Petitions were filed u/S.482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 before MP High Court to challenge the FIRs and charge sheets on the singular ground that the petitioners, employees of department of CGST and Central Excise were subjected to disciplinary proceedings arising out of a trap/transaction and enquiry officer exonerated both of them which finding got stamp of approval from the disciplinary authority.
Both the learned counsel for petitioners placed heavy reliance on a recent judgment of Supreme Court in Ashoo Sundarnath Tiwari Vs.Dy.Superintedent of Police (Cr.Appeal No.5/2020) and urged that the Apex Court after considering the previous judgments in the case of P.S.Rajya Vs. State of Bihar (1996) 9 SCC 1 and Radheshyam Kejrival Vs. State of West Bengal & another (2011) 3 SCC 581 opined that where the employee is subjected to departmental
proceedings on the same factual foundation and stood exonerated on merits, the criminal prosecution on the same set of facts and circumstances cannot be allowed to continue on the underlined principle that criminal case needs higher standard of proof than the departmental enquiry. In such circumstances, the trial of person concerned shall be an abuse of process of court.
Laws laid down by the court in this case:
1. Departmental inquiry and FIR/Criminal case based on same facts/incident – In every case, it cannot be said as a rule of thumb that exoneration in departmental enquiry on merits must result into setting aside of FIR. If it is found on merits that there is no contravention of the provision of the Act in the departmental inquiry, the continuance of trial of person concerned can be treated as an abuse of the process of the Court.
2. Departmental inquiry under Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rule 1965 and provision of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (P.C Act) – In the departmental inquiry, there was no scope and occasion for the departmental authority to examine the aspect of contravention of provision of the PC Act. Hence, their findings on the merits cannot be treated to be a finding relating to exoneration from the provision of the Act. Hence, FIR
cannot be set aside.
3. Section 7-d (unamended) and section 20 of the P.C Act – The provisions are very wide. Section 20 creates legal presumption against the accused, which can be examined and gone into only by the criminal Court. There are cases where the complainant and Panch witnesses have turned hostile yet on the basis of statement of other witnesses, conviction was recorded.
Thus, merely because the complainant and another witness, who entered the witness box in the departmental inquiry did not support the prosecution story,
FIR and criminal case cannot be jettisoned.
4. Article 141 of the Constitution of India – Precedent – The decision of the
Supreme Court must be understood by taking into account the factual context of the matter. The judgment of the Supreme Court should neither be read as a statute or Euclid’s theorem.
5. Precedent – A little difference in facts, the additional fact or a different statute applicable in a particular case may make a lot of difference in the precedential value of a decision.
6. On merits – it cannot be said that possibility of petitioners conviction in the
criminal case are totally bleak and hence interference is declined.
7. Practice and Procedure- It is the duty of the Courts to give effect to the existing laws wherever applicable and not to pass any order/judgment which runs contrary to law or negativates an existing binding statutory provision.