14 Oct 2022 7:42 AM GMT
Observing that the court staff are required to be vigilant and well-versed with the day-to-day functioning of courts, the Delhi High Court has said they cannot claim ignorance of the procedures and the relevant safeguards, which are required to be followed.A division bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru and Justice Amit Mahajan said:"They [court staff] are, in fact, required to be more vigilant...
Observing that the court staff are required to be vigilant and well-versed with the day-to-day functioning of courts, the Delhi High Court has said they cannot claim ignorance of the procedures and the relevant safeguards, which are required to be followed.
A division bench of Justice Vibhu Bakhru and Justice Amit Mahajan said:
"They [court staff] are, in fact, required to be more vigilant and well-versed with the procedural aspects involved in day to day functioning of the Courts. For the purpose of judicial works, the Judicial Officers depend on their Court staff and any such dereliction of duty cannot be ignored or forgiven. Being attached with the Courts, they cannot claim ignorance to the consequences of their actions."
The court made the observations in its order dismissing the pleas filed by a Reader and Assistant Ahlmad, who were dismissed from service by the then District and Sessions Judge Talwant Singh on February 17, 2018.
The petitioners Sunil Kumar Saini and Tarun Kumar were posted as Reader and Assistant Ahlmad, respectively, with a Metropolitan Magistrate (Traffic) at Saket Court. The concerned MM was discharging duties in relation to the offences falling under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988.
The controversy in the matter related to alleged issuance of forged orders (Robkars) by the petitioners under the signature of the judge.
In November 2011, an oral complaint was made by a lawyer alleging that some court officials were "removing" the offences under Section 66 and 192A of the MV Act, by issuing forged dasti 'Robkar' in the concerned MM court. Robkar is an order of court stating that no offence under the two provisions is made out in a case, and after issuance is produced before the Traffic Police for release of the vehicle.
The duty to prepare Robkars is assigned to the Reader and in his absence, the same are prepared by Ahlmad or other court staff.
Following the complaint, the magistrate during the preliminary inquiry asked all his court officials to inform if they have any knowledge about preparation of forged dasti Robkars. While a total of 292 orders of removal of allegations under the offences in question were received from the Traffic Inspector, the MM found that 59 dasti Robkars were not passed by him and were forged.
While the petitioners admitted to have prepared some of the forged orders, the MM also found their handwriting to be matching the handwriting in some of the Robkars. The petitioners were placed under suspension by the District and Sessions Judge in 2012. The FIR registered against them is stated to be pending.
However, a regular departmental inquiry against them culminated in 2015 - the major penalty was imposed in 2018 on the basis of the inquiry officer's finding that the charges against them were proved.
Dismissing the pleas, the division bench at the outset noted that both the employees have not disowned the statement where they accepted to have prepared the Robkars wrongly. The defence taken by them seems to be of ignorance, it added.
The bench also observed that the order of the District and Sessions Judge is a well reasoned order which was passed after considering the objections raised by the petitioners.
The bench rejected the petitioners' argument that in the absence of opinion of the Handwriting Expert, the finding given by the Inquiry Officer was not reliable and would fall foul of Indian Evidence Act.
"The principles governing the disciplinary inquiry and that of criminal prosecution are distinct. In a disciplinary inquiry, the employer enquires into the allegation of misconduct and unlike the criminal prosecution where the charge has to be established beyond reasonable doubt, in departmental proceedings, the misconduct has to be established on preponderance of probabilities. Therefore, strict rule of Evidence Act does not apply in the departmental disciplinary proceedings," the court said.
Noting that the petitioners were not illiterate, and were appointed to serve in the courts after having qualified in terms of the relevant recruitment procedures, the court said their mistake cannot be called or termed as a simple bonafide mistake.
"As is evident from the facts of the present case, a proper procedure has been followed by the disciplinary authority and fair opportunity had been given to the petitioners. The order passed by the disciplinary authority is a speaking order having been passed for cogent reasons, and is based on the proper inquiry of the evidence on record," the court observed.
Title: SUNIL KUMAR SAINI v. THE DISTRICT AND SESSIONS JUDGE and other connected matter
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 968
Click Here To Read Order