'Serious Act Requires Highest Standard Of Proof' - Bombay HC Holds Disciplinary Enquiry Findings Against BPCL Employee Accused Of Unnatural Sexual Act Are Perverse
The Bombay High Court observed that, in disciplinary proceedings, it is necessary to have the highest standard of proof for considering the evidence placed on record when a serious act is involved.
The court was considering a petition filed by the Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited challenging the Awart Part-I issued by the Central Government Industrial Tribunal.
The Bench of Justice Milind N Jhadav said that, "In the present case, where a serious act is involved it is all the more necessary to have the highest standard of proof for considering the evidence placed on record."
Counsel Anand Pai and Counsel Rahul Sanghvi appeared for the petitioners, and Counsel Jaiprakash Sawant appeared for the respondents.
The employee was accused of committing an indecent act, allegedly witnessed by three officers of the corporation. He had allegedly engaged in an unnatural sexual act with a dog on the first floor of the terrace of the Refinery Learning Centre building where he was employed. The chargesheet issued to him by the corporation accused him of committing an indecent act of disorderly behavior in the premises, constituting a serious act of misconduct under the Certified Standing Orders of the corporation.
The corporation suspended him and conducted a departmental enquiry, eventually leading to his dismissal. His legal heirs, his widow, and daughter were impleaded after his demise. The corporation contested the tribunal's findings, asserting that the enquiry was fair, and the allegations were substantiated. While deeming the enquiry fair, the tribunal held the findings as perverse. The corporation filed the writ petition challenging this aspect. The legal heirs opposed it, contending the enquiry was not fair, and the allegations were improbable.
The High Court found that the findings arrived at by the Enquiry Officer were not proved and, considering the evidence on record, were found to be perverse. In that context, it was said that, "Merely because report was submitted by the 3 officers i.e. the 3 witnesses of the Petitioner – Corporation after 6 days cannot substitute the requirement of examination by a Medical Board or a Medical Authority of the original Respondent No.1. Considering the facts and seriousness of the incident, it was all the more imperative for the Petitioner – Corporation to have immediately called upon the CISF in-charge of guarding the refinery premises to enter the said alleged incident in the log book in view of the fact that a stray dog had entered the premises. However this was also not done. Further considering the fact that according to the Petitioner – Corporation and even otherwise the charges were extremely serious, nothing precluded and prevented the Petitioner – Corporation from lodging a criminal complaint under the provisions of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code. This was not done by the Petitioner – Corporation."
In light of the same, it was held that while the enquiry held by the Enquiry Officer was fair and proper, the findings of the Enquiry Officer were perverse. Therefore, the petition was dismissed.
Cause Title: Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. vs XYZ & Ors.