Member Of Disciplined Force Must Not Allow His Feelings To Fly In Fancy - SC Upholds Penalty Of Removal From Service
A Supreme Court Bench of Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna upheld a judgment passed by the Gauhati High Court regarding a Head Constable being removed from service owing to indiscipline.
Ms. Ankita Patnaik appeared on behalf of the Appellant and Ms. Vaishali Verma appeared on behalf of the Respondents.
The Appellant served as a Head Constable of a Battalion of the Shashastra Seema Bal, and he was charged with violation of good order and discipline under Section 43 of the Shashasta Seema Bal Act, 2007, as he entered the Mahila Barrack of the Battalion during late hours, with the help of a female constable who let him inside. He was charged with compromising the security of the occupants of the Mahila Barrack and was placed under suspension.
During the departmental inquiry, the Appellant pleaded not guilty, and after a consideration of the statements of the witnesses, the Battalion Commandant sent the Appellant to the Summary Force Court. The Appellant pleaded not guilty before the SFC and after recording the evidence, the SFC found the Appellant guilty. Initially, the SFC had ordered a penalty of dismissal, but it was later converted to the removal of service by the Commandant of the Battalion.
Aggrieved with the order of removal from service, the Appellant preferred a Writ Petition before the High Court. He made a number of submissions before the Single Judge regarding the legality and validity of the ROE and SFC procedures. He also contended that the punishment was discriminatory and disproportionate as a female constable was his partner-in-crime and she was given a much lesser punishment.
The Single Judge held that no prejudice was present as the Appellant's guilt was found to be based on cogent material and the evidence produced by both sides. Under the test of preponderance of probability, the Appellant was found to be guilty. However, the Single Judge found that since the female constable received lesser punishment, the order passed against the Appellant was disproportionate and he, therefore, remitted the matter to the disciplinary authority to impose any lesser punishment which would facilitate the Appellant to retain the job.
Dissatisfied with the judgment and order passed by the Single Judge, the disciplinary authority preferred a Writ Appeal before the Division Bench. By the impugned judgment and order, the Division Bench of the High Court set aside the judgment and order of the Single Judge. Aggrieved with the Division Bench's decision, the Appellant approached the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court held that the charges against the Appellant were grave in nature, and he should not have entered the Mahila Barrak even if it was to meet an alleged friend.
The Court opined that a member of the disciplined force, the Appellant was expected to follow the rules. Therefore, the Court opined that "The nature of misconduct which has been committed by the appellant stands proved and is unpardonable. Therefore, when the disciplinary authority considered it appropriate to punish him with the penalty of 'removal from service', which is confirmed by the appellate authority, thereafter it was not open for the learned Single Judge to interfere with the order of punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority."
Further, the Supreme Court held that the misconduct of the Appellant, who was a male Head Constable, could not be equated with the misconduct committed by the female constable.
The Bench relied on the judgment of Union of India v. Diler Singh, where it was held that a member of the disciplined force is expected to follow the rules, have control over his mind and passion, guard his instincts and feelings and allow his feelings to fly in fancy.
Further, the Court held that "merely because one of the employees was inflicted with a lesser punishment cannot be a ground to hold the punishment imposed on another employee as disproportionate, if in case of another employee higher punishment is warranted and inflicted by the disciplinary authority after due application of mind. There cannot be any negative discrimination. The punishment/penalty to be imposed on a particular employee depends upon various factors, like the position of the employee in the department, role attributed to him and the nature of allegations against him. Therefore, the Division Bench of the High Court is absolutely justified in interfering with the judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge, interfering with the order of punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority removing the appellant from service."
Therefore, the Bench dismissed the appeal and upheld the order of the Disciplinary Authority and the High Court, dismissing the Appellant from service.