Railway Protection Force & Ors Vs. K. Raghuram Babu  INSC 322 (3 March
H. K. Sema & Markandey Katju CIVIL APPEAL NO. 3964 OF 2002 Markandey Katju, J.
1. This appeal by special leave has been filed against the judgment and
order dated 7.9.2001 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Writ Appeal No. 139 of 1998.
2. The respondent was an Inspector of the Railway Protection Force. He was
placed under suspension on 18.9.1995 on the allegation that he made excess
delivery of scrap worth about Rs.10,000/-. A departmental proceeding was
initiated against him in which he was given opportunity of hearing in which he
sought to engage a friend to defend his case.
3. A writ petition was filed before the Learned Single Judge of the Andhra
Pradesh High Court which was dismissed. Against that judgment a Writ Appeal was
filed, and the matter was referred to a Full Bench of the High Court for
deciding the constitutionality of Rule 153(8) of the Railway Protection Force
Rules, 1987 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules), which have been made under
Protection Force Act, 1957.
4. The Full Bench held that Rule 153(8) is unreasonable and hence un-
constitutional and accordingly it struck down Rule 153(8). Against that
judgment of the Full Bench this appeal has been filed. Rule 153(8) of the Rules states:
"153.8 The enrolled member charged shall not be allowed to bring in a
legal practitioner at the proceedings but he may be allowed to take the
assistance of any other member of the Force (hereinafter referred to as
"friend") where in the opinion of the Inquiry Officer may, at the
request of the party charged, put his defence properly. Such "friend" must be a serving member of the Force of or below
the rank of Sub-Inspector for the time being posted in the same division or the
battalion where the proceedings are pending and not acting as a
"friend" in any other proceedings pending anywhere. Such
"friend" shall, however, not be allowed to address the Inquiry Officer nor to
cross-examine the witnesses". (emphasis supplied)
5. The last sentence of Rule 153.8 (which has been underlined above) was
challenged as being arbitrary and unconstitutional. The said sentence states
that a friend shall not be allowed to address the Inquiry Officer nor to
cross-examine the witnesses. Thus the friend of the charge-sheeted employee can
only assist him in preparing his case and even during the hearing, but the
charge-sheeted employee himself has to address the Inquiry Officer and cross
examine the witnesses, if he so desires.
6. It may be stated that Rule 153.10 (b) states that if the evidence is
oral, the charge-sheeted employee shall be allowed to cross-examine the
witnesses. Thus, it is not that no right of cross-examination has been granted
at all in the Inquiry. However, this cross-examination must be done by the
charge-sheeted employee himself and not by his friend. Similarly, arguments
before the Inquiry Officer can only be advanced by the charge- sheeted employee
and not by his friend.
7. We are of the opinion that the view taken by the Full Bench of the High
Court in the impugned judgment is not correct.
8. It is well settled that ordinarily in a domestic/departmental inquiry the
person accused of misconduct has to conduct his own case vide N. Kalindi and
others vs. M/s. Tata Locomotive and Engineering Co. Ltd AIR 1960 SC 914. Such
an inquiry is not a suit or criminal trial where a party has a right to be
represented by a lawyer. It is only if there is some rule which permits the
accused to be represented by someone else, that he can claim to be so
represented in an inquiry vide Brook Bond India vs. Subba Raman 1961 (11) LLJ
9. Similarly, in Cipla Ltd. and others vs. Ripu Daman Bhanot and another
1999 (4) SCC 188 it was held by this Court that representation could not be
claimed as of right. This decision followed the earlier decision Bharat
Petroleum Corporation Ltd. vs Maharashtra General Kamgar Union 1999(1) SCC 626
in which the whole case law has been reviewed by this Court.
10. Following the above decision it has to be held that there is no vested
or absolute right in any charge-sheeted employee to representation either
through a counsel or through any other person unless the statute or rules/standing
orders provide for such a right. Moreover, the right to representation through
some one, even if granted by the rules, can be granted as a restricted or
controlled right. Refusal to grant representation through an agent does not
violate the principles of natural justice.
11. In the present case, Rule 153(8) only provides for assistance to a
charge-sheeted employee by an agent. Thus, a restricted right of representation
has been granted by Rule 153(8). Even if no right of assistance had been
granted by the rules, there would be no illegality or unconstitutionality. How
then can it be said that when a restricted right is granted, the said
restricted right is unconstitutional ?
12. We, therefore, respectfully disagree with the Full Bench impugned
judgment of the High Court and we are of the view that Rule 153(8) is
13. In view of the above, the appeal stands allowed. The impugned judgment
of the High Court is set aside. There shall be no order as to costs.