2023 0 Supreme(SC) 534
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
ABHAY S. OKA, RAJESH BINDAL, JJ.
The Indian Oil Corporation & Ors. – Appellants
Ajit Kumar Singh & Anr. – Respondents
Civil Appeal No. 3663 of 2023
Decided On : 17-05-2023
Scope of judicial review in matter of departmental punishment is limited.
Service Law – Punishment – Reversal by LPA Court – During course of inquiry, fair opportunity of hearing was afforded to respondent no.1 at every stage – Division Bench of High Court proceeded to reappreciate entire evidence as if conviction in a criminal trial was being re-examined by next higher court – Stand taken by respondent no.1 was that he was on leave and there was no question of his tampering with any document – However, there was no answer to finding recorded by Inquiry Officer in Inquiry Report that changed form of quotation contained original signature of respondent no.1 – When changed form of quotation also contained signature of respondent no.1, it clearly established his involvement in tampering of document – Impugned order passed by Division Bench of High Court in Letters Patent Appeal set aside and order passed by Single Judge in CWJC restored. (Paras 6, 7 and 8)
Facts of the case:
Aggrieved against order passed by High Court of Judicature at Patna in Letters Patent Appeal No. 1593/2015 dated 28.2.2019, present appeal has been filed. Vide aforesaid order, judgment and order of Single Judge of High Court dated 25.6.2015 in CWJC No. 2176/2004 was reversed.
Findings of Court:
Judgment passed by the Division Bench of the High Court shows that matter was dealt with in a manner as if it was the first stage of the case, namely, the inquiry was being conducted and inquiry report was being prepared, which is not the scope in judicial review.
Result : Appeal allowed.
Act Referred :SERVICE LAW : .Cases Referred:
Advocates appeared :For the Appellant(s) : Mr. V.N. Koura, Adv. Mrs. Paramjeet Benipal, Adv. Mr. Sirish Kumar, Adv. Mr. Avneesh Arputham, Adv. Ms. Anuradha Arputham, Adv. M/S. Arputham Aruna And Co, AOR For Respondent(s) Mr. Sayaree Basu Mallik, AOR Mr. N.P. Singh, Sr. Adv. Mr. Vaibhav Niti, Adv. Ms. Madhavi Agrawal, Adv. Mr. Divyanshu Agrawal, Adv. Mr. Madhur Mahajan, Adv.
Rajesh Bindal, J.
1. Aggrieved against the order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Patna in Letters Patent Appeal No. 1593/2015 dated 28.2.2019, the present appeal has been filed. Vide aforesaid order, the judgment and order of the learned Single Judge of the High Court dated 25.6.2015 in CWJC No. 2176/2004 was reversed.
2. The brief facts as available on record are that on 30.6.2001, tender notice was issued by the Appellant Corporation for the job of ‘Repair of Surface Drain and Tank Pad and Tank No. 235, 236 and 237 inside Refinery’ (Barauni Refinery), in which three bidders participated. Technical bids were opened on 24.8.2001. However, the price bids were not opened on that day and were kept with the remarks ‘not opened today’ in the table drawer of K.C. Patel under lock. The keys thereof were available with him and respondent no.1, Ajit Kumar Singh. Price bids were opened on 1.10.2001. Form of quotation submitted by each bidder was signed by K.C. Patel and G.S. Mahto. Entries were made in the register. While preparing the comparative table on 3.10.2001 K.C. Patel noticed change in the price bid of M/s. B.S. Jha as compared to the quoted price in the form of quotation, which was recorded on 1.10.2001. The signatures of K.C. Patel were missing in the changed form of quotation of price bid of M/s. B.S. Jha. There was over-writing in the quoted percentage wherein digit ‘9’ in the figure of ‘9.6’ was over-written as ‘5’. M/s. B.S. Jha, who was the second lowest bidder (L-2) when the price bids were opened on 1.10.2001, was found to be the lowest bidder (L-1). The matter was not reported to the higher authorities. Efforts were made to trace the original form of quotation. When it was not found, the matter was brought to the notice of the higher authorities.
3. G.S. Mahto confessed that at the instance of M/s. B.S. Jha along with B.K. Mishra, he replaced the form of quotation/price bid and destroyed the originals thereof so that the firm comes at L-1. Inquiry was initiated against them. The envelope containing the price bid of M/s. Laxmi Singh was also sent to the Central Forensic Institute, Bureau of Police Research & Development, Kolkata, vide letter dated 8.4.2002. The report established that the said envelop had been tampered with by opening and then resealing. Considering the fact that the envelopes containing bid were kept in a drawer of which a duplicate key was available with the respondent no.1, chargesheet was issued to him to explain as to why departmental proceedings be not initiated against him for changing the form of quotation/ price bid of M/s. Laxmi Singh to enable him to be L-1 in the tendering process. Simultaneously, chargesheet was also issued to K.C. Patel for tampering with the quotation of price bid of M/s. Laxmi Singh. Since the response to the show cause notice was found to be unsatisfactory, departmental proceedings were initiated against the respondent no.1 and K.C. Patel. In the Inquiry Report, the Inquiry Officer opined that there was tampering with the bids. It was found that tampering was done in the case of tender of bidders M/s. Laxmi Singh and M/s. B.S. Jha. The changed form o
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