Published on: 31 August 2023 at 19:30 IST
The Calcutta High Court has ruled in favor of a constable (Petitioner) who was dismissed from duty by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) due to allegations of allowing an unauthorized vehicle into ISSCO premises.
The court has directed the CISF to reinstate the constable, highlighting that the findings of the investigation officer and the subsequent punishment order were unjust and lacked adequate evidence.
The court determined that the disciplinary action went against the principles of natural justice and should be annulled.
Justice Partha Sarathi Chatterjee, presiding over the case, stated that the enquiry officer’s findings and the punishment order were biased and baseless. He noted, “In light of the analysis provided, I have no reservations in concluding that the findings of the enquiry officer and the punishment order are erroneous. Insufficient evidence was presented, and it is clear that the enquiry officer’s conclusions were predetermined. The disciplinary action violated the rules of natural justice and established legal principles.”
The case revolved around the suspension and subsequent dismissal of the Petitioner after a suspicious vehicle entered ISSCO premises without proper inspection. The Petitioner was charged under Rule 36 of the CISF Rules, 2001. The enquiry officer’s report, however, lacked substantial evidence and was based on biased conclusions, leading to the Petitioner’s removal from service.
Justice Chatterjee highlighted the importance of a disciplinary authority acting as a quasi-judicial body and stated that its decisions must be supported by credible evidence. Any remarks or findings should not lack evidence, as they may negatively impact an individual’s reputation. Additionally, the court stressed that when a staff member investigates and penalizes another staff member in a departmental complaint scenario, the authority should remain unbiased and impartial.
The court emphasized, “While the scope of judicial review is confined to the decision-making process, decisions that are irrational, disproportionately severe, or baseless are subject to judicial review.”
The court found that the Petitioner’s denial of the allegations related to the unauthorized vehicle’s entry was disregarded by the enquiry officer, leading to unjust conclusions.
The disciplinary authority’s attempt to bolster weak points in the evidence ultimately resulted in holding the Petitioner accountable, despite no formal charges. The Petitioner was denied the opportunity to respond to these allegations.
The court further asserted that an unlawful order by the disciplinary authority does not become lawful through appeal or revision.
The higher authority must critically review the order for any flaws. The court concluded that there was insufficient proof to support the allegations against the Petitioner and referred to precedent cases to emphasize this point.
As a result, the court directed the CISF to reinstate the Petitioner with full back wages within four weeks from the judgment date.
The court set aside the charge sheet, the enquiry report, the punishment order, and subsequent decisions.