Jaswant Singh Vs.
Union of India & Ors.  INSC 1150 (16 July 2008)
JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4558 OF 2008 (Arising out of S.L.P. (C)
No.9658/2006) Jaswant Singh ...Appellant Versus Union of India &
Ors....Respondents O R D E R Leave granted.
This appeal is
directed against the judgment and order dated 2.2.2006 passed by a Division
Bench of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana at Chandigarh in C.W.P. No.
13790/2004 whereby and where under the writ petition filed by the appellant
herein challenging the validity of an order dated 10.5.2004 passed by the
Central Administrative Tribunal, Chandigarh Bench in O.A.No.354/CH/2003 was
The basic fact of the
matter is not in dispute. Appellant herein was employed as a clerk in the
services of the respondents. He was directed to join the team who conducted
survey of Sanjay Labour Colony, Chandigarh. Inter-alia, on the premise that the
appellant had committed misconduct, a departmental proceeding was initiated
wherein, following three charges were framed against him:
" That Shri
Jaswant Singh while posted and functioning as Clerk in the Labour Colony Branch
of the Estate Office, UT,Chandigarh during the month of April, 1993 committed
acts of gross misconduct in as much as, he participated in the conduct of a
survey of the Sanjay Labour Colony Near Sukhna Chok in an unauthorized manner
without any orders or authority concerned, made incorrect reports in 21 cases
as falsely reporting them as residents of the said colony. He also issued the
Provisional Identity Cards meant for the bonafide residents of the Sanjay
Labour Colony by forging signature of Naib Tehsildar(Colonies) Shri
whereas charge No. 2 was proved in the departmental proceedings initiated
against the appellant, he was exonerated of charge Nos. 1 and 3.
It is, furthermore,
not in dispute that he was proceeded against in a criminal case. By reason of a
judgment and order dated 11.10.2001, he was acquitted of the said charges.
The Criminal Court,
in its judgment, opined as under:
evidence of the prosecution is self contradictory and I have come to the
conclusion that the case of the prosecution is not beyond any reasonable doubt
and the evidence led by the prosecution is not sufficient to prove any charge
against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubt.
In view of my
afore-mentioned discussion, the prosecution has failed to prove its case beyond
any reasonable doubt and by giving the benefit of doubt, the accused persons
are acquitted of the charges leveled against them........"
Appellant filed an Original Application before the Tribunal.
Bharat Gold Mines
Ltd. And Anr.- JT 1999(2) SCC 456, a contention was raised by the appellant
before the Tribunal that he having been acquitted in the criminal case, the
order of punishment imposed upon him in the departmental proceedings cannot be
The tribunal by its
judgment opined that as a finding of fact has been arrived at that the
appellant had furnished incorrect report in respect of 21 cases, in the
disciplinary proceeding only because he was acquitted by the Criminal Court
giving him the benefit of doubt, Capt. M. Paul -2- (Supra), would not be
applicable. It was, furthermore, held as under:
" It is well
settled principle that in a judicial review, the administrative Tribunals have
no jurisdiction to go into the truth of allegations/charges, except in cases
where they are based on no evidence or where they are perverse. We have the
power only to examine the procedural correctness of the decision making
process. The Tribunal cannot embark upon appreciation of evidence to substitute
its own findings of fact in place of these disciplinary/appellate authority. On
this aspect of the matter, we are relying on a period of decisions in the
General,CSIR & Ors. 2001 AIR SCW 2388. In the instant case, we also find
that the procedure as laid down by law, has been followed by the respondents
department, applicant was given due opportunity to defend himself, was also
afforded an opportunity of personal bearing etc. The punishment awarded to him
is also not such, as could be terms as disproportionate to the charge proved
against him. We are, therefore, not inclined to interfere in the matter. Since
a penalty has been imposed on the applicant, his suspension period has also
rightly been treated as non-duty."
appearing on behalf of the appellant would submit that the Tribunal and
consequently the High Court committed a serious error of law in passing the
impugned judgment as they failed to take into consideration the fact that the
appellant having been exonerated in regard to charge Nos. 1 to 3, charge No. 2
being intrinsically connected therewith, could not stand alone and, thus, no
finding of misconduct was possible to be arrived at in relation thereof. It
was, furthermore, submitted that the criminal Court had considered the merit of
the matter and keeping in view the fact that all the documents as also the -3-
oral evidences which were produced by the respondents both in the departmental
proceedings as also the criminal case were the same, the impugned judgment is
not sustainable. Strong reliance has been placed by the learned counsel on a
decision of Learned counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents, on the
other hand, supported the impugned judgment.
We have noticed
hereinbefore the charges levelled against the appellant.
The first charge
relates to his participation in the conduct of a survey in an unauthorized
manner. The third charge was in respect of issuance of Provisional Identity
Cards meant for the bonafide residents of the Sanjay Labour Colony by forging
signatures of Naib Tehsildar(Colonies) Shri K.S. Gill. In the departmental
proceedings, as indicated hereinebefore, the appellant
had been exonerated
from the said charges which would mean that the conduct of survey by the
appellant was found to be authorised and it had not been found that he had
forged the signatures of Shri K.S.Gill. Exoneration of the appellant in respect
of the said two charges, in our opinion, would not lead to the conclusion that
incorrect reports made by him in relation to 21 cases reporting them as
residents of the said Sanjay Labour Colony, had any direct or indirect nexus
with the charge Nos 1 and 3. Charge No.2, in our opinion, is absolutely
distinct and separate. On the basis of the said charge alone the appellant
could have been proceeded against in the departmental proceedings.
We, therefore, are
unable to agree with the submissions made by the learned counsel in this
So far as the second
contention of the appellant is concerned, there cannot be any doubt,
whatsoever, that in the -4- event the departmental proceedings and the criminal
case are based on identical facts,the judgment of acquittal passed by the
criminal court should be taken into consideration by the authority holding the
In this case the
appellant was given the benefit of doubt. He had not been completely exonerated
in the criminal case. Acquittal based on benefit of doubt to an accused, cannot
be equated with an acquittal on merit of the matter. Furthermore, it is trite
that standard of burden of proof in a criminal case and in the departmental
proceedings is absolutely different. Whereas in the former proof, beyond all
reasonable doubt is required to be adopted; in the latter prepanderance of
probability serves the purpose.
The effect of a false
report by a government servant is a serious misconduct. The same may not, in a
given situation, give rise to a criminal misconduct.
It is well known that
the Central Administrative Tribunal in a proceeding questioning the validity
and/or the legality of the departmental proceedings exercises a limited
jurisdiction. Its jurisdiction to interfere with either in the departmental
proceedings or on the quantum of punishment imposed on the delinquent employee
being extremely limited, it cannot be said to have committed any illegality in
the impugned judgment. As noticed hereinbefore the principal contention raised
by the appellant was based on a decision of this Court in Capt. M. Paul Anthony
In G.M.Tank (supra)
itself this Court noticed the distinction between a departmental proceedings
and a criminal case inter alia in view of the standard of proof. However,
having regard to the fact situation prevailing therein, namely, the case
related to a charge under the Prevention of Corruption Act, both departmental
proceedings and the criminal case were held to be based on absolutely identical
-5- We may notice
that this Court in several decisions had laid emphasis on the aforementioned
distinction, namely, standard of proof.
265 this Court held
"13. It is now
well settled by reason of a catena of decisions of this Court that if an
employee has been acquitted of a criminal charge, the same by itself would not
be a ground not to initiate a departmental proceeding against him or to drop
the same in the event an order of acquittal is passed."
For the reasons
aforementioned, we do not find any infirmity in the impugned judgment.
The appeal is
dismissed. There shall however, be no order as to costs.
JOSEPH] New Delhi, July 16, 2008.