Referring to the settled principles of law in the scope of judicial review, the Supreme Court held that the Division Bench of the High Court proceeded to reappreciate the entire evidence as if a conviction in a criminal trial was being re-examined by the next higher court.

The two-judge Bench of Justice Abhay S. Oka and Justice Rajesh Bindal observed that “When the changed form of quotation also contained signature of respondent no.1, it clearly established his involvement in the tampering of document. This fact has not even been noticed by the Division Bench of the High Court”.

Arputham Aruna and Co. appeared for the Appellant, whereas, Advocate Sayaree Basu Mallik appeared for the Respondent.

Going by the background of the case, in 2001 a tender notice was issued by the Appellant Corporation for the job of ‘Repair of Surface Drain and Tank Pad inside Refinery’ (Barauni Refinery), in which three bidders participated. Although Technical bids were opened, however, the price bids were not opened on that day. Thereafter, noticing changes in the price bid as compared to the quoted price in the form, and over-writing in the quoted percentage, efforts were made to trace the original form of quotation. When it was not found, the matter was brought to the notice of higher authorities, wherein it was confessed that the original form of quotation was replaced and destroyed. The Central Forensic Institute reported tampering of bids and therefore, Respondent was issued with a charge-sheet leading to departmental proceedings. Later, the Disciplinary Authority imposed major penalty of withholding five annual increments with cumulative effect. Although the appeal against the order of punishment was dismissed by Single Judge, the Division Bench set aside the punishment imposed on the first Respondent. Hence, present appeal.

After considering the submissions, the Apex Court noted that the first Respondent had taken a stand that he was on leave and there was no question of his tampering with any document.

The Bench also recorded that such a stand was taken by the Respondent on the ground that merely because he had the duplicate key of the drawer where the documents were kept, he cannot be made responsible for any tampering.

However, there was no answer to the finding recorded by the Inquiry Officer in the Inquiry Report, namely, that the changed form of quotation of M/s. Laxmi Singh contained original signature of respondent no.1”, added the Bench.

Accordingly, the Apex Court set aside the order passed by the Division Bench of the High Court in Letters Patent Appeal and allowed the appeal.

Cause Title: The Indian Oil Corporation and Ors. v. Ajit Kumar Singh and Anr.

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