2 Sep 2022 12:47 PM GMT
In a recent case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that the order of acquittal in a criminal case can be considered in a punishment to be imposed in the departmental enquiry. However, the order of acquittal will not be determinative where (i) the order of acquittal has not been passed on the same set of facts or same set of evidence; (ii) where the delinquent officer was charged...
In a recent case, the Andhra Pradesh High Court held that the order of acquittal in a criminal case can be considered in a punishment to be imposed in the departmental enquiry.
However, the order of acquittal will not be determinative where (i) the order of acquittal has not been passed on the same set of facts or same set of evidence; (ii) where the delinquent officer was charged with something more than the subject matter of the criminal case and. or covered by a decision of civil court.
Brief Facts of the Case
The Writ Petition had been filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to challenge the Award dated 10.07.2013 by the 1st Respondent/Industrial Tribunal-Cum-Labour Court upholding the order of removal of the petitioner by the 2nd Respondent.
The petitioner joined the services of the APSRTC as a driver in the year 1990. In an incident of murder of Assistant Manager APSRTC, an FIR was lodged in which the petitioner was called for interrogation and remained in police custody.
The 2nd Respondent while suspending the petitioner issued a charge memo dated 09.03.2010 on the charge of having willfully avoided to inform the fact of his arrest and remand for the crime of murder by the police within 48 hours to the Depot authorities. The charge alleged misconduct under Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation Employees (Conduct) Regulations 1963 ("the Regulations").
An order of punishment of removal was passed against the petitioner as the explanation by petitioner was not satisfactory and thereafter petitioner's departmental appeal was also rejected.
In the meanwhile, the petitioner was acquitted arising out of the aforesaid FIR for the charge of murder. After acquittal, the petitioner represented to the appellate authority for withdrawal of the removal order but his representation was rejected holding that his earlier appeal against the order of removal had already been rejected. The petitioner then filed Industrial Dispute under Section 2-A(2) of the Industrial Dispute Act, 1947 which was also dismissed.
The petitioner contended that his representation before department appellate authority could not be rejected merely because of earlier rejection of the petitioner's appeal at a time when there was no order of acquittal. Furthermore, the petitioner submitted that the charge did not mention about demand of information by a superior officer and failure to furnish demanded information which is a pre requisite under Regulation 28(xxii) of the Regulations.
Findings of the Court
On analyzing the earlier decisions of Apex Court in M.M. Malhotra v. Union of India (2005), Inspector Premchand v. Government of NCT of Delhi (2007), Justice Ravi Nath Tilhari held that it is evident that "misconduct" though is not capable of precise definition but it is delinquency in performance and its effect on discipline and the nature of duty. It is failure to act in the face of an affirmative duty to act and is not mere negligence or failure or an error of judgment.
In the present case, the charge specifically referred to Regulation 28(xxii) of the Regulations where the alleged misconduct takes place when there is failure to furnish information on demand of superior officer. A perusal of the charge showed that there was no mention about such demand of information by a superior officer.
Moreover, the court was of the view that the petitioner's representation after order of acquittal had not been considered in correct perspective. The authority had not considered the effect of acquittal on the punishment imposed.
On the aforementioned grounds, the order of punishment, the appellate order and the impugned award could not be sustained in the eyes of law.
Case Title :Ram Chandra Reddy v. Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court Ananthapur & Anr.
Citation :2022 LiveLaw (AP) 120
Counsel for the petitioner- V. Padmanabha Rao
Counsel for Respondent- K. Arjun