IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 7403 OF 2021
Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation…..Appellant
Dilip Uttam Jayabhay………………………………Respondent
BENCH – Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna
In this case, Supreme Court observed that Acquittal in a Criminal Trial has no bearing or relevance on the disciplinary proceedings.
The Supreme Court on 3rd January 2022 observed that in the case of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation vs. Dilip Uttam Jayabhay stated that an employee can be dismissed from the service based on the findings of a disciplinary proceedings for misconduct while he has been found aquitted by a court of law.
FACTS BRIEFLY –
Dilip was a driver of the passenger bus. On 23rd October 1992, when he was driving the ST bus from Pune to Bhimashankar, he met with an accident, with a jeep that was coming from the alternative direction. So, the bus and also the jeep bumped into one another. It appeared that, rather than taking the bus to the left side, he took the bus to the acute right side, which was the incorrect side and because of that the jeep and bus crashed into one another. In the accident, 6 passengers were seriously injured and 4 passengers died on the spot. The jeep also got completely damaged with its radiator and engine board broken and therefore the insides of the jeep was also completely crushed. The accident was very disastrous, that the jeep was forced back by about 25 feet. The driver of the jeep also went through a plenty of injuries.
The driver was subjected to disciplinary inquiry. He was also kicked out from his service. A legal action was taken against him for the offence that he had committed under section 279 of the Indian Penal Code i.e. for Rash driving or riding on a public way and also section 304[a] of the Indian Penal Code i.e. causing death by negligence. But he was not found guilty because the prosecution couldn’t prove that the driver was entirely responsible for negligent and rash driving. It was decided that the case was of carelessness and contributory negligence.
The driver- Respondent debated the order of dismissal before the Labour Court. The Labour Court upholds the order of dismissal. After this, the Respondent filed a revision application before the Industrial Tribunal which invoked the power under item number 1[g] of the schedule IV of the Maharashtra Recognition of Trade Unions and Prevention of Unfair Labour Practices Act, 1971. They allowed the reinstatement. Since the workman didn’t press for wages, the identical wasn’t awarded to him.
A Writ Petition was filed in the High Court by the appellant against the order of the Industrial Tribunal allowing reinstatement. The High Court dismissed the petition filed by the appellant and also directed the appellant to pay back wages to respondent till superannuation. And so, the matter was headed to the Supreme Court.
The appellants counsel said that the High Court and Industrial Tribunal were unsuccessful to appreciate the difference between Criminal proceedings and disciplinary enquiry.
The following were the observations of the Apex Court –
1] The driver was found not guilty under section 279 and 304[a] of the Indian Penal Code because the prosecutors failed to prove to the court that the accident had occurred because of recklessness and negligent driving due to hostile witness.
The case was of contributory negligence, but that doesn’t mean that there was no mistake of the driver at all.
2] Justice Shah observed that even the directions given by the High Court stating the appellant to pay wages to the respondent also could not be passed.
Accordingly, the Top Court upheld the order of dismissal passed by the disciplinary authority dismissing the respondent from the service.
The Court remarked that, ‘As per the most important principle of law an acquittal in a criminal trial has no bearing or relevance on the disciplinary proceedings as the standard of proof in both the cases are different and the proceedings operate in different areas and with different objectives.’
Accordingly, the High Court upheld the dismissal order passed by the disciplinary authorities dismissing the defendant.
This article is written by Manasi Khadilkar of Gopaldas Jhamatmal Advani Law College.