State of Andhra Pradesh & Ors Vs.
Chitra Venkata Rao  INSC 190 (29 August 1975)
RAY, A.N. (CJ) RAY, A.N. (CJ) MATHEW, KUTTYIL
KURIEN CHANDRACHUD, Y.V.
CITATION: 1975 AIR 2151 1976 SCR (1) 521 1975
SCC (2) 557
CITATOR INFO :
RF 1991 SC1070 (6) RF 1991 SC2251 (8)
Constitution of India, 1950, 226-Scope of
High Court's power in relation to departmental enquiries to guilt of government
(1) The jurisdiction of the High Court to
issue a writ of certiorari under Art. 226 is a supervisory jurisdiction, and
not as an appellate court. The findings of fact reached by an inferior court or
tribunal as result of the appreciation of evidence are not reopened or
questioned in these proceedings. An error of law which is apparent on the face
of record can be corrected but not an error of fact, however grave it may be.
In regard to a finding of fact recorded by a tribunal a writ can be issued if
it is shown that the tribunal had erroneously refuged to admit admissible and
material evidence or had erroneously admitted inadmissible evidence which has
influenced the impugned finding. Again, if a finding of fact is based on the
evidence, that would be regarded as an error of law which can be corrected be a
writ of' certiorari, but if there is some evidence which may reasonably support
the conclusion, its adequacy or sufficiency and the inference of' fact drawn,
are within the exclusive jurisdiction of the tribunal. The Court is concerned
to determine whether the inquiry is held by an authority competent in that
behalf, and according to the procedure prescribed in that behalf, and whether
the rules of natural justice are not violated.
Therefore, in departmental enquires relating
to the guilt of delinquent officers, the High Court may interfere only where
the departmental authorities have held tax proceedings against the delinquent
officer in a manner inconsistent with the rules of natural justice or in
violation of the statutory rules prescribing the mode of inquiry or where the
authorities have disabled themselves from reaching a fair decision by some
considerations extraneous to the evidence and the merits of the case, or by
allowing themselves to be influenced by irrelevant considerations or where the
conclusion, on the very face of it, is so wholly arbitrary and capricious that
no reasonable person could ever have arrived at that conclusion.
[525-E-527B] State of Andhra Pradesh v. S.
Sree Rama Rao  3 S.C.R. 25; Railway Board, representing the Union of
India New Delhi & Anr. v. Niranjan Singh  3 S.C.R. 548 and Syed
Yakoob v. K. S. Radhakrishnan & Ors.  5 S.C.R.
64, referred to.
(2) There is no warrant for the view that in
considering whether a public officer is guilty of misconduct charged against
him the rule followed in criminal trials, namely, that an offence is not
established unless proved beyond reason able doubt, must be applied. [525F G]
In the present case, charges that the respondent fraudulently claimed
travelling allowance were inquired into by the Disciplinary Proceedings
Tribunal. The Tribunal found him guilty and recommended dismissal. The
Government accepted the recommendation and dismissed the respondent. In a writ
petition challenging the order of dismissal, the High Court equated the charge
of mis conduct to a charge under s.5(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,
1947 discussed the evidence and findings of the Tribunal on that basis and held
that the prosecution did not adduce material and essential evidence namely; the
conductor's chart which would show whether the respondent travelled on a
particular day, that a statement made by the respondent during investigation
was not admissible in evidence, that it was not safe to rely on it and set
aside the order of dismissal.
Allowing the appeal to this Court.
HELD . (a) The High Court was not correct in
holding that the domestic inquiry before the Tribunal was the same as
prosecution is a criminal case.
[525C-D] 3-L925SupCI/75 522 (b) The
respondent was given full opportunity to explain the statement A made by him
Further, the Tribunal did not base its
findings only on that statement. It had given its reasons for its conclusion
and it is not possible for the High Court to say that no reasonable person
could have arrived at that conclusion. The High Court had accepted the
explanation that the conductors' charts were destroyed and therefore could not
Moreover, the conductor's chart would not
show the names of the persons paying the money. The High Court reviewed and
re-assessed the evidence and then rejected evidence as no evidence, and this is
precisely what the High Court, in exercising jurisdiction under Art 226, should
[525SC; 527B-D] (c) The respondent's
contention that the Tribunal relied upon certain reports which were not
available to the respondent is not correct. A reference to the inquiry report
of the Tribunal shows that the Tribunal had not relied upon those documents for
finding the respondent guilty. [527G- 528B]
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal
No. 2040 of 1974.
Appeal by special leave from the Judgment and
order dated the 13th June, 1974 of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in W.P. No.
2145 of 1972.
Niren De, Attorney-General of India and P. P.
Rao, for the appellant. r A. Subba Rao for the respondent.
The Judgment of the Court was delivered by
RAY, C.J. This appeal is by special leave from the judgment dated 13 June, 19?4
of the Andhra Pradesh High Court quashing an order of dismissal. The principal
question canvassed by the Attorney General is that the High Court should not
have interfered with the findings of the Tribunal.
The State Government in the year 1964
received certain complaints alleging misconduct against the respondent. The
Director of Anti Corruption Bureau was asked to inquire and make a report. The
Government in the light of advice tendered by the Vigilance Commission referred
the matter to the Tribunal constituted under Andhra Pradesh Civil Services
(Disciplinary Proceedings Tribunal) Act, 1960.
Three charges were framed against the
Broadly stated the charges were that the
respondent claimed false travelling allowance on certain days in the months of
January, April and September, 1964. The respondent denied the charges and
submitted a written statement on 4 November, 1968. The Tribunal made inquiries
and on 9 December, 1968 recommended dismissal of the respondent from the
The Government thereafter gave a notice to
the respondent on 22 February, 1969 to show cause why the penalty of dismissal
from service should not be imposed on him. On 20 March, 1969 the respondent
submitted his written explanation. The Government after considering the
explanation of the respondent, by an order dated 24 May, 1969 dismissed the
respondent from service.
523 The respondent challenged the order of
dismissal in the Andhra Pradesh High Court. The High Court by judgment dated 27
July, 1970 set aside the order of dismissal on the ground that the
recommendations of the tribunal were not communicated to the respondent along with
the notice regarding the proposed punishment of dismissal. The High Court
observed that it was open to the punishing authority to issue a fresh show
cause notice regarding the proposed punishment after communicating the enquiry
report and the recommendations of the Tribunal The Government thereafter
complied with the directions of the High Court. The Government cancelled the
order of dismissal dated 24 May, 1969. The Government, however, ordered that
the respondent shall be deemed to have been under suspension from service from
21 May, 1969 until further orders. The order of suspension was challenged by
the respondent and set aside by the Andhra Pradesh High Court on 22 March,
The Government then issued fresh notices
dated 16 September, 1970 and 25 September, 1970 to the resplendent and
communicated the report of the Tribunal and the recommendations of the Tribunal
and the Vigilance Commission regarding the proposed penalty. The respondent
submitted his explanation on 6 and 23 October, 1970. The Government considered
the same. The Commerce Department thereafter by an order dated S May, 1972
dismissed the respondent from service.
The charges against the respondent were that
he made three false claims for travelling allowance for three journeys. The
first journey was on 3 January, 1969 from Rajahmundry to Hyderabad The second
journey was on 19 April, 1964 from Rajamundry to Hyderabad and Hyderabad to
Rajahmundry on 24 April, 1964. The third journey was from Rajahmundry to Guntur
on 13 September, 1964 and Guntur to Rajahmundry on 16 September, ]964.
The respondent in his written statement filed
before the Tribunal denied the charges and maintained that he travelled by
first class on the days mentioned in the claim for travelling allowance. He
stated that he travelled by first class from Rajahmundry to Hyderabad on 3
January, 1964 in accordance with his tour programme and claimed the travelling
allowance. He also said that he travelled by first class from Rajahmundry to
Hyderabad on 19 April, 1964 and from Hyderabad to Rajahmundry on 24 April, 1964
and claimed travelling allowance.
In Exhibit P-45 which was his signed
statement dated 8 January, 1967, he stated that on 3 January, 1964 he went with
his Joint Director from Vijayorgram from Rajahmundry in a car. In that
statement he said that he went from Hyderabad to Waltair on 7 January, 1964 and
he claimed travelling allowance from Vijayawada to Hyderabad. In Exhibit P-45
he said that on 19 April, 1964 he travelled from Rajahmundry to Vijayawada by
first class and he went to Hyderabad by first class on 19 April, 1964. In
Exhibit P-45 he said that he did not 524 travel on 24 April, 1964 from
Hyderabad to Rajahmundry because. A there was no accommodation. He waited at
Hyderabad. On 28 April, 1964 he got reservation and travelled to Rajahmundry.
The Tribunal on enquiry found the respondent
guilty of charges 1 and 2. In the Enquiry Report dated 9 December, 1968, the
Tribunal recommended dismissal of the respondent.
The respondent in the High Court challenged
the order of dismissal. The High Court set aside the order of dismissal on the
grounds that the prosecution did not adduce every material and essential
evidence to make out the charges and that the conclusion reached by the
Tribunal was not based on evidence. The High Court held that Exhibit P-45 was
not admissible in evidence according to the Evidence Act and it was not safe to
rely on such a statement as a matter of prudence.
The High Court said that corruption or
misconduct under rule 2(b) of the Andhra Pradesh Civil Service (Disciplinary
Proceedings Tribunal) Rules, has the same meaning as criminal misconduct in the
discharge of official duties in section 5(1) of the Prevention of Corruption
Act, 1947. The High Court in that background discussed the evidence and
findings of the Tribunal as to whether the prosecution placed evidence in
respect of the ingredients of the charge under section 5(1)(d) of the
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1947 The High Court referred to these features in
regard to the finding of the Tribunal. Four years elapsed between the journeys
forming subject matter of the charge and the framing of the charge. The
respondent in his evidence said that he secured accommodation through the
Conductor in charge of the first class compartment after the arrival of the
train. It was possible that the respondent might have converted his ticket to
first class one once he found that first class accommodation was available on
the train even though he had purchased a ticket of lower denomination. The
conductor's chart is the only basis for showing whether a particular person
travelled by first class by a particular train and not by a copy of the
reservation chart kept at the starting station. Though the prosecution produced
evidence to show that the respondent did not purchase or reserve first class
accommodation in advance, the prosecution failed to produce the Conductor's
charts relating to the trains in question. According to the High Court
"The prosecution utterly failed to adduce any evidence to exclude these
The High Court said that it was doubtful
whether Exhibit P-45 was admissible in evidence. It was said to be taken during
the course of investigation. The High Court said that even if the statement is
accepted, it only shows that the respondent did not actually travel on the days
mentioned in the tour programme according to which travelling allowance was
The respondent made the statement marked
Exhibit P-45 on 8 January, 1967. The charge-sheet was framed on 17 November,
525 1967. The respondent filed the written statement on 2 August, 1968. He
filed an additional written statement on 4 November, 1968. It is apparent that
the charge-sheets were framed after investigation.
It transpired on evidence before the Tribunal
that one first class ticket bearing No.03834 was collected at Hyderabad on 4
January" 1964. The further evidence about ticket No. 03834 was that it was
issued to one P.
Ramachandra Raju who travelled from
Rajahmundry to Hyderabad on the night of 3 January, 1964. The further evidence
before the Tribunal was that one first class ticket bearing No.
04049 for the journey from Rajahmundry to
Hyderabad was sold to one A. S. Murty for the journey an 19 April, 1964.
The Tribunal examined the respondent. The
respondent was given full opportunity to deal with Exhibit P-45.
The High Court was not correct in holding
that the domestic enquiry before the Tribunal was the same as prosecution in a
criminal case. The High Court was also in error in holding that Conductor's
chart would show whether the respondent travelled or not. The High Court
accepted the explanation that Conductor's charts were burnt and, therefore,
they could not be produced. Further, Conductor's.
chart could not show the name of the persons
paying the money. There was positive evidence before the Tribunal of tickets
being purchased by persons other than respondent on 3 January, 1964 and 19
April, 1964. These features figured prominently before the Tribunal.
The High Court all throughout treated the
enquiry before the Tribunal as a criminal prosecution.
The scope of Article 226 in dealing with
departmental inquiries has come up before this Court. Two propositions were
laid down by this Court in State of Andhra Pradesh v.
S. Sree Rama Rao(1). First, there is no warrant
for the view that in considering whether a public officer is guilty of
misconduct charged against him,. the rule followed in criminal trials that an
offence is not established unless proved by evidence beyond reasonable doubt to
the satisfaction of the Court must be applied. If that rule be not applied by a
domestic Tribunal o Inquiry the High Court in a petition under Article-226 of
the Constitution is not competent to declare the order of the authorities
holding a departmental inquiry invalid. The High Court is not a Court of Appeal
under Article 226 over the decision of the authorities holding a departmental
enquiry against a public servant. The Court is concerned to determine whether
the enquiry is held by an authority competent in that behalf and according to
the procedure prescribed in that behalf, and whether the rules of natural
justice are not violated.
Second, where there is some evidence which
the authorities entrusted with the duty to hold the enquiry has accepted and
which evidence may reason ably support the conclusion that the delinquent
officer is guilty of the charge, it is not the function of the High Court to
review the evidence (1)  3 S.C.R. 25.
526 and to arrive at an independent finding
on the evidence. The High A Court may interfere where the departmental
authorities have held the proceedings against the delinquent in a manner
inconsistent with the rules of natural justice or in violation of the statutory
rules prescribing the mode of enquiry or where the authorities have disabled
themselves from reaching a fair decision by some considerations extraneous to
the evidence and the merits of the case or by allowing themselves to be
influenced by irrelevant considerations or where the conclusion on the very
face of it is so wholly arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person
could ever have arrived at that conclusion. The departmental authorities are,
if the enquiry is otherwise properly held, the sole judges of facts and if
there is some legal evidence on which their findings can be based, the adequacy
or reliability of that evidence is not a matter which can be permitted to be
canvassed before the High Court in a proceeding for a writ under Article 226.
Again, this Court in Railway Board,
representing the Union of India, New Delhi & Anr v. Niranjan Singh(1) said
that the High Court does not interfere with the conclusion of the disciplinary
authority unless the finding is not supported by any evidence or it can be said
that no reasonable person could have reached such a finding. In Niranjan
Singh's case (supra) this Court held that the High Court exceeded its powers in
interfering with the findings of the disciplinary authority on the charge that
the respondent was instrumental in compelling the shut-down of an air
compressor at about 8.15 a.m. On 31 May, 1956. This Court said that the Enquiry
Committee felt that the evidence of two persons that the respondent led a group
of strikers and compelled them to close down their compressor could not be
accepted at its face value. The General Manager did not agree with the Enquiry
Committee on that point. The General Manager accepted the evidence. This Court
said that it was open to the General Manager to do so and he was not bound by
the conclusion reached by the Committee. This Court held that the conclusion
reached by the disciplinary authority should prevail and the High Court should
not have interfered with the conclusion.
The jurisdiction to issue a writ of
certiorari under Article 226 is a supervisory jurisdiction. The Court exercises
it not as an Appellate Court. The findings of fact reached by an inferior court
or Tribunal as a result of the.
appreciation of evidence are not reopened or
questioned in writ proceedings. An error of law which is apparent on the face
of the record can be corrected by a writ, but not an error of facts however
grave it may appear to be. In regard to a finding of fact recorded by a
Tribunal, a writ can be issued if it is shown that in recording the said
finding, the Tribunal had erroneously refused to admit admissible and material
evidence, or had erroneously admitted inadmissible evidence which has
influenced the impugned finding. Again if a finding of fact is based on no
evidence, that would be regarded as an error of law which can be corrected by a
writ of certiorary. A finding of fact recorded by the Tribunal cannot be chal
(1)  3 S.C.R. 548.
527 lenged on the ground that the relevant
and material evidence adduced before the Tribunal is insufficient or inadequate
to sustain a finding. The adequacy or sufficiency of evidence led on a point
and the inference of fact to be drawn from the said finding are within the
exclusive jurisdiction of the Tribunal. See Syed Yakoob v. K. S. Radhakrishnan
The High Court in the present case assessed
the entire evidence and came to its own conclusion. The High Court was not
justified to do so. Apart from the aspect that the High Court does not correct
a finding of fact on the ground that the evidence is not sufficient or
adequate, the evidence in the present case which was considered by the Tribunal
cannot be scanned by the High Court to justify the conclusion that there is no
evidence which would justify the finding of the Tribunal that the respondent
did not make the journey. The Tribunal gave reasons for its conclusions. It is
not possible for the High Court to say that no reasonable person could have
arrived at these conclusions. The High Court reviewed the evidence, re-assessed
the evidence and then rejected the evidence as no evidence. That is precisely
what the High Court in exercising jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari
should not do.
The respondent raised another contention that
the State did not give the respondent a document described as 'B' Report and
Investigation Report of the Anti Corruption Bureau. The ground advanced by the
respondent in the petition before the High Court was that 'B' Report and
Investigation Report to which the reference is made by the Tribunal in its
report and which are relied on to support the charges, were not made available
to the respondent. The High Court did not express any opinion on this question
because the High Court set aside the dismissal in the ground that there was no
evidence for the Tribunal to come to that conclusion. The State in the
affidavit filed in the High Court in answer to the respondent's petition said
that 'B' Report and Investigation Report are secret reports which are intended
for the reference of the Tribunal of Disciplinary Proceedings and the
Government and, therefore, these reports are not supplied, to the officers. We
need not express any opinion on that answer of the State in the affidavit. The
respondent in answer to the affidavit of the State said that the Tribunal used
the 'B' Report and the Investigation Report against the respondent and did not
supply copies. It is because the respondent alleged in the writ petition that
the Tribunal relied on 'B' Report and Investigation Report, we looked into the
Inquiry Report of the Tribunal to find out whether that was a correct statement.
We find that there is a reference to 'B' Report by the Tribunal only because
the respondent challenged the genuineness and authenticity of Exhibit P-45. The
respondent's case was that if he made a statement like Exhibit P-45, the
Investigating Officer would have sent it along with his report. The Inquiry
Officer says that the Investigating officer recorded the statement of the
respondent. The Tribunal has not relied on 'B' Report or Investigation Report.
The (1)  5 S.C.R 64.
528 respondent never demanded 'B' Report and
Investigation Report. The A respondent was interested before the Tribunal to
displace Exhibit P-45 by doubting its genuineness. The Tribunal found that
Exhibit P-45 was genuine and was a statement made and signed by the respondent
in the presence of the Investigating Officer. It does not appear that the
Tribunal based its finding only on Exhibit P-45.
For these reasons we are of opinion that the
High Court was wrong in setting aside the dismissal order by reviewing and
re-assessing the evidence. The appeal is accepted. The judgment of the High
Court is set aside. Parties will pay and bear their own costs.
V.P.S Appeal allowed.