29 Nov 2021 6:05 AM GMT
The Supreme Court has observed that when Rules contemplate method and manner to adopt special procedure, it is mandatory on the part of the authorities to exercise such power by adhering to the Rule strictly.The bench of Justices R Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy in the present matter was considering a Civil Appeal assailing Allahabad High Court's order dated April 7, 2009 ("impugned...
The Supreme Court has observed that when Rules contemplate method and manner to adopt special procedure, it is mandatory on the part of the authorities to exercise such power by adhering to the Rule strictly.
The bench of Justices R Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy in the present matter was considering a Civil Appeal assailing Allahabad High Court's order dated April 7, 2009 ("impugned order").
In the Impugned Order the High Court while dismissing the intra court appeal had confirmed Single Judge's order. The Single Judge by setting aside the dismissal order with a direction for payment of all pensionary benefits and 50% of back wages. of directing the Competent Authority to allow Respondent's ("Ram Bahadur Yadav") writ petition.
While dismissing the appeal, the bench in Union of India and Ors v Ram Bahadur Yadav observed that,
"Dismissal of a regular member of Force, is a drastic measure. Rule 161, which prescribes dispensing with an inquiry and to pass order against a member of Force, cannot be invoked in a routine and mechanical manner, unless there are compelling and valid reasons. The dismissal order dated 22.10.1998 does not indicate any reason for dispensing with inquiry except stating that the respondent had colluded with the other Head Constable for theft of Non Judicial Stamp Papers. By merely repeating the language of the Rule in the order of dismissal, will not make the order valid one, unless valid and sufficient reasons are recorded to dispense with the inquiry. the Rule mandates recording of reasons, the very order should disclose the reasons for dispensing with the inquiry."
A disciplinary inquiry was initiated against Ram Bahadur Yadav who was working as Head Constable in the Railway Protection Force as he was charged for collusion with the main accused (another Head Constable Mr Jai Veer Singh) in the incident involving theft of more than Rs.1 Crore of Non-Judicial Stamp Papers.
Stating that it was not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry, the Competent Authority on October 22, 1998 dismissed Yadav from service. Even the appeal and revision filed by him ended in dismissal. When he questioned the orders, the Single Judge on February 17, 2009 while setting aside the order of dismissal directed the authority to pay pensionary benefits and 50% back wages.
When the Single Judge's order was challenged by way of an intra Court appeal, it was dismissed.
Aggrieved, the Civil Appeal was preferred.
Contention Of The Counsels
Appearing for the authority, Senior Advocate Kiran Suri Rule 161 of the Railway Protection Force Rules, 1987 ('RPF Rules') empowered the authorities to dispense with inquiry, where the competent Authority was of the view that it is not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry. She also contended that having regard to the nature of allegations, as the delinquent employee had threatened the witnesses who were not willing to participate in the inquiry, the Authorities had invoked Rule 161 and passed orders. It was further submitted that even if the order of dismissal did not contain reasons, it was sufficient if the file disclosed recording of reasons before passing the order.
Senior Advocate SR Singh appearing for Ram Bahadur Yadav relying on Rule 161 of the RPF Rules submitted that no reasons were recorded for passing such order by invoking the said rule. It was also submitted that the very rule required recording of reasons, order passed without recording any reason could not stand to legal scrutiny.
Senior Counsel contended that conduct of inquiry before any punishment was a normal rule and Rule 161 of the RPF Rules could be invoked only in exceptional cases, but not in a routine manner. He further submitted that when the Rule itself mandated recording of reasons, the argument of the other side that it was sufficient if the file contained reasons, was no ground to sustain the order.
Supreme Court's Analysis
Referring to Rule 161 of the RPF Rules, the bench in the judgement authored by Justice R Subhash Reddy opined that to pass an order as disciplinary measure, by adopting special procedure in certain cases, Rule 161 itself mandated recording of reasons.
"The normal rule for conducting an inquiry is governed by Rules 132, 148 and 153 of the RPF Rules. If the Authorities invoke special procedure, unless they record reasons, as contemplated in the Rule itself, no order could have been passed by invoking Rule 161. At no point of time, appellants have produced a file to show that any reasons are recorded in such a file also. It is a settled legal position that when Rules contemplate method and manner to adopt special procedure, it is mandatory on the part of the authorities to exercise such power by adhering to the Rule strictly," the Court further said in this regards.
The Court further said that Yadav during the relevant point of time was only a Head Constable and was not in a powerful position to say that he would either have influenced or threatened the witnesses.
"The very fact that they have conducted confidential inquiry, falsifies the stand of the appellants that it was not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry. The words 'not reasonably practicable' as used in the Rule, are to be understood in a manner that in a given situation, an ordinary and prudent man should come to the conclusion that in such circumstances, it is not practicable," bench said.
Thus while affirming Single Judge's order, the bench said that in the normal course it would have permitted to hold inquiry but since Yadav had retired from service before the judgement of Single Judge was rendered and thus it was not inclined to do so at that stage. The bench also opined that irrespective of allegations of Yadav conspiring with Jai Veer for commission of theft of Non Judicial Stamp Papers worth Rs 1 crore but neither a police complaint was filed.
To uphold the Single Judge's decision to grant 50% of back wages, the bench after relying on the ratio laid in Deepali Gundu Surwase v. Kranti Junior Adhyapak Mahavidyalaya (D.Ed.) & Others 2013 10 SCC said that the same was just and fair in the facts and circumstances of the case.
Case Title: Union of India and Ors v Ram Bahadur Yadav| Civil Appeal No. 9334 Of 2010
Coram: Justices R Subhash Reddy and Hrishikesh Roy
Citation : LL 2021 SC 688
Click Here To Read/Download Judgement