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In case of re-analysis, the Disciplinary Authority is not the final judge of facts: High Court of Bombay at Goa

Re-analysis and Re-appreciation of the evidence brought on record in a duly constituted departmental enquiry on the principle that the Disciplinary Authority is the final judge of facts should not be entertained. A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice M.S. Sonak  adjudicating the matter of Pritesh V. Naik & Ors  v. The State of Goa and Ors (WRIT PETITIONS NO. 739, 740 & 743 OF 2014) dealt with the issue of whether to allow the present writ petition or not.

In the present case, Pritesh V. Naik and Santosh K. Gawas were members of police force while Sahadev Sawal was still in service. All the petitioners were proceeded against departmentally. According to the charges It was proposed that Santosh would be reduced in rank from that of Head Constable to Police Constable. In so far as Pritesh and Sahadev are concerned, it was proposed to impose on them the penalty of reduction of pay to a lower stage in the time scale of pay by 3 stages and 2 stages, respectively.

 The Petitioners challenged the report and claimed that they are not liable to be punished to which the Disciplinary Authority did not agree with the explanations. The order of the Disciplinary Authority was carried in appeal by all the three petitioners. By a cryptic order dated 21st January, 2013, the Appellate Authority dismissed the appeals and affirmed the orders of penalty passed by the Disciplinary Authority. The appellate orders were, thereafter, subjected to revision before the Chief Secretary, Goa by the petitioners. By a common order dated 9th October, 2013, the Chief Secretary dismissed the revision petitions. Hence a writ petition was preferred.

The revisional order if the Chief Secretary is challenged along with the Disciplinary Authority and the Appellate Authority. The charges we find the same to be distasteful and, therefore, refrain from referring to the same, but more particularly because of the limited nature of challenge laid before us.

The Petitioners contends that the Appellate Authority did not consider the appeals presented before him by the petitioners in the proper perspective and without any application of mind, as well as assigning reasons, proceeded to affirm the orders of the Disciplinary Authority. It was also contended that since the witnesses could not conclusively say as to whether a figure in a recorded video was Santosh, no finding of guilt ought to have been reached.

The court observed that the appellate order does not deal with all the points raised in the appeal petitions. However, although the petitioners were afforded opportunity of personal hearing, it does not appear that they had urged the points for consideration by the Appellate Authority, as raised in the appeal petitions. However, the court was not persuaded to interfere with the order passed by the Revisional authority. All the principles relating to the departmental enquiries and standard of proof were rightly applied. The oral evidence on record to demolish Santosh’s claim that he had not been identified. All the relevant witnesses had deposed that the person in the video looked like or resembled Santosh. This, coupled with the documentary evidence, viz. station diary, log book, entries of the control room, etc., were referred to drive home the point that all three petitioners were on duty on the relevant dates on Robot VII, the police control van. Based on the preponderance of probabilities, the Chief Secretary arrived at a conclusion that the evidence on record was sufficient to hold that it is the petitioners who were involved in the alleged acts which were unbecoming of members of a disciplined force.

Hence there is no reason to interfere with the order of the Revisional Authority.

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