A high court can interfere with disciplinary inquiry or orders passed by the competent authority if the probe itself is vitiated on account of violation of principles of natural justice, the Supreme Court has said.
The apex court said that in a case where the disciplinary authority arrives at a finding that is unsupported by evidence or records a finding which no reasonable person could have arrived at, then the writ court is justified in examining the matter.
“It is true that a writ court is very slow in interfering with the findings of facts recorded by a departmental authority on the basis of evidence available on record.
“But it is equally true that in a case where the disciplinary authority records a finding that is unsupported by evidence whatsoever or a finding which no reasonable person could have arrived at, the writ court would be justified, if not duty bound, to examine the matter and grant relief in appropriate cases,” a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur said.
The bench also comprising Justice A M Khanwilkar said, “Non-application of mind by the inquiry officer or authority, non-recording of reasons in support of the conclusion arrived at by them are also grounds on which the writ courts are justified in interfering with the orders of punishment.
“The writ court will certainly interfere with disciplinary inquiry or the resultant orders passed by the competent authority on that basis if the inquiry itself was vitiated on account of violation of principles of natural justice, as is alleged to be the position in the present case,” the bench said.
The apex court made the observation while quashing the order of departmental authority against a former Allahabad Bank employee whose services were terminated in 2005 following an inquiry against him, saying “the inquiry officer, the disciplinary authority and the appellate authority have faltered in discharge of their duties resulting in miscarriage of justice”.
It had also noted that the bank employee Krishan Narayan Tewari’s claim that he was not given a fair chance to lead evidence in his defence was not rebutted effectively by the bank.