Service Law

Standard of proof in a Departmental Enquiry which is Quasi Criminal/Quasi Judicial in nature:

A. In M.V. Bijlani Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Others, this Court held:

“… Disciplinary proceedings, however, being quasi criminal in nature, there should be some evidences to prove the charge. Although the charges in a departmental proceedings are not required to be proved like a criminal trial, i.e., beyond all reasonable doubts, we cannot lose sight of the fact that the Enquiry Officer performs a quasi-judicial function, who upon analysing the documents must arrive at a conclusion that there had been a preponderance of probability to prove the charges on the basis of materials on record. While doing so, he cannot take into consideration any irrelevant fact. He cannot refuse to consider the relevant facts. He cannot shift the burden of proof. He cannot reject the relevant testimony of the witnesses only on the basis of surmises and conjectures.

(Emphasis added)

(See also: Narinder Mohan Arya Vs. United India Insurance Co. Ltd. and Others, Roop Singh Negi Vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, and Krushnakant B. Parmar Vs. Union of India (UOI) and Another,

B. In Prahlad Saran Gupta Vs. Bar Council of India and Another, this Court observed that when the matter relates to a charge of professional mis-conduct which is quasi-criminal in nature, it requires proof beyond reasonable doubt. In that case the finding against the delinquent advocate was that he retained a sum of Rs. 15,000/- without sufficient justification from 4-4-1978 till 2-5-1978 and he deposited the amount in the Court on the latter date, without disbursing the same to his client. The said conduct was found by this Court as “not in consonance with the standards of professional ethics expected from a senior member of the profession”. On the said fact-situation, this Court imposed a punishment of reprimanding the advocate concerned.

C. In Harish Chandra Tiwari Vs. Baiju, this Court made a distinction from the above judgment stating the facts in the aforesaid decisions would speak for themselves and the distinction from the facts of this case was so glaring that the misconduct of the Appellant in the present case was of a far graver dimension. Hence, the said decision was not of any help to the Appellant for mitigation of the quantum of punishment.

D. In Noor Aga Vs. State of Punjab and Another, it was held that the departmental proceeding being a quasi judicial one, the principles of natural justice are required to be complied with. The Court exercising power of judicial review are entitled to consider as to whether while inferring commission of misconduct on the part of a delinquent officer relevant piece of evidence has been taken into consideration and irrelevant facts have been excluded there from. Inference on facts must be based on evidence which meet the requirements of legal principles. (See also: Roop Singh Negi Vs. Punjab National Bank and Others, Union of India (UOI) and Others Vs. Naman Singh Sekhawat, and Vijay Singh Vs. State of U.P. and Others,

E. In M.S. Bindra Vs. Union of India and Others, it was held:

While evaluating the materials the authority should not altogether ignore the reputation in which the officer was held till recently. The maxim “Nemo Firut Repente Turpissimus” (no one becomes dishonest all on a sudden) is not unexceptional but still it is salutary guideline to judge human conduct, particularly in the field of Administrative Law. The authorities should not keep the eyes totally closed towards the overall estimation in which the delinquent officer was held in the recent past by those who were supervising him earlier. To dunk an officer into the puddle of “doubtful integrity” it is not enough that the doubt fringes on a mere hunch. That doubt should be of such a nature as would reasonably and consciously be entertainable by a reasonable man on the given material. Mere possibility is hardly sufficient to assume that it would have happened. There must be preponderance of probability for the reasonable man to entertain doubt regarding that possibility. Only then there is justification to ram an officer with the label ‘doubtful integrity’.

F. In High Court of High Court of Judicature at Bombay through ite Registrar Vs. Udaysingh Nimbalkar and Others, , this Court held:

The doctrine of ‘proof beyond doubt’ has no application. Preponderance of probabilities and some material on record would be necessary to reach a conclusion whether or not the delinquent has committed misconduct.

G. In view of the above, the law on the issue can be summarised to the effect that the disciplinary proceedings are not a criminal trial, and in spite of the fact that the same are quasi-judicial and quasi-criminal, doctrine of proof beyond reasonable doubt, does not apply in such cases, but the principle of preponderance of probabilities would apply. The court has to see whether there is evidence on record to reach the conclusion that the delinquent had committed a misconduct. However, the said conclusion should be reached on the basis of test of what a prudent person would have done. The ratio of the judgment in Prahlad Saran Gupta (supra) does not apply in this case as the said case was of professional misconduct, and not of a delinquency by the employee