Mining Corporation & Anr Vs. Ananda Chandra Prusty  INSC 1395 (5 November 1996)
Jeevan Reddy, K. Venkataswami B.P. Jeevan Reddy, J.
O R D
the counsel for the parties.
respondent was an Assistant Accounts Officer in the service of the
appellant-corporation. Two charges were framed against him and a disciplinary
inquiry held. The first charge was that the respondent made certain false notings
while recommending sanction of loans to certain persons to the effect that no
loan was outstanding against them. On tile basis of such false notings, loans
were sanctioned to them, contrary to the rules. The second charge was that he
failed to exercise proper control and supervision on the staff on account of
which the relevant registers and record were not kept upto date. The inquiry
officer reported that while charge No.1 is established, charge No.2 is proved
only partially. On the basis of the said report the respondent was dismissed
from service, which he challenged by way of writ petition in the Orissa High
Court. The High Court has allowed the writ petition holding:
burden of proving the first charge rested with the department. The inquiry
officer, however, has wrongly cast the burden of disproving the charge upon the
respondent. The department must succeed on the strength of its own evidence and
not on the basis of weakness or the failure of the delinquent officer to prove
his innocence. Since the inquiry officer has proceeded on a wrong hypothesis
not permissible in, law, the finding recorded by him on charge No.1 is liable
to be quashed.
rules have been cited which show which officer is required to maintain which
register nor is there any oral evidence to establish the guilt of the
respondent. In the case of this charge too, the burden has been wrongly cast
upon the respondent to prove his innocence. Accordingly the High Court quashed
the order of punishment impugned in the writ petition.
counsel for the appellant-corporation submitted that the question of burden of
proof becomes irrelevant when both parties have adduced their evidence. Learned
counsel also complained that the High Court seems to suggest that the standard
of proof required in disciplinary matters is similar to the one obtaining in
criminal cases. Counsel submitted that while saying that it is not reappreciating
the evidence, the High Court has precisely done that. On the other hand the
learned counsel for the respondent supported the reasoning and conclusion of
the High Court.
disciplinary or a departmental inquiry, the question of burden of proof depends
upon the nature of charges and the nature of explanation put forward by the
delinquent officer. In this sense, the learned counsel for the Appellant may be
justified in complaining that the standard of proof stipulated by the High
Court in this case sounds inappropriate to a disciplinary inquiry. At the same
time we must say that certain observations made by the inquiry officer in his
report do lend themselves to the criticism offered by the High Court.
consideration of the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case
including the nature of charges we are not inclined to interfere in the matter.
The position with respect to burden of proof is as clarified by us hereinabove
viz., that there is no such thing as an absolute burden of proof, always lying
upon the department in a disciplinary inquiry. The burden of proof depends upon
the nature of explanation and the nature of charges. In a given case the burden
may be shifted to the delinquent officer, depending upon his explanation. For
example take the first charge in this case. The charge was that he made certain
false notings on account of which loans were disbursed to certain ineligible
persons. The respondent's case was that those notings were based upon certain
documents produced and certain records maintained by other employees in the
such a situation it is for the respondent to establish his case. The department
is not expected to examine those other employees in the office to show that
their acts or records could not have formed the basis of wrong notings made by
facts and circumstances of this case, we decline to interfere in the matter
under Article 136 of the Constitution except to clarify the position of law.
The appeal is accordingly dismissed with no costs.
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