CIVIL

The standard of proof before administrative bodies and domestic tribunals

In Maharashtra State Board of Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Vs. K.S. Gandhi and Others,  the Supreme Court had held that in administrative bodies and domestic tribunals the standard of proof required is preponderance of probabilities and not proof beyond reasonable doubt and the probative value is to be judged on the basis of particular facts and circumstances. The Supreme Court had held on page 748 as under:

37. It is thus well settled law that strict rules of the Evidence Act, and the standard of proof envisaged therein do not apply to departmental proceedings or domestic tribunal. It is open to the authorities to receive and place on record all the necessary, relevant, cogent and acceptable material facts though not proved strictly in conformity with the Evidence Act. The material must be germane and relevant to the facts in issue. In grave cases like forgery, fraud, conspiracy, misappropriation, etc. seldom direct evidence would be available. Only the circumstantial evidence would furnish the proof. In our considered view inference from the evidence and circumstances must be carefully distinguished from conjectures or speculation. The mind is prone to take pleasure to adapt circumstances to one another and even in straining them a little to force them to form parts of one connected whole. There must be evidence direct or circumstantial to deduce necessary inferences in proof of the facts in issue. There can be no inferences unless there are objective facts, direct or circumstantial from which to infer the other fact which it is sought to establish. In some cases the other facts can be inferred, as much as is practical, as if they had been actually observed. In other cases the inferences do not go beyond reasonable probability. If there are no positive proved facts, oral, documentary or circumstantial from which the inferences can be made the method of inference fails and what is left is mere speculation or conjecture. Therefore, when an inference of proof that a fact in dispute has been held established there must be some material facts or circumstances on record from which such an inference could be drawn. The standard of proof is not proof beyond reasonable doubt “but” the preponderance of probabilities tending to draw an inference that the fact must be more probable. Standard of proof cannot be put in a strait-jacket formula. No mathematical formula could be laid on degree of proof. The probative value could be gauged from facts and circumstances in a given case. The standard of proof is the same both in civil cases and domestic enquiries.

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