NEARLY TEN years after CRPF terminated the services of a head constable for allegedly killing a senior colleague in Jammu’s Kishtwar district, and six years after his acquittal, the Punjab and Haryana High Court set aside the termination order and directed the security agency to reinstate him subject to his medical fitness.
The court rejected the Union government’s argument that mere acquittal does not entitle him the benefit of reinstatement.
“It is however, made clear that for the period petitioner remained out of his service, he shall not be entitled to salary on the principle of ‘no work no pay’ but he shall be given all other benefits viz. continuity of service etc. as admissible to him,” said the order passed by Justice Arun Monga.
Former head constable Surender Singh from Alwar, Rajasthan, had been in the CRPF for 26 years when he was arrested for allegedly shooting dead his colleague Bani Singh of Haryana, and suspended from service.
However, a sessions court had acquitted him in May 2013 as no witness supported the prosecution’s case. The acquittal was also upheld by the Jammu and Kashmir High Court.
Despite the acquittal, his termination was upheld by the CRPF appellate and revisional authorities saying: “in criminal trial strict proof of charge is required to convict a person, whereas in the departmental inquiry, the charges are proved on the basis of preponderance of probabilities”.
Justice Monga in the order said the punishment order seems to have been based on the same evidence that was produced before the trial court, adding it was incumbent upon the authorities to look into the acquittal judgments — whether the official’s conduct was of such a nature that would amount to moral turpitude impinging on the nature of his duties to be performed by him while in service.
“Every acquittal is an honourable acquittal. There is nothing in the Criminal Procedure Code nor is there any rule of criminal jurisprudence for treating the effects and consequences of an honourable acquittal from an acquittal on failure of the prosecution to prove the case beyond reasonable doubt,” said the order.
The court also noted that CRPF rules provide that a member of the force can be tried in departmental proceedings with the same evidence as cited in the criminal case only with the approval of the Inspector General, adding that no such sanction was sought. It also took note of the fact that one prosecution eyewitness before the criminal court denied having seen the firing incident, but the departmental punishment order relied on his testimony to uphold the charge of misuse of weapon in the course of performing government duties.