LAST MONDAY, this column talked about the case in which a married police sub-inspector was fired for allegedly being in love affair, though without any sexual relationship, and then backtracking from his promise to marry her.
He won back his job as a single judge of the Allahabad High Court ruled that what he had done did not amount to 'misconduct' under the UP Government Servants (Conduct) Rules.
Now, here is a case of a police constable, Prem Chand. He lost his job for a far more serious reason. He was alleged to have enticed and abducted a married woman and carried on illicit relationship with her without her husband's consent.
He was charged under Section 498 IPC (adultery), but was eventually exonerated by the criminal court.
Nonetheless, the domestic inquiry initiated against him by the police department continued, and it found that by abducting a married woman and having illicit relationship with her without her husband's consent, he had committed adultery within the meaning of Section 498 IPC, and was, therefore, guilty of 'misconduct' under Rule 3 of UP Government Servants (Conduct) Rules. Accordingly, he was sacked.
At the Allahabad High Court, Prem Chand assailed his dismissal, and the questions that required a judicial determination were:
--Could the domestic inquiry against him at all continue despite his exoneration by the court of adultery charge?
--Could he be held guilty of 'misconduct' since he had not committed bigamy, prohibited by Rule 29 of the UP Government Servants Conduct Rules?
--Since none of the Rules, even Rule 3 that he was held to have breached, prohibited cohabitation with a married woman with her consent, could be at all dismissed from service for any 'misconduct' as such?
Justice Tarun Agarwala's verdict offered no cheers to Prem Chand. Citing a judicial decision reported in (2005 (2) UPLBEC 1427), the judge said that the standard of proof, the mode of a domestic inquiry, and the rules governing such inquiry, are 'entirely distinct and different'. The inquiry officer in a domestic inquiry can come to a conclusion different from that of a criminal court. So, the judge held, there was no bar against the conduct of a domestic inquiry, irrespective of the constable's exoneration of the adultery charge by the criminal court.
Now, as for the question if he was, as found in domestic inquiry, really guilty of 'misconduct' within the ambit of Rule 3 of the aforesaid Conduct Rules, the judge quoted excerpts of an apex court judgment (AIR 1992 SC 2188), which interpreted the term 'misconduct' to drive home the point that the "police service is a disciplined service, and it requires to maintain strict discipline, and so laxity in this respect erodes discipline in service, seriously affecting maintenance of law and order".
In the light of the finding arrived at during the domestic inquiry that the constable was guilty of adultery, said Justice Agarwala, he could not be said to have maintained discipline or "absolute integrity", as envisaged by Rule 3 of the aforesaid Conduct Rules, which stipulated that a government employee "shall 'at all times' maintain 'absolute integrity' and devotion to duty…"
The cop's conduct was "unbecoming of a government employee, and he had misused his position as well as brought embarrassment to police department and lowered its image," said the judge, while turning down Prem Chand's writ plea against his dismissal (2006 (5) AWC 4328).
For more authoritative pronouncements, holding that exoneration of a government official of a criminal charge by the court does not bar a domestic inquiry against him nor do the provisions of the Evidence Act apply to a domestic inquiry, the following judicial decisions could prove handy to those wanting to update their case law knowledge on the subject: (2002) 1 SCC 555, (2005) 5 SCC 100, 1999(3) AWC 2.103 (SC) (NOC), (1999) 5 SCC 762, (2005) 7 SCC 764, and 2006(2) ACR 1793.