S.N. Aggarwal, J.
1. The question that calls for determination in these writ petitions is whether there is any bar to, or prohibition against, initiating simultaneous criminal proceedings and disciplinary proceedings.
2. The factual matrix giving rise to the above question is as follows.
3. Constable Krishan Kumar and Head Constable Ram Chander are employees of Railway Protection Force. They along with their other colleagues were on duty of escorting the Train No. 8237-UP Chattisgarh Express from New Delhi to Jalandhar City on 1/2-7-2006. In discharge of their duty, they boarded the Sleeper Coach No. SP-1 SE C 88211. The passengers traveling in this Coach complained to the escorting party that a man was roaming here and there in Coach and was behaving in a suspicious manner. The escorting party went to investigate from the person, who, on questioning, became aggressive and started to misbehave with the members of the escorting party and created a ruckus in the Sleeper Coach. After the train left Saharanpur Station, Head Constable Ram Chander (petitioner in writ petition(C) No. 2385/2007) informed ASI Ran Singh, in charge of the escorting party through wireless set. On investigation and interrogation by ASI Ran Singh, the above person's name was disclosed as Kuldeep Panwar, s/o Rampaul, c/o Satender Singh Rana, r/o DSO Compound, Saharanpur. It was revealed that the person was having a ticket to travel up to Saharanpur and was traveling unauthorisedly in the reserved Coach. In the course of interrogation the said Kuldeep Panwar also misbehaved with ASI Ran Singh by exhibiting aggressive behavior. It is alleged that ASI Ran Singh prepared a memo/Superdaginama in the prescribed format about the activities of said person Kuldeep Panwar. He also informed the RPF staff at the Ambala Station through his wireless set and requested them to be present near the Coach. When the train reached the Ambala Station, S.I. Mahinder Singh Meena of RPF Post, Ambala boarded the train in response to the wireless message given to RPF, Ambala by ASI Ran Singh. It is stated that since the passenger, Kuldeep Panwar, was unauthorisedly traveling in the reserved Coach, TTE AK Singh challaned him for unauthorised traveling and issued a receipt for the same. Kuldeep Panwar is alleged to have admitted his guilt before TTE AK Singh in writing. Thereafter the above-named Kuldeep Panwar alighted from the train at Ambala. The petitioners along with other members of the escorting party escorted the train to its destination till Jalandhar City. After the train returned from Jalandhar City, ASI Ran Singh (in charge escorting party) submitted a report of the incident to Inspector in charge, Delhi Kishan Ganj Post. On the receipt of the report, the Inspector in charge recorded the statements of the escorting party.
4. On 2.7.2006 at 22:05 hours in the night the passenger Kuldeep Panwar lodged an FIR against the petitioners at Police Station GRP, Saharanpur vide FIR No. 111/06 under Sections 384/342/504/506/323 IPC alleging therein that the escorting party had forcibly confined him and snatched Rs. 500/= from his pocket and threatened him of grave consequences if he revealed this incident and was then let off at Sirhind Station. Copy of the FIR registered at Saharanpur was transmitted to RPF Post, Delhi and on the basis of the said FIR, the petitioners were placed under suspension on 4.7.2006. On 6.7.2006 the petitioners were dismissed from service in exercise of powers conferred under Rule 161(ii) RPF Rules, 1987 stating that it was not reasonably practicable to hold an enquiry under Rule 153 RPF Rules before imposing the punishment.
5. The petitioners thereafter preferred a statutory appeal in terms of provisions contained in Rule 212(i) RPF Rules, 1987. The Appellate Authority after perusing the relevant records vide its order dated 1.8.2006 set aside the punishment of dismissal from service and ordered the petitioners to be reinstated in service. The Appellate Authority also directed that a detailed enquiry under Rule 153 be conducted against the petitioners by issuance of a charge sheet for major penalty so as to comply with the principles of natural justice. Pursuant to the said directions of the Appellate Authority, the petitioners were issued charge sheet on 8.2.2007 and departmental enquiry was initiated against them.
6. Aggrieved by the same, Constable Krishan Kumar and Head Constable Ram Chander have filed two separate writ petitions and have prayed for a writ of certiorari quashing the charge sheet issued against them on 8.2.2007 or in the alternative stay the disciplinary proceedings initiated against them during the continuance of criminal case registered vide FIR No. 111/06 dated 2.7.2007.
7. We have heard the learned Counsel for the parties and have also perused the record.
8. Counsel appearing on behalf of the petitioners had referred to the three judgments of the Supreme Court in (i) Kusheshwar Dubey v. Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. and Ors. , (ii) Capt. M. Paul Anthony v. Bharat Gold Mines Ltd. and Anr. and (iii) State of Rajasthan v. Shri B.K. Meena and Ors. and replying
upon these judgments it was contended by her that in the facts and circumstances of the present case it would be appropriate and desirable that the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the petitioners be stayed till the disposal of the criminal cases registered against the petitioners vide FIR No. 111/06 dated 2.7.2006. Learned Counsel had argued that in case both the proceedings are allowed to continue then it would cause a serious prejudice to the petitioners in their defense in criminal trial in cases registered against them vide afore-mentioned FIR. It was submitted that the genesis of the disciplinary proceedings is based upon the same facts on which criminal case was got registered against the petitioners and, therefore, it would not be appropriate for continuing both the proceedings simultaneously.
9. On the other hand, learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the respondents had vehemently opposed the prayer for stay or for quashing of charge sheet made by the petitioners in their respective writ petitions. Learned Counsel for the respondents had also relied upon a judgment of the Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Shri B.K. Meena and Ors. case (supra), which has also been relied upon by the petitioners' counsel.
10. It is evident from all the above judgments referred to and relied upon by counsel on both sides that each of these judgments start with the indisputable proposition that there is no legal bar for both the proceedings to go on simultaneously and then say that in certain situations, it may not be desirable, advisable or appropriate to proceed with the disciplinary enquiry when a criminal case is pending on identical charge. Whether the charge sheet can be quashed or not or whether the disciplinary proceedings can be stayed during the continuance of the criminal proceedings are matters that all depend on facts and circumstances of each case. The standard of proof, mode of enquiry and rules governing the enquiry and trial in both the cases i.e. disciplinary proceedings and criminal trial are entirely distinct and different. The objective of disciplinary proceedings is to enquire into the charge of mis-demeanour against the delinquent Government employee promptly so that undesirable elements are thrown out of service in the event the charge is proved.
11. The Hon'ble Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Shri B.K. Meena and Ors. case (supra) has observed as follows:
We are quite aware of the fact that not all the disciplinary proceedings are based upon true charges; some of them may be unfounded. It may also be that in some cases, charges are levelled with oblique motives. But these possibilities do not detract from the desirability of early conclusion of these proceedings. Indeed, in such cases, it is all the more in the interest of the charged officers that the proceedings are expeditiously concluded. Delay in such cases really works against him.
12. In the instant case there is no dispute about the fact that the disciplinary proceedings and the criminal trial are founded on same set of facts. However, the objective of both these proceedings is entirely different. The case against the petitioners is that while they were on train escorting duty on 1/2-7-2006, they had allegedly misbehaved with a passenger traveling in that train and had abused him and also bruised him with sticks, legs and buffets and extorted Rs. 500/= from him on the pretext that he was unauthorisedly traveling in the reserved compartment of the train though he was having ordinary ticket. The passenger, who was allegedly abused and bruised, had got a criminal case registered against the petitioners with Police Station GRP, Saharanpur vide FIR No. 111/06 under Sections 384/342/504/506/323 IPC. Based upon the allegations contained in the aforementioned FIR, the petitioners were served with a charge sheet and disciplinary proceedings were initiated with a proposal to impose major penalty against them. The petitioners seek quashing of the said charge sheet against them, inter alia, on the ground that the accusations made by the passenger against them are totally false and frivolous. They have also made an alternative prayer that in case the charge sheet is not quashed then the disciplinary proceedings initiated against them should be stayed till the continuance of the criminal proceedings against them vide aforementioned FIR. On giving our anxious consideration to the arguments advanced on behalf of the petitioners, we are not able to persuade ourselves to agree with their contentions. The charge sheet cannot be quashed even if the accusations made therein are false as alleged on behalf of the petitioners and this is so in view of the law on the subject laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in State of Rajasthan v. Shri B.K. Meena and Ors. case (supra). The disciplinary proceedings initiated against the petitioners can also not be stayed till the continuance of the criminal proceedings because the interest of the administration demands that the disciplinary proceedings initiated to enquire into the alleged mis-demeanour of the petitioners should be decided as expeditiously as possible so that in case the accusations against the petitioners are found to be false then their honour is vindicated at the earliest possible moment and in case they are found guilty then they must be dealt with promptly according to law. We also cannot lose sight of the fact that normally the criminal trial takes unduly long time whereas the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the delinquent employee, which are inter-departmental in nature, can be decided expeditiously. We are, therefore, of the view that the prayers made by the petitioners in the instant writ petitions cannot be allowed. The judgments referred to and relied upon on their behalf are of no help to the petitioners.
13. In view of the above and having regard to the circumstances of the case, we do not find any merit in these writ petitions, which fail and are, therefore, dismissed in liming with no order as to costs.