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HC in Exercise its power shall not venture into Re-Appreciation of Evidence - SC [Article 226 & 227]

The High Court In Exercise Of Its Power Under Articles 226 And 227 Of The Constitution Shall Not Venture Into Re-Appreciation Of The Evidence - SC

Director General Of Police, Railway Protection Force And Ors. v. Rajendra Kumar Dubey

Civil Appeal No. 3820 Of 2020 (Arising Out Of SLP (Civil) No. 32580 Of 2017)

25th November, 2020.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court Justices Dr. Dhananjaya Y. Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra and K. M. Joseph in an appeal for considering the validity of the Judgment passed by the High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction to set aside the order of compulsory retirement passed by the statutory authorities against the respondent, and substituting it by an order of re-instatement with all consequential benefits, and 50% back wages held that the High Court was not justified in setting aside the order.

The Respondent was appointed in 1984 as a Constable with the Railway Protection Force (R.P.F) in Jhansi and in 2006 was posted as Sub-Inspector at Maharashtra. Thereafter, the Respondent was placed under suspension with immediate effect pending enquiry and a charge sheet was issued for major penalty under Rule 153 of the Railway Protection Force Rules, 1987. In view of the gravity of the charges of gross neglect of duty and abuse of authority, the Disciplinary Authority imposed the punishment of removal from service with immediate effect. The Respondent preferred an Appeal before the Additional Chief Security Commissioner, R.P.F where the appellate authority held that these charges did not warrant the extreme punishment of removal from service as there was no imputation of connivance or corrupt practice against the Respondent. The Appellate Authority held that the said report by the E.O had no evidentiary value in support of the charge 2 and reduced the punishment of removal from service to that of reversion in rank for a period of 6 months without future effect. In the review of DAR proceedings by the Senior Divisional Security Commissioner, it was submitted that the image of R.P.F would deteriorate if the service of the Respondent was continued. It had also come to light that the delinquent employee while under suspension had been arrested by the C.B.I, Nagpur in an Anti-Corruption case.

The Chief Security Commissioner issued a show cause notice to the Respondent proposing to impose the penalty of compulsory retirement from service. The punishment of compulsory retirement from service with immediate effect was imposed. The Respondent filed an appeal before the Director-General, R.P.F Railway Board which was dismissed. The Respondent filed Writ Petition before the High Court Bombay against the orders which was quashed and it was directed that the writ petitioner be re-instated in service, and would be entitled to all consequential benefits, including back wages to the extent of 50% on the remitted post, without future effect. Hence, the present appeal was filed.

The issues pertaining to the contentions are as follows:

1) Validity of the order of compulsory retirement on the basis of the material in the enquiry proceedings, and the orders passed by the statutory authorities in this regard.

It is well settled that the High Court must not act as an appellate authority, and re-appreciate the evidence led before the enquiry officer. In State of Andhra Pradesh v. S. Sree Rama Rao AIR 1963 SC 1723, this Court has held that the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution is not a court of appeal over the decision of the authorities holding a departmental enquiry against a public servant.

"It is not the function of the High Court under its writ jurisdiction to review the evidence, and arrive at an independent finding on the evidence. The High Court may, however interfere where the departmental authority which has held the proceedings against the delinquent officer are inconsistent with the principles of natural justice, where the findings are based on no evidence, which may reasonably support the conclusion that the delinquent officer is guilty of the charge, or in violation of the statutory rules prescribing the mode of enquiry, or the authorities were actuated by some extraneous considerations and failed to reach a fair decision, or allowed themselves to be influenced by irrelevant considerations, or where the conclusion on the very face of it is so wholly arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person could ever have arrived at that conclusion. If however the enquiry is properly held, the departmental authority is the sole judge of facts, and if there is some legal evidence on which the findings can be based, the adequacy or reliability of that evidence is not a matter which can be permitted to be canvassed before the High Court in a writ petition." (Para 12.1)

These principles were further reiterated in the State of Andhra Pradesh v. Chitra Venkata Rao (1975) 2 SCC 557, the jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari under Article 226 is a supervisory jurisdiction. The court exercises the power not as an appellate court. The findings of fact reached by an inferior court or tribunal on the appreciation of evidence are not re-opened or questioned in writ proceedings. In Union of India v. P. Gunasekaran (2015) 2 SCC 610 this Court held that the High Court in exercise of its power under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India shall not venture into re-appreciation of the evidence.

In the present case, there is no allegation of malafides against the disciplinary authority i.e. Chief Security Commissioner, or lack of competence of the disciplinary authority in passing the order of compulsory retirement, or of a breach of the principles of natural justice, or that the findings were based on no evidence. The primary object of constituting the Railway Protection Force is to secure better “protection and security of the railway property.” The restricted power of arrest and search conferred on members of this Force is incidental to the efficient discharge of their primary duty to protect and safeguard railway property, and to uphold the law. In this case, the charges proved against the Respondent “were of neglect of duty” which resulted in pecuniary loss to the Railways. The High Court was therefore not justified in setting aside the order of compulsory retirement, and directing re-instatement with consequential benefits, and payment of backwages to the extent of 50%.

Hence, the Order of compulsory retirement passed by the Chief Security Commissioner was restored and the Gratuity was directed to be released. And the appeal stands dismissed.

M. Maheswari



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