An appellate authority does not have the right to penalise an individual without evidence: High Court of Chhattisgarh

An appellate authority must first hear the case of the petitioner and then pass the order based on the merits of the case. No penalty can be imposed without proper evidence and reasoning. This was held by a single member bench of the High Court of Chhattisgarh consisting of Justice Sanjay K. Agarwal in the case of Ashwani Kumar v Union of India [Writ Petition (S) No. 3074 of 2008] on the 23rd of June 2021.

The petitioner, Ashwani Kumar was a 35 year old constable in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) under the Ministry of Home Affairs and was posted at a unit of the CISF at Bhilai, District Durg. On 27th January 2007 he was placed under suspension by the assistant commandant for alleged misconduct and after a departmental enquiry, he was penalised with a pay reduction from Rs.3,965 to Rs.3,200 for a period of three years. The petitioner appealed against this penalty to the Deputy Inspector General of the unit at Bhilai, who was the appellate authority. The Deputy Inspector General immediately dismissed the appeal and increased the pay reduction period from three years to five years.

The petitioner filed a writ petition before the High Court of Chhattisgarh and contended that the appellate authority violated Rule 52 of the Central Industrial Security Force Rules, 2001 by failing to even consider the appeal and furthermore enhanced the punishment period from three years to five years without any evidence or reason. As a result of this, the petitioner pleaded that the order passed by the Deputy Inspector General of the CISF unit at Bhilai be set aside. The petitioner’s counsel also added that as the petition has been pending for over thirteen years and the petitioner is yet to have a fair hearing, the petition should also consider the facts of the case which the appellate authority failed to do. The respondent’s counsel strongly opposed the petitioner’s prayer and stated that the petitioner has duly been punished for misconduct with five years of pay reduction.

The Court noted that it was the responsibility of an appellate authority to consider whether the procedure laid down in the rules were complied with and whether the penalty imposed was either inadequate or excessive. However the appellate authority does not have the right to enhance the penalty without evidence based on the merits of the case. Justice Sanjay K. Agarwal concluded that “The procedure adopted by the appellate authority directing for enhancement of the quantum of punishment only considering the enhancement of punishment to the petitioner and the act of not considering the appeal on merits in accordance with Rule 52(2)(a) to (c) of the CISF Rules of 2001, is not in accordance with law and thus, the impugned order of the appellate authority dated 20/31-12-2007 being contrary to the CISF Rules of 2001 deserves to be and is hereby set aside.” However the court refused to express any opinion on the merits of the case and the appellate authority was directed to pass a reasonable in accordance to the relevant laws after listening to the petitioner’s case.

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