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Judicial Review in Departmental Proceedings not warranted unless infraction of rule, regulation or violation of Principal of Natural Justice made out: Supreme Court

A Supreme Court Division bench consisting Justice Hemant Gupta and V. Ramasubramiam, on Wednesday, 22 September, 2021, in the case concerning Union of India and Ors. Vs. Dalbir Singh, held that there exists no scope of the High Court for Judicial Review following a departmental inquiry, if there has not been any kind of infraction of rules, regulations and violation of principals of Natural Justice. 

The apex court was dealing with the plea which had been filed by the Centre against Delhi High Court’s verdict of April 2019 through which the Delhi High Court set aside the dismissal order passed by the competent authority in May 2014 against Dalbir Singh, a general duty constable in Central Reserved Police Force. 

The writ petitioner Dalbir Singh was a General Duty Constable in CRPF and was accused of firing at Head Constable Shri Harish Chander and Deputy Commandant Shri Hari Singh with his service revolver which resulted into the death of Shri Harish Chander and injuries to Shri Hari Singh. As a Consequence, an FIR was lodged against the petitioner for offence under Section 302 and 307 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 and Section 27 of Arms Act, 1959. The trial court convicted him on 11 march 1996 and sentenced him to life imprisonment. 

In the appeal, The Punjab and Haryana High Court acquitted him of charges by giving benefit of doubt and the subsequent departmental inquiry on his alleged misconduct with reference to safe custody of arms and Ammunition found that the writ petitioner had misused his service weapon and thus not entitled to be retained in CRPF. The order was further upheld by appellate and revisional authority. However, the High Court ruled in favour of Dalbir Singh holding that the department was confused on facts and the case was based on no evidence.

In the present decision, Supreme Court held that such interference of High Court in the matter at hand was beyond the power of Judicial Review. The apex court observed that the High Court failed to see that chargesheet does not contained any allegations regarding death. The court while upholding the order of Commandment Authority which had conducted departmental inquiry held that burden of proof in departmental inquiry are based on probability of misconduct and not beyond reasonable doubt. 

The bench thus noted that there lies no scope for judicial review in an order passed following a departmental inquiry, if there is no infraction of any rule or regulation or violation of principles of natural justice and in the present case there was no infraction of any rule, regulation and no principle of natural justice was violated in the inquiry and thus the commandment authority’s order was correct. The Top Court thus held that the judicial review and the order of High Court was not sustainable and set aside the same. 

Image Credits: Bar and Bench

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