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The Bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and L. Nageswara Rao of the Supreme Court held in Sep. Satgur Singh v UOI that when Commanding Officer gave the appellant a chance to show why he should not be terminated, he offered apology instead of his reasons, which was not enough.

The bench distinguished its judgement in Veerendra Kumar Dubey v Chief of Army Staff (2016) where the apex Court had held that four red inks probably pushed him to a grey zone from where he could be discharged but that did not necessarily seal his fate.

Unlike Veerendra’s case, Court said, appellant Satgur was given show cause notice. After due consideration to the deficient response, his service was terminated. Court held that, “Such enquiry is not like departmental enquiry but semblance of the fair decision-making process keeping in view the reply filed.”

The Court observed, “The test of preliminary enquiry will be satisfied if an explanation of a personnel is submitted and upon consideration, an order is passed thereon. In the present case, the appellant has not offered any explanation in the reply filed except giving vague family circumstance. Thus, he has been given adequate opportunity to put his defence. Therefore, the parameters laid down in para 5(a) of the Army Instructions dated December 28, 1988 stand satisfied.”

The bench further observed, “In reply to the show-cause notice, the appellant has not given any explanation of his absence from duty on seven occasions. He has been punished on each occasion for rigorous imprisonment ranging from 2 days to 28 days. A Member of the Armed Forces cannot take his duty lightly and abstain from duty at his will. …The Commanding Officer has recorded that the appellant is a habitual offender.”

Court thus held that the order of discharge cannot be said to be unjustified.

–India Legal Bureau

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