Inspector, City Crime Branch, Mysore for enquiry and to
send the report. You being a responsible Police Officer,
shown utter misconduct in managing to obtain a Xerox
copy of the said petition through illegal means and
contacting the wife of the Driver of above said vehicle
demanded illegal gratification of Rs.40,000/- and
negotiating the deal for Rs.20,000/- with instructions to
the party to pay the amount on 27/08/98 at your
residence.
2. Even though the petition of Miss. Chandrika, lodged
with the Commissioner of Police, Mysore City was not at
all concerned to you, you managed to get it’s copy with
ulterior motto through illegal means and contacted Mrs.
B.J. Nirmala wife of Mr. Sampathkumar, Driver of car No.
KA-05-9795 by sending Mr. Puttaraju CHC 141 and Mr.
2
Shivakumar CPC 22 to Bangalore and also contacted
the above parties over telephone and demanded
Rs.40,000/- as illegal gratification for not including the
car in the case. When the parties were not agreed to
pay, you negotiated the amount to Rs.20,000/-. Being a
responsible Police Officer and knowing fully well that
accepting illegal gratification is against to Rule 7, 13(1)
(d) and 13(2) of P.C. Act, you behaved in a way to bring
down the prestige of the department, showing
dereliction of duty, utter misconduct and an at of
unbecoming of a Police Officer as well as a Government
Servant.”
4. The respondent denied the charges. The Deputy Superintendent of
Police, West Circle, Mangalore was appointed as the Inquiry Officer
(IO). The IO returned a finding that the charges levelled against
the respondent have been proved. Thereafter, a second showcause
notice was issued to the respondent. Considering the
contentions of the respondent, the Director General and the
Inspector General of Police passed an order of dismissal of the
respondent from service on 30th September, 2005. The period of
suspension was ordered to be treated as the period of suspension
only. The respondent filed an appeal before the Government which
came to be dismissed on 8th September, 2006.
5. Aggrieved against the order of punishment, the respondent
invoked the jurisdiction of the Tribunal. The Tribunal set aside the
order of punishment by holding that the criminal court on the same
set of facts has not placed reliance on the deposition of the
witnesses, therefore, it was not proper on the part of the
Disciplinary Authority to rely upon such evidence to come to the
conclusion that the respondent has demanded an amount of

Rs.40,000/- and he settled for Rs.20,000/-. The Tribunal further did
not agree with the findings of the IO or the Disciplinary Authority
that the charges have been proved as there is no charge on record
of receipt of Rs.20,000/-. The Tribunal further held that the water
in which the hands of the respondent were washed, turned pink
due to the ink of the pen, as deposed by PW-3 Balaraju in his
statement. The High Court found that similar evidence has not
been accepted in criminal trial and that there are discrepancies in
the evidence of the witnesses which make it unreliable. The High
Court recorded the following four discrepancies in the
departmental proceedings:
“(i) In the complaint Smt. Nirmala says that on
26.08.1998 for the first time she met the applicant in
his house at Mysore but in the deposition, she states
that she went to the house of the applicant on
27.08.1998 for the first time along with panch witness
Saroja and the money was offered;
(ii) If the evidence of PW.4 Puttaraju CHC 141 is to be
believed, he and PW.5 Shivakumar CPC 22 went to the
house of complainant Nirmala on 13.08.1998, whereas
the evidence of PW.5 shows that both of them went to
the house of the complainant on 14.08.1998. According
to the complaint both of them had gone to the
complainant’s house on 24.08.1998 and not earlier;
(iii) According to the complainant she had given
complaint in the first instance in English Written by her
and later the present complaint, marked in the inquiry
was got typed; the original complaint given in English
has been suppressed.
(iv) The complaint was registered on 27.08.1998
whereas the evidence shows that panch witness had
been informed to come on 26.08.1998. The complaint
does not say anywhere that she had gone to the office
of the Lokayukta Police on 26.08.1998.”
4
6. The Disciplinary Authority has taken into consideration the
evidence led before the IO to return a finding that the charges
levelled against the respondent stand proved.
7. We find that the interference in the order of punishment by the
Tribunal as affirmed by the High Court suffers from patent error.
The power of judicial review is confined to the decision-making
process. The power of judicial review conferred on the
constitutional court or on the Tribunal is not that of an appellate
authority.
8. In State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors. v. S. Sree Rama Rao2, a
three Judge Bench of this Court has held that the High Court is not
a court of appeal over the decision of the authorities holding a
departmental enquiry against a public servant. It is concerned to
determine whether the enquiry is held by an authority competent
in that behalf, and according to the procedure prescribed in that
behalf, and whether the rules of natural justice are not violated.
The Court held as under:
“7. …The High Court is not constituted in a proceeding
under Article 226 of the Constitution a court of appeal
over the decision of the authorities holding a
departmental enquiry against a public servant: it is
concerned to determine whether the enquiry is held by
an authority competent in that behalf, and according to
the procedure prescribed in that behalf, and whether
the rules of natural justice are not violated. Where there
is some evidence, which the authority entrusted with
2 AIR 1963 SC 1723

the duty to hold the enquiry has accepted and which
evidence may reasonably support the conclusion that
the delinquent officer is guilty of the charge, it is not
the function of the High Court in a petition for a writ
under Article 226 to review the evidence and to arrive
at an independent finding on the evidence….”
9. In B.C. Chaturvedi v. Union of India & Ors.3, again, a three
Judge Bench of this Court has held that power of 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 eyes of the court. The Court/Tribunal in its power of judicial
review does not act as an appellate authority to reappreciate the
evidence and to arrive at its own independent findings on the
evidence. It was held as under:
“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
3 (1995) 6 SCC 749
6
entitled to hold that the delinquent officer is guilty of
the charge. The Court/Tribunal in its 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 co- extensive 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 781], this Court held at page
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.”
10. In High Court of Judicature at Bombay through its Registrar
v. Shashikant S. Patil & Anr.4, this Court held that interference
with the decision of departmental authorities is permitted if such
authority had held proceedings in violation of the principles of
natural justice or in violation of statutory regulations prescribing
the mode of such enquiry while exercising jurisdiction under Article
226 of the Constitution. It was held as under:
4 (2000) 1 SCC 416
7
“16. The Division Bench of the High Court seems to
have approached the case as though it was an appeal
against the order of the administrative/disciplinary
authority of the High Court. Interference with the
decision of departmental authorities can be permitted,
while exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the
Constitution if such authority had held proceedings in
violation of the principles of natural justice or in
violation of statutory regulations prescribing the mode
of such enquiry or if the decision of the authority is
vitiated by considerations extraneous to the evidence
and merits of the case, or if the conclusion made by the
authority, on the very face of it, is wholly arbitrary or
capricious that no reasonable person could have arrived
at such a conclusion, or grounds very similar to the
above. But we cannot overlook that the departmental
authority (in this case the Disciplinary Committee of the
High Court) is the sole judge of the facts, if the enquiry
has been properly conducted. The settled legal position
is that if there is some legal evidence on which the
findings can be based, then adequacy or even reliability
of that evidence is not a matter for canvassing before
the High Court in a writ petition filed under Article 226
of the Constitution.”
11. In State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur v. Nemi Chand Nalwaya5,
this Court held that the courts will not act as an appellate court
and reassess the evidence led in the domestic enquiry, nor
interfere on the ground that another view is possible on the
material on record. If the enquiry has been fairly and properly held
and the findings are based on evidence, the question of adequacy
of the evidence or the reliable nature of the evidence will not be
ground for interfering with the findings in departmental enquiries.
The Court held as under:
“7. It is now well settled that the courts will not act
as an appellate court and reassess the evidence led in
5 (2011) 4 SCC 584
8
the domestic enquiry, nor interfere on the ground that
another view is possible on the material on record. If
the enquiry has been fairly and properly held and the
findings are based on evidence, the question of
adequacy of the evidence or the reliable nature of the
evidence will not be grounds for interfering with the
findings in departmental enquiries. Therefore, courts
will not interfere with findings of fact recorded in
departmental enquiries, except where such findings are
based on no evidence or where they are clearly
perverse. The test to find out perversity is to see
whether a tribunal acting reasonably could have arrived
at such conclusion or finding, on the material on record.
Courts will however interfere with the findings in
disciplinary matters, if principles of natural justice or
statutory regulations have been violated or if the order
is found to be arbitrary, capricious, mala fide or based
on extraneous considerations. (vide B. C. Chaturvedi vs.
Union of India - 1995 (6) SCC 749, Union of India vs. G.
Gunayuthan - 1997 (7) SCC 463, and Bank of India vs.
Degala Suryanarayana - 1999 (5) SCC 762, High Court
of Judicature at Bombay vs. Shahsi Kant S Patil - 2001
(1) SCC416).
xx xx xx
12. The fact that the criminal court subsequently
acquitted the respondent by giving him the benefit of
doubt, will not in any way render a completed
disciplinary proceedings invalid nor affect the validity of
the finding of guilt or consequential punishment. The
standard of proof required in criminal proceedings being
different from the standard of proof required in
departmental enquiries, the same charges and
evidence may lead to different results in the two
proceedings, that is, finding of guilt in departmental
proceedings and an acquittal by giving benefit of doubt
in the criminal proceedings. This is more so when the
departmental proceedings are more proximate to
the incident, in point of time, when compared to the
criminal proceedings. The findings by the criminal court
will have no effect on previously concluded domestic
enquiry. An employee who allows the findings in the
enquiry and the punishment by the disciplinary
authority to attain finality by non-challenge, cannot
after several years, challenge the decision on the
ground that subsequently, the criminal court has
acquitted him.”

13. In another judgement reported as Union of India v. P.
Gunasekaran (2015) 2 SCC 610, this Court held that while reappreciating evidence
the High Court cannot act as an appellate authority in the
disciplinary proceedings. The Court held the parameters as to
when the High Court shall not interfere in the disciplinary
proceedings:
“13. Under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of
India, the High Court shall not:
(i) re-appreciate the evidence;
(ii) interfere with the conclusions in the enquiry, in case
the same has been conducted in accordance with law;
(iii) go into the adequacy of the evidence;
(iv) go into the reliability of the evidence;
(v) interfere, if there be some legal evidence on which
findings can be based.
(vi) correct the error of fact however grave it may appear
to be;
(vii) go into the proportionality of punishment unless it
shocks its conscience.”
14. On the other hand learned counsel for the respondent relies upon
the judgment reported as Allahabad Bank v. Krishna Narayan
Tewari 2017 2 SCC 308, wherein this Court held that if the disciplinary authority
records a finding that is not supported by any evidence whatsoever
or a finding which is unreasonably arrived at, the Writ Court could
interfere with the finding of the disciplinary proceedings. We do not
find that even on touchstone of that test, the Tribunal or the High
Court could interfere with the findings recorded by the disciplinary

authority. It is not the case of no evidence or that the findings are
perverse. The finding that the respondent is guilty of misconduct
has been interfered with only on the ground that there are
discrepancies in the evidence of the Department. The
discrepancies in the evidence will not make it a case of no
evidence. The Inquiry Officer has appreciated the evidence and
returned a finding that the respondent is guilty of misconduct.
15. The disciplinary authority agreed with the findings of the enquiry
officer and had passed an order of punishment. An appeal before
the State Government was also dismissed. Once the evidence has
been accepted by the departmental authority, in exercise of power
of judicial review, the Tribunal or the High Court could not interfere
with the findings of facts recorded by reappreciating evidence as if
the Courts are the Appellate Authority. We may notice that the
said judgment has not noticed larger bench judgments in S. Sree
Rama Rao and B.C. Chaturvedi as mentioned above. Therefore,
the orders passed by the Tribunal and the High Court suffer from
patent illegality and thus cannot be sustained in law. Accordingly,
appeal is allowed and orders passed by the Tribunal and the High
Court are set aside and the order of punishment imposed is
restored.
.............................................J.
(S. ABDUL NAZEER)

.............................................J.
(HEMANT GUPTA)
NEW DELHI;
FEBRUARY 14, 2020.

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