Thursday, October 5, 2023

Acquittal In Criminal Proceedings Does Not Automatically Result In Discharge In Corresponding Disciplinary Proceedings: Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court ruled that an acquittal in connected criminal proceedings does not entail any benefit in the surviving proceedings and thus does not automatically result in a corresponding discharge in disciplinary proceedings pending against an employee.

A Division Bench of Justice Hrishikesh Roy and Justice Sanjay Karol clarified that the two proceedings operate in different domains and had distinct objectives.

"The nature of proceedings being wholly separate and distinct, acquittal in criminal proceedings does not entitle the delinquent employee for any benefit in the latter or automatic discharge in departmental proceedings."

The Apex Court relying on precedents culled out the following essentialities for the operation of clause 4:

a. At least one year ought to have passed since attempts to get the delinquent employee prosecuted;

b. If, after the passage of such time, no prosecution is initiated, then the department may proceed in accordance with its procedure for disciplinary action;

c. If the prosecution commences later in point of time to the disciplinary proceedings, the latter shall be stayed, but not indefinitely. Such proceedings are to be stayed only for a reasonable period of time, which is a matter of determination per the circumstances of each case.

Furthermore, it was also highlighted that an acquittal in criminal proceedings did not automatically result in a corresponding discharge in disciplinary proceedings.

In this specific case, the disciplinary proceedings against the employee had been initiated well after the one-year period mentioned in clause 4. Additionally, the employee had not raised objections based on clause 4 at the outset, and there was no indication of prejudice caused by simultaneous proceedings.

Consequently, the Court set aside the High Court's judgment and restored the employee's dismissal from service based on the disciplinary proceedings.

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