Reply To: Union of India and Ors Vs Subrata Nath(23/11/2022)

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Gia (DU)

After the respondent (a section officer in the Ministry of
Industry and Commerce) was acquitted in a criminal case an
enquiry under r. 15 of the Central Civil Services
(Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1957, was held
against him on the basis of three. charges. Statements of
the witnesses in the criminal case were tendered in evidence
in the enquiry without calling the witnesses. The Inquiring
Officer rejected those statements and found that only the
third charge was proved and not the first two. The third
charge was that he borrowed a sum of money without obtaining
previous sanction of the Government and placed himself
tinder pecuniary obligation to the lender and thereby
contravened r. 13(5) of the Central Civil Services (Conduct)
Rules, 1955. The lender was the representative of a firm
which was an applicant for licences, and though the
application was made to a section in which the respondent
was not working, it would in due course have to be dealt
with by’ the section in which the respondent was working.
The Disciplinary Authority found that all the charges had
been proved and passed an order compulsorily retiring the
respondent from service.
A Single Judge of the High Court quashed the order and the
letters patent appeal filed by the State was dismissed.
In appeal to this Court, it was contended that the
statements rejected by the Inquiring Officer should have
been admitted, that all the three charges should have been
held to be proved and that the order of compulsory
retirement was justified.
HELD : (1) Tribunals should observe rules of natural justice
in the conduct of the inquiries, that is, no material can be
relied upon to establish a contested fact unless spoken to
by a witness who is subjected to cross-examination. In the
present case, the persons whose statements were sought to be
relied on were in station, but were not produced for cross-
examination by the respondent. They should have been
recalled, and tendered for cross-examination by the
respondent. The Inquiring Officer was therefore justified
in refusing to receive the statements as evidence.[223 A-D]
M/s. Barailly Electricity Supply Co. Ltd. v. Workmen,
[1971] 2 S.C.R. 617 at 629 and State of Mysore v. S. S.
Makapur, [1963] 2 S.C.R. 943, 952, followed.
(2)But the interference by the High Court with respect to
the third charge was not justified. [225 F-G]
The second part of r. 13(5) of the Civil Services Conduct
Rules forbids a civil servant from borrowing money from a
person with whom he is likely to have official dealings.
The words ‘likely to have official dealings’ take within
their ambit the possibility of future dealings between the
officer concerned and the person from whom he borrowed the
money. In the present case, even if the applications were
dealt with at the initial stage by another section the
respondent should have known, that in due course, the
section in which be was working would have to deal with
them. Therefore, when he borrowed money a few days earlier
the respondent contravened the rule. [225 A-C]
(3) A disciplinary proceeding is not a criminal trial and
therefore the standard of proof required is that of
preponderence of probability and not proof beyond reasonable
doubt. If the inference that the lender was a person likely
to have official dealings with the respondent was one which
a reasonable person would draw from the proved ‘facts of the
case, the High Court was wrong in sitting as a court of
appeal over a decision based upon it. The ‘Letters Patent
Bench had the same power of dealing with all questions,
either of fact or of law arising in the appeal, as the
Single Judge of the High Court. It the enquiry was properly
held the question of adequacy or reliability of the evidence
cannot be canvassed before the High Court. A finding cannot
be characterised as per-verse or unsupported by any relevant
materials, if it was a reasonable inference from proved
facts. [225 D-G]
State of Andhra Prsdesh v. S. Sree Rama Rao, [1964] 3 S.C.R.
25, 33, followed.
Jugal Kishore Bhadani v. Union of india, A.I.R. 1965 Pat.
196, approved.
(4) If the order of the punishing authority could be
supported on any finding as to substantial misdemeanour for
which the particular punishment could be imposed it is not
for the court to consider whether the charge proved alone
would have weighed with the authority in imposing the
punishment. Therefore, the punishment of compulsory re-
tirement imposed was not liable to be quashed even though
the first two charges had not been proved.[226 G-H;227 A-C]
State of Orissa v. Bidyabhushan Mahapatra, [1963] Supp. I
S.C.R. 648, 666, followed.