High Court while exercising writ jurisdiction must not act as appellate authority: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court of India has observed that while exercising writ jurisdiction concerning disciplinary proceedings, the High Court must not serve as an appellate authority, and reappreciate the evidence led before the enquiry officer.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud, Indu Malhotra, and KM Joseph observed this while restoring an order related to compulsory retirement passed against a sub-inspector from Railway Protection Force.

The Bombay High Court while performing its writ jurisdiction had set aside the order of compulsory retirement, instead substituted it with an order of returning with all consequential benefits, and 50% back wages.

Compulsory retirement as a punishment was enforced when the charges of theft against the employee were proved.

The Top Court bench referred to the several judgments concerning interference by the High Courts with conclusions in a departmental enquiry against an employee from the public sector:

Citing the P. Gunasekaran case, it said:

“Under Articles 226 / 227 of the Constitution of India, the High Court shall not

  1. re-appreciate the evidence;
  2. interfere with the conclusions in the enquiry, in the case the same has been conducted by law;
  3. go into the adequacy of the evidence;
  4. go into the reliability of the evidence;
  5. interfere, if there be some legal evidence on which findings can be based;
  6. correct the error of fact however grave it may appear to be;
  7. go into the proportionality of punishment unless it shocks its conscience.”

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