On 29.12.1999, the Vice-President and the Head of the Establishment were murdered inside the factory premises. To identify those involved in the murder, the establishment constituted a committee. Sri Ajay Sharma, who conducted the Inquiry, submitted his report on 21.1.2000. The report identified Respondent Pramod Kumar along with Ajay Kumar, as the culprits.
Petitioner passed the Order for termination of services on 27.1.2000. Following the same, the Respondent raised an industrial dispute, on 20.12.2002, at Meerut. After the murder, the police had also, submitted a charge-sheet on 29.2.2000 and initiated a Sessions Trial. Later the Court released the Respondent on bail on 16.5.2000. After the completion of the trial, the Respondent was acquittal by the Court, on 28.5.2002.
Contentions of the Petitioner
The Petitioner argues that:
The Petitioner cannot retain the Respondent as they lack confidence in him now and also had held him involved in the murder. That despite the acquittal by the Court, it did not warrant re-employment by the Petitioner.
Further, the fact that the Respondent absconded, further proved his mens rea or guilty mind, which is also an important factor to keep in mind. The Petitioner went on to argue that the Respondent has been out of service for the past 21 years. It is hard to re-employ the Respondent in the Petitioners establishment because he has been out of service for long.
The Petitioner also says that departmental inquiry and a criminal trial are two different spheres altogether. The inquiry was based on the doctrine of “preponderance of probabilities”. But, a criminal trial is based on different considerations altogether. Thus, the acquittal of the Respondent was not honourable but was one based on a benefit of the doubt. In a Criminal Trial, there is a benefit of the doubt, and a single doubt results in the acquitting of the Offender, just as in this case.
Contentions of the Respondent
The Respondent argues that:
That the Petitioner did not conduct a full-fledged inquiry. The Petitioner should have conducted it as the Respondent is a permanent employee. Further, they didn’t conduct a departmental inquiry before withdrawing the Services of the Respondent. Moreover, the Petitioner’s “Lack of confidence” is not a valid ground as there were no such activities done.
The High Court held that no interference was necessary in this writ petition. That the termination of the Respondent’s employment was due to his involvement in the trial and criminal case. Besides, an Involvement in a criminal trial constituted a serious offence under the Standing Orders. The Petitioners’ order of termination had stated that on account of the nature of the offence, it was not possible to conduct any domestic inquiry against the Respondent. Therefore they didn’t conduct the inquiry.
A perusal of the order passed by the Trial Court proved that the acquittal was based on a correct assessment of the evidence. The Court noted that the Petitioner’s contention of the acquittal order being dishonourable was fallacious. Also, the acquittal had not resulted on account of the fact that there was no evidence, or due to foul play. Additionally, the Court reiterated that the acquittal was a result of insufficient evidence.
The Petitioner gave the termination order due to the criminal trial. To that end, there is no occasion for the petitioner to pray for a domestic inquiry. Thus, the order of termination could not be sustained. Hence, the submission of the learned counsel for the petitioner relating to foul play was dismissed.
The Court accordingly dismissed the Petition.
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