The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday held that the disciplinary authority was erroneous in assuming a situation without supporting evidence and that the principle of preponderance of probability could not be relied upon in a case of no-evidence.
The Petitioner, H. L. Saini, was a CISF Constable, accused of consuming opium and also administering it to a co-constable, Shailesh. In an enquiry held against the Petitioner, he was exonerated of the charges for lack of evidence. The disciplinary authority however disagreed with the findings recorded in the enquiry report and proceeded to record its own finding on the basis of circumstantial evidence, holding the Petitioner guilty and terminating his services. This order of the disciplinary authority was challenged by the Petitioner in "Harlal Saini v. Union of India & Ors."
In the backdrop, as per the testimony of P.W. 1, the Petitioner had offered him opium, which he refused to consume. Later on the same day, the Petitioner was admitted to the hospital and was treated for obstruction of urine passage, which may be caused due to consumption of opium. On the same day, Sahailesh was also admitted to the hospital where he died because of consumption of an 'unknown poison'. Drawing an adverse inference from the above situation, the disciplinary authority assumed that both the medical exigencies were a result of consumption of opium.
The Petitioner contended that the order of the disciplinary authority was in violation of the principles of natural justice and it failed to observe the ruling in State of Assam v. Bimal Kumar Pandit, AIR 1963 SC 1612, whereby the Apex Court held that if a disciplinary authority imposed penalty by coming to a different conclusion from that of the enquiry officer, it was required to provide opportunity of hearing to the employee.
It was also submitted that though the disciplinary enquiry proceeds on the principles of preponderance of probabilities, it was not permitted for the disciplinary authority to arrive at an adverse conclusion on mere 'surmises and conjectures'. He elaborated that in a case of no evidence, the principles of preponderance of probability would not be attracted as the said principle requires at least some evidence for appreciation to reach at the conclusion of guilt of the delinquent.
The disciplinary authority on the other hand submitted that the charges against the Petitioner were found to be proved by the disciplinary authority after conducting a full-fledged enquiry.
The court of Justice Sunita Agarwal noted that there was no direct evidence against the Petitioner. She observed that "no one could prove that the opium liquid was consumed by Shailesh which was offered by the petitioner. It is also not proved that he died on account of consumption of opium. No one had seen both of them sitting together or consuming opium".
Based on the aforesaid finding, the court directed reinstatement of Petitioner's services and held that "Mere assumption of any situation on hypothetical criteria without any supportive evidence (even circumstantial) would not be proof even on the principles of preponderance of probabilities. The said principle does not give leverage to the disciplinary authority to create a hypothesis by its own imagination without any evidence".
Arguments for the Petitioner were advanced by Senior Advocate B.K. Srivastava and Advocate Pooja Srivastava and for the State by Additional Solicitor General A.S. Azami and Advocate Himkanya Srivastava.
Click Here To Download Judgment