Setting free of a person by a court in a criminal case solely on grounds of delay in registration of FIR cannot be a ground for quashing his dismissal from job on the same grounds by his employer, the Delhi High Court has ruled.
The court was of the view that the ‘standard of proof’ was different in a criminal prosecution and departmental proceedings and rules of Indian Evidence Act did not apply to the latter.
The significant ruling came in a case where a Delhi Police Head Constable Madhok Kumar, accused of trespassing into the house of his colleague in a drunken state and trying to outrage the modesty of his wife, was acquitted owing to a month’s delay in lodging the FIR by the victim and her husband.
Kumar had approached the HC seeking his reinstatement in job following his acquittal in the criminal case.
“Standard of proof being different in the two (criminal trial and departmental proceedings), the delay in registration of First Information Report (FIR), resulting in acquittal, would not be valid ground to absolve the delinquent of disciplinary proceedings as well,” a Division Bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Mukta Gupta said.
The alleged incident occurred on March 22, 1986. A magistrate court convicted Kumar. Simultaneously, departmental proceedings were initiated against Kumar and he was dismissed from service on January 14, 1987.
Hearing his appeal, an Additional Sessions Judge acquitted him on November 3, 1995 giving him ‘benefit of doubt’, owing to the delayed FIR.
After his acquittal, Kumar urged the Delhi Police to take him back, which was not done. He then moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), arguing that after his acquittal in the criminal case, the disciplinary proceedings against him had to be quashed.
But his plea was dismissed by the tribunal in 2000, forcing him to approach the High Court.
The HC relied on a 2007 Supreme Court ruling, which held that criminal prosecution is launched for an offence for violation of duty, while departmental enquiry is for maintaining discipline in the service and efficiency of public service.