The Bombay High Court has observed that even hearsay evidence in domestic inquiries is admissible, as strict rules of evidence are not applicable.

In that context, the Bench of Justice Sandeep V Marne observed that, "in domestic inquiry, strict rules of evidence are not applicable. Even hearsay evidence is admissible. On perusal of evidence, if a person of ordinary prudence reaches a conclusion that the occurrence of an event alleged is probable, such evidence is sufficient to prove misconduct in domestic inquiry. This is the test of preponderance of probability."

Counsel Gangadhar Sabnis appeared for the petitioners, while Counsel Jai V Kanade and AGP AP Vanarase appeared for the respondents.

In this case, the Petitioner–Management initiated the present Petition to challenge the Judgment and Order dated 11 January 2022, issued by the Presiding Officer of the School Tribunal, Mumbai.

The Tribunal had allowed the Appeal filed by Respondent No.1, setting aside the termination order dated 15 March 2019. In response, the Tribunal directed the Petitioner–Management to reinstate Respondent No.1 with full back wages, continuity in service, and all consequential benefits.

The case originated from the appointment of Respondent No.1 as a Peon in Acharya Narendra Dev Vidyamandir, a secondary school run by the Petitioner No.1 trust. The termination ensued following allegations of sexual assault on the headmistress's minor daughter, leading to the filing of an FIR in March 2014. The inquiry committee, constituted by the Petitioner–Management, recommended dismissal, resulting in the termination order, contested by Respondent No.1 before the School Tribunal.

The Court observed that, "It is difficult to believe that a mother would use a 12 year old daughter for the purpose of falsely implicating a Peon in her school. Nothing is brought on record to indicate any extreme animosity between the Headmistress and the Respondent No.1 which would result in the Headmistress taking unthinkable step of setting up her 12 years old daughter for levelling allegations of molestation and sexual assault against a peon working in her school."

Therefore, it was held that the evidence given by the Headmistress could not be brushed aside on a specious plea of alleged animosity.

It was further held that, "The penalty imposed on the Respondent No.1 is commensurate with the gravity of misconduct alleged and proved against him."

In light of the same, the petition was allowed.

Cause Title: President / Secretary, Uttar Bhartiya Education Society & Anr. vs Naresh Tejan Thakur & Anr.

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