No Criminal Case, where Employee absolved in Disciplinary Proceedings?

In the case of Ashoo Surendranath Tiwari vs The Deputy Superintendent of Police (Criminal Appeal No. 575 of 2020), the Supreme Court held that Criminal Proceedings are not maintainable, where the employee has been exonerated in Disciplinary Proceedings for the same facts and cause.

An FIR was registered on 09.12.2009 as regards an MSME Receivable Finance Scheme operated by the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI). It was found that since some vendors were complaining of delay in getting their payments, SIDBI, in consultation with Tata Motors Limited, advised the vendors of Tata Motors Limited to furnish RTGS details for remittance of funds. It was found that for making payments in RTGS for various purchases made by Tata Motors Limited from one Ranflex India Pvt. Ltd. (hereinafter referred to as “vendor”), 12 payments amounting to Rs.1,64,17,551/- (Rupees one crore sixty-four lakhs seventeen thousand five hundred fifty one only) were made through RTGS by SIDBI in the vendor’s account with Federal Bank, Thriupporur. Ultimately, SIDBI was informed by the vendor that it has an account with Central Bank, Bangalore and not with Federal Bank, Thriupporur. On account of this diversion of funds, an FIR was lodged in which several accused persons were arrested.

A charge-sheet was then filed on 26.07.2011 in the Court of Special Judge, CBI cases in which it was alleged that the appellant had received an email on 25.05.2009 containing the RTGS details for the account with Federal Bank, Thripporur, which he then forwarded to Accused No.5 (Muthukumar) who is said to be the kingpin involved in this crime and is since absconding.

The Special Judge found that there was no need for sanction in the facts of this case. He, therefore, refused to discharge the appellant from the offences under the IPC. Appellant challenged it before the High Court, which agreed with the order of Special Judge. The High Court also brushed aside report of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) dated 22.12.2011 which went into the facts of the case in great detail and concurred with the Competent Authority that on merits no sanction ought to be accorded, and no offence under the Penal Code was made out.

A Bench of Justice R.F. Nariman, Justice Navin Sinha and Justice Indira Banerjee, referred to the Judgment in the case of P.S. Rajya vs State of Bihar, (1996) 9 SCC 1 and Radheshyam Kejriwal vs State of West Bengal and Another, (2011) 3 SCC 581 and observed that the standard of proof in a departmental proceeding, is based on the preponderance of probability is somewhat lower than the standard of proof in a criminal proceeding where the case has to be proved beyond the reasonable doubt.

Considering the above, the Supreme Court set aside the Judgment of the High Court, and that of the Special Judge and also discharged the appellant from the offences under the Penal Code.

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