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Preponderance of probabilities are sufficient to punish an employee: Madras High Court

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The Madras High Court held that acquittal of a person in a criminal case cannot be a ground to absolve them in an inquiry which is departmental as these inquiries are different from those followed in a criminal court of law.

Madras High Court has held that acquittal of a person in a criminal case cannot be a ground for exoneration in independent departmental inquiry initiated by the employer against such person since the procedures and standard of proof adopted in a departmental inquiry are different from those followed in a criminal court of law.

Single-judge Justice SM Subramaniam, has refused to grant any relief to a Tamil Nadu police constable, who has been facing disciplinary proceedings after he was named as an accused in a murder case, although he was he was subsequently acquitted in the criminal case by the trial court

The judgement passed said that the Court is of the view that the procedures to be adopted for departmental disciplinary proceedings and the Criminal Court of Law are distinct and different.

The Court said that it needs evidence to convict a person under the criminal law, no such “strict proof” is needed to punish a government employee under the Discipline and Appeal Rules.

The Court further said” Preponderance of probabilities are sufficient to punish an employee so, the findings of the Criminal Court in its judgment may not be considered for the purpose of exonerating an employee from the departmental disciplinary proceedings.

Court was hearing a petition filed by one Paramasivam, a constable with the Tamil Nadu Police (TN Police). In 2008, he was arrested for killing his wife, and charged under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Following his arrest, a departmental inquiry was initiated against him.

In 2013, Paramasivam was acquitted by the trial court.

Even after the acquittal from the trial court ,the departmental inquiry held him guilty and he was dismissed from service.

He appealed against the order before the Director General of police (DGP). The DGP reduced his punishment by asking him to seek compulsory retirement.

The constable, not finding justice approached the High Court arguing that he had been acquitted in the murder case, the departmental inquiry insisting that he be punished was illegal.

The TN Police, said he is a curlprit and acquittal was only due to the key witness turned hostile.

The inquirty officer after conducting an independent probe, examining documents, and witnesses, came to a conclusion that Paramasivam had indeed been part of the conspiracy to kill his wife.

Therefore, the Court refused to interfere with the State police’s decision to ask Paramasivam to seek compulsory retirement from the police service.

Senior counsel A Sirajudeen appeared for the petitioner.
Government Advocate S Rajesh appeared for the respondents.Subramaniam, therefore, refused to grant any relief to a Tamil Nadu police constable, facing disciplinary proceedings after he was named as an accused in a murder case.

This was despite the fact that he was subsequently acquitted in the criminal case by the trial court

“This Court is of the considered opinion that the procedures to be adopted for departmental disciplinary proceedings and the Criminal Court of Law are distinct and different. An acquittal in a Criminal Case would not be a ground to seek exoneration from the departmental disciplinary proceedings,” the judgment passed on October 20 said.

The Court said that while strict evidence is required to convict a person under the criminal law, no such “strict proof” is needed to punish a government employee under the Discipline and Appeal Rules.

“Preponderance of probabilities are sufficient to punish an employee. Even moral turpitude is sufficient to impose penalty under the Discipline and Appeal Rules. Therefore, the findings of the Criminal Court in its judgment may not be considered for the purpose of exonerating an employee from the departmental disciplinary proceedings,” the Court said.

It was hearing a petition filed by one Paramasivam, a constable with the Tamil Nadu Police (TN Police). In 2008, he was arrested for killing his wife, and charged under Section 302 of the Indian Penal Code. Following his arrest, a departmental inquiry was initiated against him.

In 2013, Paramasivam was acquitted by the trial court.

However, the departmental inquiry held him guilty despite such acquittal and he was dismissed from service. He appealed against the order before the Director General of police (DGP). The DGP reduced his punishment by asking him to seek compulsory retirement.

Paramasivam then approached the High Court arguing that since he had been acquitted in the murder case, the departmental inquiry insisting that he be punished was illegal.

The TN Police, however, argued that Paramasivam was acquitted by the trial court since a key witness turned hostile.

However, the departmental inquiry officer had conducted an independent probe, examined documents, and witnesses, and concluded that Paramasivam had indeed been part of the conspiracy to kill his wife, the TN police said.

The Court has refused to interfere with the State police’s decision to ask Paramasivam to seek compulsory retirement from the police service.

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