If an employee is acquitted of criminal charges but the departmental inquiry finds him guilty of misconduct, then that does not become a reason for his reinstatement.
Justice Anoop Mohta has dismissed an appeal filed by A.S. Manjrekar, who was employed as a watchman with the Bombay Port Trust (now Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust) since 1982. He was dismissed in 1996.
On July 6, 1988, when Manjrekar was on duty, he was arrested for unauthorised possession of an oil tin that was marked “Refined oil-United States of America”.
He was charged under Section 381 (theft by clerk or servant of property in possession of master) of the Indian Penal Code.
In February 1989, a metropolitan magistrate acquitted him of the charge.
After his acquittal, JNPT withdrew his suspension and he was allowed to resume work from March 20, 1989. But JNPT continued its departmental inquiry.
On March 7, 1989, JNPT charge sheeted him alleging misconduct and lacking integrity and devotion to duty. After serving him a notice for misconduct and hearing him, the JNPT dismissed him from service on January 1, 1990.
Even the Appellate Authority of JNPT upheld the dismissal on December 7, 1990. Manjrekar then approached the Central Government Industrial Tribunal.
But in July 1996, the tribunal upheld his dismissal stating that “the departm-ental inquiry [by JNPT] was in accordance with the law and did not suffer from any breach of principles of natural justice.
Manjrekar then approached the high court and claimed that his dismissal was “perverse and bad in law” as a metropolitan magistrate had already acquitted him of those charges.
However, the high court observed: “If there is a acquittal in a criminal case the same does not mean that the departmental proceeding so initiated should be dropped… besides, that [acquittal] itself would not entitle the employee the order of reinstatement in each and every matter. It also depends upon the facts and circumstances of the case.”
Justice Mohta observed: “The court cannot compel the employer to continue such employees against whom, after holding due inquiry, they able to prove the charges independently and irrespective of the criminal proceedings.”