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Allahabad High Court allows plea, holds fresh charges needed for new inquiry

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The Allahabad High Court has said that it is a settled principle of law that once a person is found not guilty and if a fresh inquiry was to be held on the same allegations, then there ought to be special reasons for reopening the inquiry while allowing a petition.

The finality of litigation is something which ought to be respected, said the single-judge bench of Justice Siddhartha Varma while hearing the petition filed by Bhagwati Prasad.

The petitioner was working as a helper in the Lift Sinchai Nirman Khand, Varanasi. He was appointed by an order dated 8.11.2011 on ad-hoc basis and was regularized on 8.11.2014.

On the complaint of one Vijay Shankar Pandey, a preliminary inquiry was initiated and a show-cause notice was issued to the petitioner on 29.4.2017 with regard to eight issues.

The petitioner on 18.5.2017 categorically replied to the show-cause notice. With regard to the reply, certain queries were there and on 1.6.2017 a further clarification was asked for.

The Court observed,

If the show-cause notice is seen then it appears that essentially the inquiry was being conducted with regard to the fact as to whether the petitioner was the son of Keval Devi (mother) and Sabu Nandan (father); whether his date of birth was 30.7.1968 or 1.7.1990 and whether he had passed his High School Examination in the year 1986 or in the year 2007.

For proving himself innocent, the petitioner had filed the copy of the registered adoption deed by which he had been adopted by Keval Devi and Sabu Nandan and to prove his date of birth was 1.7.1990 and that he had passed his High School examination in 2007, the petitioner had filed his High School Certificate. Subsequently, to prove that he had passed his 5th, 8th and 10th class examinations, the petitioner was once again required to file the relevant papers. Therefore, the petitioner had filed documents which went to prove that he had passed classes 5th, 8th and 10th examinations. However, upon verification when it was found that certain information was incorrect, criminal proceedings were also undertaken.

The Court noted,

The petitioner was suspended on 16.1.2018, a regular inquiry was initiated and a charge sheet was served upon the petitioner. The charges were essentially to the following effect :-

(i) the petitioner had given the wrong name of his father at the time of his appointment;

(ii) the petitioner had given a wrong date of birth, in as much as instead of 30.7.1968 he had given 1.7.1990 as his date of birth;

(iii) the petitioner had given a wrong information that he had passed High School in the year 2007 while he had already passed the same in the year 1986;

(iv) the certificate of passing class 8th, upon inquiry, was found to be a fabricated document and, therefore, it was held that the petitioner had given a wrong certificate of passing out class 8th.

The petitioner submitted his reply on 5.1.2019. Since the petitioner was in jail and had not put his signatures on all the pages, the reply was sent to the jail and thereafter it was submitted on 5.2.2019.

Thereafter, an inquiry report was submitted on 17.12.2020 and after finding that all the four charges were proved, the petitioner’s services were terminated on the very same date i.e on 17.12.2020. Aggrieved by the order dated 17.12.2020, the petitioner has filed the writ petition.

Counsel for the petitioner has submitted that initially also the complainant had on several occasions filed complaints against the petitioner and inquiries had been undergone and it was found that the petitioner was not at fault and all papers which the petitioner had filed for the purposes of getting the job were correct. This inquiry was conducted on 25.11.2016 and it was categorically found that the allegations were such which could not even be looked into in a departmental inquiry.

The counsel for the petitioner further submitted that after he had replied and an inquiry report was submitted, it was never served upon him and the inquiry which was dated 17.12.2020 was used by the Punishing Authority and on 17.12.2020 itself the petitioner’s services were terminated meaning thereby that the disciplinary proceedings were a defective one.

Furthermore, the counsel for the petitioner also submitted that to inquire the age of the petitioner or his year of birth, a more scientific method of ossification ought to have been taken recourse to.

Counsel for the petitioner said that if the class 5th and class 8th certificates were not inspiring confidence then the report of just one official was not sufficient to throw them aside. The principal of the college or the management of the college should have been included in the inquiry and, thereafter a conclusion should have been arrived at.

The counsel for the petitioner further said that since the inquiry was a sham inquiry, the order based on the inquiry report dated 17.12.2020 should be set aside and the petitioner should be reinstated in service.

The Standing Counsel, however, submitted that initially the inquiry report dated 1.9.2017 which was a result of preliminary inquiry and the inquiry report dated 17.12.2020 which was a result of the main inquiry which was conducted after the actual inquiry was initiated were based upon relevant facts and, therefore, the order impugned should not be interfered with.

Having heard counsel for the petitioner and Standing Counsel, the Court is definitely of the view that the order impugned cannot be sustained in the eyes of law. The charges were such that an inquiry by just looking into the papers could not have been done. Further, inquiry with regard to the age in which a medical expert ought to have been included was a must.

The Court found that the adoption deed which was a registered adoption deed dated 26.8.2015 was also not looked into at all. Still further, the Court further found that if the certificates for proving that the petitioner had passed 5th and 8th Classes were to be disbelieved then a further inquiry ought to have been undergone for which the Principal or the management of the institution should have been included. The documents which were in the custody of the college should have been summoned and only thereafter a conclusion ought to have been arrived at.

The Court is of the view that after the inquiry report was submitted by the Inquiry Officer, an opportunity ought to have been granted to the petitioner after serving the inquiry report upon him.

The Court also found that the inquiry report was submitted on 17.12.2020 and thereafter the order was also passed on the very same date. Furthermore, the petitioner was inducted into the service in the year 2011. After a thorough verification of documents, the petitioner was regularized. Thereafter upon a complaint, a full-fledged inquiry was undergone and it was found on 25.11.2016 that the petitioner was not wrong.

The Court is definitely of the view that some finality ought to have been attached to the proceeding which had culminated in the order dated 25.11.2016. If the inquiry, which had culminated in a clear exoneration of the petitioner, was to be reopened then very cogent reasons ought to have been there.

It is settled principle of law that once a person is found to be not guilty and if a fresh inquiry was to be held on the same allegations then there ought to be very special reasons for reopening the inquiry. Finality of litigation is something which ought to be respected, the Court said.

For the reasons above mentioned, the Court finds that the petition deserves to be allowed and is, accordingly, allowed. The order dated 17.12.2020 is set aside by the court and the petitioner shall be entitled to all consequential benefits.

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