Pravin Kumar v. Union Of India
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6270 OF 2012
Bench: N.V. Ramana, S. Abdul Nazeer, Surya Kant JJ.
The appellant approached the Supreme Court challenging the disciplinary proceedings against him. The appellant was working in the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and was entrusted with the work of conducting surprise searches to stop the activities of corruption. A disciplinary enquiry was started against him and they found him guilty of corruption and extra constitution conduct. Owing to this, he was dismissed from his job. The appellant preferred this appeal against the respondents for violation of Principle of Natural Justice (PNJ) during proceedings and disproportionate punishment of removal from service.
Question of Law:
1. Whether the principles of PNJ were violated during the disciplinary enquiry?
2. Whether the punishment was proportionate with charges leveled against appellant?
3. What is the scope of judicial review of Supreme Court in cases of disciplinary enquiry?
For issue (i), it was contended by Appellant that the decision of the enquiry officer to put questions to witness was unfair. Acting as the judge and prosecutor, the enquiry officer has vitiated the entirety of the proceedings.
For issue (ii), the appellant sought leniency and urged that given another 21 years of remaining service, imposition of the severest punishment of dismissal from service was highly disproportionate.
Regarding issue (i), the respondents argued that adequate opportunities were granted to the appellant. It was mentioned that the present proceedings constituted the fifth venue where the appellant was pleading his case.
Regarding issue (ii), the respondents argued that given the delicate nature of employment in paramilitary forces and breach of the high trust reposed in him by society, the strict punishment of dismissal of the appellant from service was justified
The court, with reference to issue (i), held that examination of all record elucidates that all the essentials of a fair trial, as laid down in Union of India v. T.R. Varma (1958 SCR 499 pp 10), were observed in the proceedings. The court held that the appellant exercised most of the options provided for fair trial and gave up some of them voluntarily despite reminders.
With reference to issue (ii), the court held that the punishment is not disproportionate to corrupt employee. The court said that the Disciplinary Authority has wide discretion in imposing punishment for a proved delinquency, subject to principles of proportionality and fair play. The court further reiterated that the punishment of dismissal from service is far from disproportionate to the charges of corruption, fabrication and intimidation which have been unanimously proven against the appellant.
The court also discussed the (iii) issue and held that power of judicial review discharged by constitutional courts under Article 226 or 32, or when sitting in appeal under Article 136 of the Indian Constituion, is distinct from the appellate power exercised by a departmental appellate authority. “Judicial Review seeks to ensure fairness in treatment and not fairness of conclusion. It ought to be used to correct manifest errors of law or procedure, which might result in significant injustice”, the court said.