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Supreme Court Overturns Termination: Upholds Fair Procedure and Proportionality in Disciplinary Actions Against Government Servant

Case Title: Chatrapal v. The State of Uttar Pradesh and anr.

Case No: SLP(C) No. 11975/2019

Dated on: 15 February 2024

Coram: Hon’ble JUSTICE B.R. GAVAI and JUSTICE PRASHANT KUMAR MISHRA

FACTS OF THE CASE

The appellant, Chatrapal, was appointed on a permanent basis as an Ardly (a Class IV post) in the Bareilly Judgeship. He was later transferred and posted as a Process Server in the Nazarat of the outlying court of Baheri, District Bareilly on 24.08.2001. In compliance of the transfer order, the appellant joined the Nazarat Branch in Baheri, District Bareilly as Process Server on 31.08.2001 but he was being paid the remuneration of Ardly. Being aggrieved, the appellant made a representation on 20.01.2003 to the District Judge to pay the salary due to the post of Process Server. Chatrapal alleged that after submitting a report confirming his posting as a Process Server, the Central Nazir started harassing him and demanded an illegal bribe to settle his dues. Chatrapal was placed under suspension and a departmental inquiry was initiated against him on two charges: 1) using inappropriate language and making false allegations against officers, and 2) directly sending representations to higher authorities without routing them through proper channels. The Inquiry Officer found both charges to be proved, and the District Judge dismissed Chatrapal from service. This was upheld by the High Court. Aggrieved from this order the appellant has challenged his dismissal in the Supreme court.

LEGAL PROVISIONS

Rule 3 of U.P. Government Servant Conduct Rules: This rule pertains general conduct expected from government servants, emphasizing the need for appropriate behavior.

CONTENTIONS OF THE APPELLANT

The appellant submitted that the first charge, in particular, is vague as no finding has been recorded by the Inquiry Officer with regard to the allegations made in the letter dated 05.06.2003 against the officials. The appellant contended that quantum of punishment imposed on him was not proportionate to the alleged offence committed. Learned counsel for the appellant next submitted that the appellant was not supplied copy of various documents including proposed evidence and thus he was prejudiced. It is lastly argued that the findings of guilt recorded by the enquiry officer is perverse. In support of his submissions, the appellant relied on the decisions of this Court rendered in Sawai Singh vs. State of Rajasthan and Santosh Bakshi vs. State of Punjab

CONTENTIONS OF THE RESPONDENT

The respondent submitted that the appellant is habitual of making false allegations against the senior officers including the District Judge and the charges framed against him are specific and definite and not vague.

COURT’S ANALYSIS AND JUDGEMENT

The Court heard the contentions of both the parties and perused the case papers. The court found that The Court found that the first charge against Chatrapal, which alleged that he used inappropriate, derogatory, and objectionable language and made false allegations against officers, was vague because no specific finding was recorded by the Inquiry Officer regarding the allegations made in the letter dated 05.06.2003 against the officials. Thus, the Court held that the findings of guilt recorded by the Inquiry Officer were perverse. Specifically, the finding that Chatrapal made false statements and allegations in his representation dated 05.06.2003 was not borne out from the record. The Court observed that neither was Chatrapal supplied with copies of various documents, including proposed evidence, nor the quantum of punishment imposed on Chatrapal, which was dismissal from service, was not proportional to his guilt. The court held the noninterference of the appellate court in the findings of the inquiry officer to be trite law but clarified that when the finding of 10 guilt recorded by the Inquiry Officer is based on perverse finding the same can always be interfered.  The Court set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court as well as the order dated 30.04.2007 whereby Chatrapal was terminated from service. Consequently, Chatrapal was reinstated in service with all consequential benefits.

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Judgement Reviewed by – PRATYASA MISHRA

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