There Cannot Be An Automatic Presumption Of Illicit Activities If Co Employees Of Opposite Sex Are Found Locked Inside A House: Madras High Court
The Madras High court has observed that just because a man and woman were found locked inside the house, there cannot be a presumption of illicit sexual relationship.
"Assuming that petitioner had allowed the co-employee to be a woman-folk at his residing place, it cannot be automatically presumed that such entertainment of an opposite-sex co-employee is only for immoral or illicit activities. Unless they have strong and concrete evidence to suggest that the illicit or immoral activities had taken place, merely based on presumption or surmise, one cannot conclude that, since they were under one roof for some time, it is only for illegal activities. This kind of presumption alone in the society cannot be a basis for concluding as arrived at by the Disciplinary Authority, that too for inflicting the punishment against the employee, working under him", Single Bench of Hon'ble Justice R Suresh Kumar observed.
In the present case, the petitioner, a police constable, was suspended from his services on the charges under Rule 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rule, 1955 for being alone in the quarters allotted to him with a woman constable with the intention to have illicit intimacy. According to the said charge, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him. by appointing an Enquiry Officer. He was inflicted with the punishment of "reduction in a time scale of pay by three stages for three years with cumulative effect." The Officer also directed for financial recovery to an applicable extent if not giving effect to punishment. Aggrieved by the order of the punishment, the petitioner appealed to the Inspector General, who enhanced the punishment and ordered for dismissal of service. He thus challenged the said orders of punishment initially awarded and subsequent enhanced punishment of service dismissal by way of a Writ Petition.
Thus, the Bench observed that there need not be proof in the strict sense of proof beyond reasonable doubt as envisaged in criminal proceedings. Still, in departmental proceedings, the decree of proof is a preponderance of probabilities. The authorities in departmental proceedings should not conclude that the delinquent has violated the code of conduct based on documentary and oral evidence recorded by the Enquiry Officer. There should be straight and clear evidence even for a mere preponderance probability.
"It is a settled proposition that, based on mere supposition and conjectures, a categorical finding cannot be given and conclusion cannot be reached against the employee, that too for the inflictment of the maximum punishment of dismissal of service", the Court noted.
While quashing the impugned orders and allowing the petition, the Bench held that the petitioner would be entitled to get service benefits that are available to him under Service Rules.
Case Title: K Saravana Babu v. Inspector General & Ors
Law Point/Statue Involved: Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rule, 1955