12 Feb 2022 2:19 PM GMT
Dismissing a petition filed by an Accountant challenging his dismissal from service on being convicted in a criminal case, the Delhi High has observed that reinstatement in public service cannot flow as a matter of right where the acquittal of such person is not an honourable acquittal. The petitioner who was working at the post of Accountant Grade I had approached the Court challenging the...
Dismissing a petition filed by an Accountant challenging his dismissal from service on being convicted in a criminal case, the Delhi High has observed that reinstatement in public service cannot flow as a matter of right where the acquittal of such person is not an honourable acquittal.
The petitioner who was working at the post of Accountant Grade I had approached the Court challenging the order dated March 19, 2013 whereby he was dismissed from service under Rule 19(i) of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965 based upon his conviction under sec. 7 and 15 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 on the ground that the petitioner tried to extract a bribe for processing the release of an amount outstanding to a vendor.
The High Court had then vide order dated May 4, 2020 acquitted and exonerated the petitioner from all charges.
"Given the nature of the offence for which the petitioner was proceeded against, and the conviction having been set aside only on a technical ground that the offence could not be proved by the prosecution beyond reasonable doubt, and the acquittal not being an honourable acquittal, it must be held that the reinstatement of the petitioner cannot flow as a matter of right," Justice V Kameswar Rao observed.
It was argued on behalf of the petitioner that he was entitled to the benefits of the 6th and 7th Pay Commission and also promotion to the higher rank of Senior Accountant in the revised pay-scales along with usual allowances as per rules, which similarly placed employees of the respondent were receiving.
It was submitted that the allegations against the petitioner were been established by way of a regular departmental inquiry and that he was denied reasonable opportunity to defend himself. It was argued that no inquiry was held according to procedure established by the competent authority prior to imposing the penalty of dismissal from service. According to the petitioner, such an action was violative of Article 311 of the Constitution of India.
On the other hand, it was the case of the respondent that the petition was not maintainable in the absence of any communication stating that the CBI had no intention of challenging the said Judgment before the Supreme Court. It was argued that it is a settled law that the competent authority can still decide whether the services of the petitioner should be reinstated or dispensed of in view of his conduct of demanding bribe from a vendor.
It was also submitted that the acquittal of the petitioner was not an honourable acquittal and that the same was not on merits and the petitioner was merely accorded the benefit of doubt. According to the respondent, in such a case, there was no obligation on it's part to necessarily reinstate the services of the petitioner.
"…. the nature of the charges levied against petitioner, coupled with the fact that he was merely accorded the benefit of doubt on account of the failure of the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, would cast a shadow of doubt, in the eyes of the employer, insofar as his suitability for re-employment / reinstatement in public service is concerned," the Court said.
The Court noted that while there are no standards in service jurisprudence as to how integrity, honesty and trustworthiness of an employee can be measured, the meaning of such terms in general parlance has to be taken into accord.
"No doubt, the prosecution of the petitioner, who was an accountant in public service, has culminated in his acquittal on account of the benefit of doubt, however while seeking reinstatement, such acquittal alone cannot be claimed to be an indubitable testament to the bona fide conduct of the petitioner," the Court observed.
The Court was therefore of the view that the petitioner was not entitled to the prayers made in the petition for setting aside the order of dismissal dated March 19, 2013 and reinstating him back in service.
"If such a relief is granted, it would have the effect of turning a blind eye towards the concern of the employer regarding the integrity, honesty and trustworthiness of the employee. Such a concern of the employer cannot be ignored merely because the petitioner was accorded the benefit of doubt in a criminal case, more so, in light of the judgments referred to above," the Court said.
Accordingly, the plea was dismissed.
Title: JAHAN SINGH v. TRIBAL COOPERATIVE MARKETING DEVELOPMENT FEDERATION OF INDIA LTD TRIFED AND ANR
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 110
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