Acquitted employee can't be reinstated: SC

Acquitted employee can't be reinstated: SC

A Bench of Justices B S Chauhan and T S Thakur in a judgement said that departmental proceedings and criminal trials can be held parallel and can in no way be termed as double jeopardy.

Double jeopardy

Under the doctrine of double jeopardy a person cannot be subjected to punishment twice on the same case.

“Acquittal of the employee in criminal case cannot be the basis of taking away the effect of departmental proceedings.

“Nor can such an action of the department be termed as double jeopardy.

Confidence lost

“Once the employer has lost the confidence in the employee and the bona fide loss of confidence is affirmed, the order of punishment must be considered to be immune from challenge, for the reason that discharging the office of trust and confidence requires absolute integrity, and in a case of loss of confidence, reinstatement cannot be directed,” Justice Chauhan writing the judgement said.

The apex court passed the judgement while disposing off the appeal filed by Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation(KSRTC) challenging a direction of the Karnataka Division Bench to reinstate M G Vittal Rao an employee dismissed him in February 1997, for committing theft in the office.

Order held

The high court had held that he was entitled to reinstatement since he was acquitted by the criminal court.

The apex court said question of considering reinstatement after acquittal or discharge by a competent criminal Court arises only if the dismissal was based on conviction by the court concerned.

“In a case where enquiry has been held independently of the criminal proceedings, acquittal in a criminal Court is of no help. The law is otherwise.

Even if a person stood acquitted by a criminal Court, domestic enquiry can be held, the reason being that the standard of proof required in a domestic enquiry and that in a criminal case are altogether different.

Standard of proof

“In a criminal case, standard of proof required is beyond reasonable doubt while in a domestic enquiry it is the preponderance of probabilities that constitutes the test to be applied,” the apex court said.

Hence it set aside the division bench’s order.