Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Share on LinkedIn

Share on Email

Share More

Punishment of dismissal should be proportional to the gravity of the mistake: The Supreme Court of India

Bidisha Ghoshal ,
  24 January 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
The Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
Civil Appeal No. 219/2023

CASE TITLE:

Union of India & Ors v. Const Sunil Kumar.

DATE OF ORDER:

19 January 2023.

JUDGE(S):

Hon’ble Mr. Justice M. R Shah.

PARTIES:

Petitioner- Union of India.

Respondent- Const Sunil Kumar.

SUBJECT:

In the present case, the Court is asking for an explanation of an appeal by the Union of India and others against a judgment passed by the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan Bench at Jaipur. The High Court had set aside the penalty imposed by the disciplinary authority on the respondent and directed the appellants to reinstate him in service with notional benefits without any back wages. The Union of India and others are appealing this decision, arguing that the penalty should still stand.

BRIEF FACTS: 

  • In the present case, the respondent was serving in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), a disciplined force. A departmental enquiry was initiated against him and he was served with a chargesheet alleging various charges of gross misconduct and disobedience of orders.
  • The respondent was dismissed from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) based on a departmental enquiry. 
  • The dismissal was confirmed by the Appellate Authority. 
  • The respondent then filed a writ petition in the High Court challenging the penalty. The Single Judge dismissed the writ petition. 
  • The respondent then appealed to the Division Bench of the High Court, which set aside the penalty of dismissal and ordered the respondent's reinstatement in service with notional benefits. 
  • The Division Bench's judgment and order is the subject of the present appeal.

QUESTIONS RAISED:

  • Whether the interference of the High Court was justified when a judgement was already given?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The Appellant counsel is arguing that the Division Bench of the High Court made a serious mistake in overturning the decision to impose a penalty of dismissal on the respondent and instead reinstating them to their position in the service. 
  • The appellant counsel believes that the penalty of dismissal should stand and the respondent should not be reinstated.
  • Ms. Diwan, the learned ASG, is arguing that the penalty of dismissal from service given to the respondent was justified. 
  • She is submitting that the charges and misconduct proved against the respondent were very serious and not befitting a soldier working in a disciplined force like the CRPF. 
  • Ms. Diwan is also submitting that the order of penalty of dismissal was passed after following the due procedure as required under Rule 27 of the CRPF Rules, 1955 and that it is not disproportionate to the charges and misconduct proved.
  • The order of penalty of dismissal imposed upon the delinquent respondent was done so in exercise of powers under Section 11 of the CRPF Act, 1949. She is arguing that reliance placed upon Sections 9 and 10 of the CRPF Act, 1949 by the Division Bench of the High Court was misplaced, since the consideration of heinous offence or less heinous offence would only have bearing on the order of imprisonment, not the imposition of penalty of dismissal. She is citing the case of Union of India v. Ram Karan [(2022) 1 SCC 373] as a basis for her argument.
  • The learned ASG is arguing that the penalty imposed by the Division Bench of the High Court on the respondent for his misconduct was too lenient and should be overturned. She is arguing that the respondent was working in a disciplined force, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and that he demonstrated insubordination by disobeying orders from his superiors and even threatening them with dire consequences, which cannot be tolerated in such an environment. Therefore, she believes that the penalty should be harsher than what the Division Bench of the High Court imposed.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:

  • The counsel argued that in this case, the respondent was accused of being in a state of intoxication while not on duty. The Division Bench of the High Court determined that the penalty of dismissal was too harsh given the gravity of the wrong and instead opted for a less severe punishment. This decision was made based on Section 10 of the CRPF Act, 1949, which states that a member of the force who is in a state of intoxication when not on duty is deemed to have committed a less heinous offence.
  • The respondent is asking the court to consider the respondent's past 11 years of service and to impose a less severe penalty than dismissal.

ANALYSIS OF THE COURT:

  • The disciplinary authority had the right to impose the penalty of dismissal on the respondent after holding the departmental enquiry and following the due procedure as required under Rule 27 of the CRPF Rules, 1955. 
  • The misconduct committed by the respondent was of misbehaving with the superior/senior officers and giving threats of dire consequences, which was serious and could not be tolerated in a disciplined force like CRPF. Therefore, the Division Bench of the High Court was not justified in observing that the penalty of dismissal was disproportionate.
  • The case of Surinder Kumar was referred here where the Division Bench of the High Court was considering the penalty of dismissal for a CRPF personnel who was found to be in a state of intoxication when not on duty. The High Court weighed the gravity of the offence with Section 10, and deemed it to be a less heinous offence. However, the High Court also found that even in this less heinous offence, dismissal from service can be handed down if it is found to be prejudicial to good order and discipline of CRPF. Therefore, the reasoning given by the High Court that the order of penalty of dismissal can be said to be disproportionate is not accepted.
  • Altogether it means the High Court has the power to review a punishment of dismissal if it is deemed to be strikingly disproportionate to the wrong committed. In such cases, the court may find that there is perversity or irrationality in the handed down punishment. The court can then use its power of judicial review to intervene and impose a different punishment.
  • A High Court should not interfere with a punishment of dismissal imposed on the respondent, as it is just and proportional to the gravity of the wrong committed. The Criminal and Research Protection Force (CRPF) is a disciplined force and the order of dismissal was justified. The High Court has therefore committed a serious error in interfering with the order and ordering reinstatement of the respondent.
  • In this case, the Division Bench of the High Court found that the punishment of dismissal imposed on the respondent was disproportionate to the gravity of the wrong he had committed. However, instead of remitting the matter to the disciplinary authority for imposing an appropriate punishment, the Division Bench simply denied the respondent back wages. 
  • The Supreme Court held that this order was unsustainable as the order of penalty/punishment cannot be said to be disproportionate, and therefore there was no need to remand the matter back to the disciplinary authority.
  • The court is quashing and setting aside the judgment and order passed by the High Court, which set aside the order of penalty of dismissal and reinstated the respondent. The court has decided not to award costs.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the Supreme Court held that the punishment of dismissal imposed on the respondent was justified, and that the Division Bench of the High Court had committed a serious error in interfering with the order. The court quashed and set aside the judgment and order of the High Court, and refused to award costs.
Click here to download the original copy of the judgement

 
"Loved reading this piece by Bidisha Ghoshal?
Join LAWyersClubIndia's network for daily News Updates, Judgment Summaries, Articles, Forum Threads, Online Law Courses, and MUCH MORE!!"



Published in Others
Views : 329




Comments



Post a Suggestion for LCI Team
Post a Legal Query