‘Merely because an accused has been acquitted, the power of the concerned authority to continue with the departmental inquiry is not taken away nor is its discretion in any way fettered.’ : Calcutta HC
The single judge bench consisting of Justice Ravi Krishan Kapur of the Calcutta High Court in the case of Pradip Kumar Biswas v. UOI (WPO 1785 of 2005) ruled that an order of acquittal by the Criminal Court does not automatically entitle an employee to exoneration and consequential reliefs, such as back wages for the period of suspension withheld as a penalty by the Disciplinary Authority, if the acquittal is not based on merits.
Facts of the Case:
The petitioner was serving as an Assistant with the Life Insurance Corporation Limited (LIC) when on November 3, 2000, a criminal case was instituted against him under Section 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), Section 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy), Section 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.), Section 468 (Forgery for purpose of cheating) and Section 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record) of IPC for allegedly having forged documents submitted to the British Consulate to obtain visas for himself and his family members. On November 3, 2000, the petitioner was working as an Assistant with the Life Insurance Corporation Limited (LIC) when a criminal case was filed against him under IPC Sections 420 (Cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 120B (Punishment of criminal conspiracy), 467 (Forgery of valuable security, will, etc.), 468 (Forgery for the purpose of cheating), and 471 (Using as genuine a forged document or electronic record). The respondent authorities informed the petitioner in a letter dated December 29, 2004 that the order of acquittal was granted on technical grounds and that his case fell within the scope of Regulation 38(b) of the LICI (Staff) Regulations 1960.
“The nature and scope of a criminal proceeding is different from that of a departmental disciplinary proceeding. Thus, an order of acquittal does not automatically conclude the departmental proceeding. Merely because an accused has been acquitted, the power of the concerned authority to continue with the departmental inquiry is not taken away nor is its discretion in any way fettered” , the court noted. The Court observed that the order of acquittal may be taken into account but the same would not have the overwhelming effect of eclipsing the charges in a disciplinary proceeding. Both proceedings operate in different fields with different objectives so subsequently, the standard of prood would differ too. The court noted that there is no infirmity in the view taken by the Disciplinary Authority that the petitioner’s case ought not to be equated with a full exoneration. “There is also no challenge to the order of the Disciplinary Authority affirmed by the Appellate Authority on merits or otherwise. Hence, the invocation of Rule 38(b) of the LICI (staff) Regulation Act 1960 is permissible,” the court added. Thus, the court held that petitioner cannot claim back wages for the period of suspension and the basic pay withheld as penalty. Accordingly, the writ petition was dismissed.
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JUDGMENT REVIEWED BY DIVYA SHREE GN