Supreme Court of India | Photo: Mathrubhumi
New Delhi: The Supreme Court has said police officers are not required to do moral policing and ask for physical favour or material goods as it upheld the order of the disciplinary authority for the removal of a CISF constable from service.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and J K Maheshwari set aside the verdict of the Gujarat High Court of December 16, 2014, by which it had allowed the plea of CISF constable Santosh Kumar Pandey and directed his reinstatement in service with 50 per cent back wages from the date of his removal.
Pandey, who was working as a constable with the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), was posted at the Greenbelt Area of the IPCL Township, Vadodara, Gujarat, where he was charge-sheeted vide memorandum dated October 28, 2001 on allegations of misconduct.
According to the charge sheet, Pandey, on the intervening night of October 26 and October 27, 2001, when he was posted as a constable on night duty at the Greenbelt Area of the IPCL Township, Vadodara, Gujarat at about 1 am, one Mahesh B. Chaudhry and his fiancée had passed through the area on motorcycle and had stopped in the corner, which is when Pandey had come forward and had questioned them.
As per the allegations, Pandey had taken advantage of the situation and had told Chaudhry that he would like to spend some time with his fiancée.
The charge sheet said that when Chaudhry had protested and did not agree, Pandey had asked him to give something to him and Chaudhry had then given a watch he was wearing at that time.
A complaint was made the next day by Chaudhary, which led to inquiry against Pandey resulting in an order for termination of his service.
The bench said that in its opinion the reasoning given by the High Court is faulty on both facts and law.
"On the question of proportionality of punishment, we have to observe that the facts in the present case are startling and distressing. Respondent No. 1- Santosh Kumar Pandey is not a police officer, and even police officers are not required to do moral policing, ask for physical favour or material goods," it said.
It said that in view of the factual and legal position, they accept the appeal filed by the CISF and set aside the impugned judgment of the Gujarat High Court.
"Accordingly, Special Civil Application…filed by Respondent No. 1 -Santosh Kumar Pandey before the High Court will be treated as dismissed. The order of removal from service passed by the disciplinary authority is upheld," it said.
The bench said it takes reservations regarding the reasoning given in paragraphs of the impugned judgment as it fails to take notice and properly apply the law of judicial review.
"Judicial review is not akin to adjudication of the case on merits, and adequacy or inadequacy of evidence, unless the court finds that the findings recorded are based on no evidence, perverse or are legally untenable in the sense that it fails to pass the muster...," it said.
The top court added that the power of the High Court under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India enables exercise of judicial review to correct errors of law, including procedural law, leading to manifest injustice or violation of principles of fairness, without normally venturing into re-appreciation of evidence.
"The writ court, when disciplinary action is challenged, is primarily concerned with examination of the decision making process, which requires satisfaction that the competent authorities have held inquiry as per the prescribed procedure, and have duly applied their mind to the evidence and material placed on record, without extraneous matters being given undue consideration, and the relevant factors have been cogitated," it said.
The top court said that the conclusions of fact, which are based upon evaluation and appreciation of evidence, when meticulously reached by the authorities, should not be interfered with merely because the court may have reached a different conclusion.
"Thus, error of law is apparent in the reasoning vide paragraph 10 of the impugned judgment," it said.