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Claims of Coercion must be substantiated with evidence causing such prejudice: Delhi High Court

The violation alleged would not be grounds for seeking interference of Courts unless it is clearly demonstrated that such violation caused prejudice to the person claiming such a ground. This was held by the two-judge bench comprising of Hon’ble Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Hon’ble Justice Amit Bansal in the case of Deepak Chaudhary vs. Union of India and Ors. [W.P.(C) 7885/2021] on the 06th of august, before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi at New Delhi.

The brief facts of the case are, the petitioner is an Ex-Constable in respondent Border Security Force. The petitioner, absented himself without leave twice, from 16th August, 2020 till 18th August, 2020 and again from 29th August, 2020 to 23rd October, 2020. The respondent BSF wrote letters to the petitioner, asking him to re-join his duties, but the said letters were not replied to by the petitioner and he resumed his duties only on 23rd October, 2020. The petitioner was heard by the Commandant, BSF, who remanded the petitioner for Record of Evidence. The petitioner, after competition of the Record of Evidence was tried by the Summary Security Force Court (SSFC) for two offences of „absenting himself without leave‟ under Section 19(a) of the BSF Act. The petitioner pleaded guilty to both offences and upon being given an opportunity by the respondent BSF of making a statement in his defence, he stated that “I had made a mistake and may be pardoned”. Additionally, the petitioner declined to call any witness in his defence upon being given an opportunity to do so. Vide order dated 22nd January, 2021, the petitioner was awarded the punishment of dismissal from service by the SSFC. The present petition has been filed impugning the dismissal order.

The petitioner submitted that proper opportunity of presenting his case was not given to the petitioner in terms of aforesaid Rules and that the petitioner was made to plead guilty under coercion by the respondents. The respondents submitted that the petitioner had a dismal service record and he was habitually absenting himself without leave. He had absented himself without leave on earlier occasions also, but his case was dealt with leniently by the authorities to give him an opportunity to improve his conduct. The court heard the submissions of both the parties and relied on State Bank of Patiala Vs. S.K. Sharma (1996) 3 SCC 364, wherein it was held that, “an order cannot be set aside altogether for any and every violation of a facet of natural justice and the complaint must be examined on the touchstone of prejudice. It was further observed that all things taken together, whether or not the delinquent officer was afforded a fair hearing, is what has to be seen in cases involving objection to compliance of procedural provisions.”

The court held that, “The petitioner has failed to show any clear violation of the aforesaid Rules. Even if it is assumed that there was some violation of any procedure as mandated by the Rules, the petitioner has failed to point out the prejudice caused to him on account of such alleged violation. In fact, it is admitted on behalf of the petitioner that the petitioner had applied for leave but the same was not given by the respondent BSF and therefore, the petitioner proceeded to absent himself without leave as his uncle was acutely ill. Moreover, there is nothing on record to substantiate the contention that the petitioner was made to plead guilty under coercion. The violation as alleged by the petitioner would not be grounds for seeking interference of Courts unless it is clearly demonstrated that such violation caused prejudice to the petitioner.” The petition was dismissed by stating that the punishment was rightly imposed.

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