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Reinstating sacked employee depends on service rules: SC

The Supreme Court has held that the issue whether an employee has to be reinstated in service or not after being acquitted by the criminal court depends upon the question whether the service rules mention any such provision for reinstatement and not as a matter of right. The question before the court was that whether a person who was dismissed from service following disciplinary proceedings is liable to be reinstated on acquittal by a criminal court on the ground of identity of charges in the departmental as well as criminal proceedings.

Referring the apex court judgments on the issue, a bench comprising of Justice KS Radhakrishnan and Justice AK Sikri set aside an order of the West Bengal Administrative Tribunal, affirmed by the Calcutta high court, which had directed for reinstatement of a sepoy Sankar Ghosh. He was working as a Sepoy in the 2nd Battalion of the Kolkata Armed Police.

At the time of the incident, he was working as a sepoy on deputation in the Traffic Department of Kolkata Police. He was arrested by police under sections of IPC and Arms Act. Later he and others were acquitted and after he approached the Tribunal, which took the view that the said acquittal judgment should have a bearing on the decision of the Enquiry Officer regarding disciplinary proceedings.

West Bengal government, which had challenged the direction for reinstatement, argued that the Tribunal and the high court had not properly appreciated a rule which says that even if there is identity of charges levelled against the person before the criminal court as well as before the Enquiry Officer, an order of discharge or acquittal of a police officer by a Criminal Court shall not be a bar to the award of the departmental punishment.

It also said that Ghosh was not honourably acquitted by the criminal court and the high court and the tribunal committed an error in directing reinstatement considering the mere fact that Ghosh with others was acquitted by the Criminal Court. It also said that being a member of the disciplined force, Ghosh's involvement in such a heinous crime tarnished the image and prestige of the Kolkata Police Force in the estimation of the members of public in general.

Ghosh’s counsel argued that he was rightly reinstated in service and the order passed by the Tribunal as well as the high court calls for no interference and that the acquittal by the trial court was an honourable acquittal.

'The Tribunal as well as the high court have not considered the above-mentioned provision and have committed a mistake in holding that since the respondent was acquitted by a Criminal Court of the same charges, reinstatement was automatic. We find it difficult to support the finding recorded by the Tribunal which was confirmed by the High Court. We, therefore, allow the appeal and set aside the order of the Tribunal, which was affirmed by the high court', said the court referring to the applicable law in this case.
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