The Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court on Thursday held that mere reinstatement into service without a clean chit in departmental inquiry is not a ground to quash criminal proceedings emanating from the set of allegations.
The bench of Justice Sanjay Dhar observed,
"It is clear that the petitioners, who were associated with the project, have not been given a clean chit, but their roles have come under scanner...merely because the petitioners have been reinstated pursuant to the departmental enquiry, does not mean that they can not be prosecuted for criminal offences."
The bench was hearing a plea in terms of which the petitioner had challenged an for offences under Sections 120B, 167-A, 420-RPC read with Section 5(1)(d) and 5(2) of Jammu and Kashmir P.C. Act registered with Police Station, Vigilance Organization, Jammu.
The petitioner had premised the challenge mainly on the ground that a departmental enquiry had already been conducted into these allegations in which the petitioners had been exonerated and no culpability on their part was found. The petitioner urged that criminal proceedings against them cannot go on because the standard of proof in criminal proceedings is higher than the standard of proof in departmental enquiry and if the charges could not be proved on the touchstone of preponderance of probability, there was no chance of proof of the said charges in a criminal proceeding, where the same allegations are required to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Adjudicating upon the matter, Justice Dhar observed when the allegations in the departmental proceedings as well as in Criminal proceedings are identical and a person has been exonerated in the departmental proceedings on merits, the trial of the person in the criminal case would be an abuse of process of Court. However, it has to be kept in mind that the result of the departmental proceedings should have been accepted by the competent authority and the same should have acquired finality before determining whether the criminal proceedings can be quashed.
In the case at hand however, the bench observed that the enquiry report reveals that it is not a case of clear cut exoneration of petitioners on merits as in the inquiry report, it has been observed by the Committee that no cube tests at each stage of concreting were got conducted by the Department. The bench added that it has also been observed that overall workmanship of the contractor was found below satisfaction and poor quality of cement was used by the contractor that was not conforming to the relevant Indian standards.
The bench noticed that the Committee has further observed that the bill amounting to Rs.10.85 lacs has been passed by petitioner No.1 and that the role of the field staff, who remained associated with the construction of the work, which includes the petitioners herein, cannot be overlooked in terms of their duties and responsibilities to maintain the quality of the work.
Accordingly the court declined interference with the investigation of the case at this stage and dismissed the petition.
Case Title : Prem Nath & Ors Vs State of J&K
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (JKL) 166