Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jammu and Kashmir High Court: Sanjeev Kumar, J. dismissed a writ petition which claimed promotion and challenged the government order which was made on the basis of serious allegations regarding the disproportionate acquisition of property.

Respondent 2 herein, on a complaint, conducted a secret verification and found that the petitioner had acquired huge assets both movable and immovable, which were disproportionate to his known sources of income. He registered an FIR against the petitioner for the commission of offence under Section 5(1)(e) read with Section 5(2) of the Jammu and Kashmir Prevention of Corruption Act, 2006. He also wrote a communication to respondent 1 (Administrative Secretary) for initiating departmental action under Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Rules, 1956 against the petitioner. Respondent 1 by passing an order attaching petitioner with the Chief Engineer, PHE Kashmir. Petitioner was Superintending Engineer in a hydraulic circle, Kargil. He claimed that due to his seniority he was likely to be promoted to the post of Chief Engineer. Aggrieved by the said order, the petitioner challenged both the aforesaid communication as well as government order by way of this petition.

Petitioner claimed that the impugned communication issued by respondent 2 and the impugned government order by Administrative Secretary was illegal, arbitrary, mala fide and without any authority of law; and the same could not be sustained in law as they were not traceable to any provisions of Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Rules, 1956. He also contended that no employee can be penalized only on the ground that an FIR for his misconduct was registered with the police or Anti-Corruption Bureau and pleaded that the impugned communication and order were only aimed to denude him from his right to seek promotion to the post of Chief Engineer. Respondent 1 denied the allegations of arbitrariness and mala fide and objected the writ petition on the ground that the impugned government order was fully justified as the allegation against the petitioner was serious and disproportionate to his known sources of income. He also claimed that the petitioner had been attached with the Chief Engineer not only because an FIR regarding his misconduct was pending investigation before respondent 2 but also because a full-fledged departmental enquiry against him was contemplated.

Court held that the department was competent to hold a departmental enquiry solely on the basis of the allegations made against an employee and this power of the employer was independent of the power of the police and the Anti Corruption Bureau to register FIR and investigate the allegations. The delinquent employee may be acquitted by the Court of law on finding that the prosecution could not prove his guilt, but he can be penalized in the disciplinary proceedings, which were decided on the basis of preponderance of probabilities. The Court also observed that as per Section 31 of Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services Rules, 1956 he could also be suspended, if the complaint against him of any criminal offence was under investigation or trial. Hence, respondent 1 had shown leniency and instead of suspending him had only attached him with the Chief Engineer. Therefore, it could not be said that the order by respondent 1 was without jurisdiction or without any sanction of law. Thus, the petition was dismissed for being devoid of merit.[Sarwan Singh v. State of J&K, 2019 SCC OnLine J&K 518, decided on 07-06-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Kerala High Court: The Division Bench of A.M. Babu and V. Chitambaresh, JJ. allowed a petition preferred by the State against the order of Administrative Tribunal granting disbursal of full retirement benefits to an employee who had a criminal case pending against him.

Respondent herein, an Additional Tahsildar, was suspended on 26-11-2014 in connection with a vigilance trap case following his arrest and detention. He was reinstated on 28-09-2015, and he retired from service as Senior Superintendent on 30-11-2015 while the final report in vigilance case was filed on 27-12-2016. He pleaded for disbursement of full retiral benefits on the ground that cognizance of the criminal case was taken after the date of his retirement. The same was allowed by the Administrative Tribunal. Aggrieved thereby, the State preferred this petition.

Senior Government Pleader Mr T. Rajasekharan Nair contended that departmental proceedings commenced after the order of suspension. Therefore, the rigour of Rule 3A of Part III of the Kerala Service Rules was applicable which enabled the government to pay only provisional pension to the respondent and withhold his gratuity until the conclusion of the proceedings.

The Court agreed with the aforesaid contention and noted that the criminal case filed by Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau was still pending on the file of Vigilance Court, and the respondent had not yet been given a clean chit. Whether there was any part of the pension still to be recovered was a matter to be considered after the verdict.

Petitioner had already disbursed death-cum-retirement gratuity to respondent, even though it was not obliged to do so under the Kerala Service Rules. Thus, it was held that payment of provisional pension to the respondent at this stage could not be faulted with and the Tribunal was not justified in directing disbursement of entire benefits.[State of Kerala v. Sugunan V., 2019 SCC OnLine Ker 1024, Order dated 15-03-2019]

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Supreme Court: CJI Ranjan Gogoi has said that the Court will look into the plea of the Government of NCT of Delhi has sought constitution of a larger bench to expeditiously decide the issue of who controls the services in Delhi.

The bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ had, on February 14, put an end to ‘almost’ all the issues related to the powers exercisable by and functions of the elected Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) vis-a-vis the Central Government. However, the judges differed on the question relating to ‘Service matters’.

While both the judges agreed that Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution is not available to the Delhi Legislative Assembly as Entry 41 of List II deals with ‘State Public Services’ and ‘State Public Service Commission’ and that State Public Service Commission does not exist in NCTD, they differed on the issue of power to transfer and appoint certain officers.

Justice Sikri Justice Bhushan
The transfers and postings of Secretaries, HODs and other officers in the scale of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and above can be done by the Lieutenant Governor and the file submitted to him directly. For other levels, including DANICS officers, the files can be routed through the Chief Minister to Lieutenant Governor. In case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister, the view of the Lieutenant Governor should prevail and the Ministry of Home Affairs can issue a suitable notification in this regard. I having held that Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution is not available to the Legislative Assembly of GNCTD, there is no occasion to exercise any Executive power with regard to “Services” by the GNCTD, since the Executive power of the GNCTD as per Article 239AA(4) extend in relation to matters with respect to which Legislative Assembly has power to make laws. With regard to “Services” GNCTD can exercise only those Executive powers, which can be exercised by it under any law framed by the Parliament or it may exercise those Executive powers, which have been delegated to it.

To read the full report report on February 14 verdict, click here.

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The bench of Dr. AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan, JJ has put an end to ‘almost’ all the issues related to the powers exercisable by and functions of the elected Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) vis-a-vis the Central Government.

Difference on opinion on issue relating to ‘service’ matters:

While both the judges agreed that Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution is not available to the Delhi Legislative Assembly as Entry 41 of List II deals with ‘State Public Services’ and ‘State Public Service Commission’ and that State Public Service Commission does not exist in NCTD, they differed on the issue of power to transfer and appoint certain officers.

 

 

Justice Sikri

 

Justice Bhushan

The transfers and postings of Secretaries, HODs and other officers in the scale of Joint Secretary to the Government of India and above can be done by the Lieutenant Governor and the file submitted to him directly. For other levels, including DANICS officers, the files can be routed through the Chief Minister to Lieutenant Governor. In case of difference of opinion between the Lieutenant Governor and the Chief Minister, the view of the Lieutenant Governor should prevail and the Ministry of Home Affairs can issue a suitable notification in this regard.

I having held that Entry 41 of List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution is not available to the Legislative Assembly of GNCTD, there is no occasion to exercise any Executive power with regard to “Services” by the GNCTD, since the Executive power of the GNCTD as per Article 239AA(4) extend in relation to matters with respect to which Legislative Assembly has power to make laws. With regard to “Services” GNCTD can exercise only those Executive powers, which can be exercised by it under any law framed by the Parliament or it may exercise those Executive powers, which have been delegated to it.

 

In the light of the aforementioned difference of opinion, a larger bench will be deciding the issue.

Concurrent opinions of the judges on other issues at a glance:

Setting up of Anti-Corruption Bureau Police Station

Centre

Setting up of Commission of Inquiry

Centre

Power to pass orders under Delhi Electricity Reforms Act, 2011 and Delhi Electricity Reforms (Transfer Schemes) Rules, 2001 appointing the nominee Directors on the Board of Electricity Distribution Companies

GNCTD

Power to revise the minimum rates of Agricultural Land (Circle Rates) under the provisions of Indian Stamp Act, 1899

GNCTD

However, the LG is also empowered to form its opinion ‘on any matter’ which may be different from the decision taken by his Ministers. In such circumstances, LG is supposed to refer the matter to the President for decision and act according to the decision given thereon by the President.

Appointment of Public Prosecutors under Section 24 of the Code of Criminal Procedure

GNCTD

 

Also read the related 5-judge Constitution Bench judgement that held that NCT of Delhi is not a State and Lt. Governor of Delhi is not an administrator.

[Govt. of NCT of Delhi v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 193, decided on 14.02.2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The Bench comprising of Ranjan Gogoi and R. Banumathi, JJ. reversed the decision of the Gujarat High Court which had acquitted the accused of the charges under Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The accused were working in the Non-Agriculture Department. The complainant was a businessman who wanted to start a new firm. Permission for non-agricultural use of the land was sought from the Department. The accused were alleged to have demanded bribe for expediting the process. Rs 500 were paid to the Accused 1 through Accused 2, who was caught red-handed in the trap laid by the ACB. They were tried for the offences punishable under Sections 7 and 13(1)(d) of the Act. The trial court convicted the accused and sentenced them accordingly. However, on appeal, the High Court acquitted the accused holding that the case was not proved against the accused. Aggrieved by this decision, the State preferred the instant appeal.

At the outset, the Supreme Court observed that to prove the offence of bribe, the demand and acceptance of illegal gratification was sine qua non. On the facts of the case, the Court found that statements of PWs 1 and 2 along with the recovery of bribe amount after following proper procedure by the ACB, proved the case against the accused. Further, it was observed that the presumption against the accused under Section 20 is a rebuttable one and the degree of proof is the preponderance of probabilities. However, in the present case, the accused were not able to give any explanation to rebut that presumption. In such circumstances, the Supreme Court was of the opinion that the High Court ought not to interfere with the decision of the trial court that suffered from no infirmity. Hence, the impugned judgment of the Gujarat High Court was set aside and that of the trial court was reaffirmed. However, considering that the matter was almost 27 years old, the sentence of the accused was reduced from 2 years to 1 year. [State of Gujarat v. Navinbhai Chandrakant Joshi,2018 SCC OnLine SC 699, dated 17-07-2018]