SC on Applicability of Principles of Natural Justice when Statute is Silent about the Principles


July 04, 2018

Case name: Union of India v. Ram Lakhan Sharma


Date of Judgment: July 02, 2018

In the case, the appeals have been filed by the Union of India questioning the judgments of the Gauhati High Court by which writ petitions filed by the respondents challenging their orders of removal were allowed by setting aside the removal/dismissal orders and the respondents were directed to be reinstated. The Gauhati High Court had allowed the writ petition filed by the respondents on the ground that in the disciplinary inquiry the principles of natural justice were violated.

The High Court found that no Presenting Officer was appointed and the Inquiry Officer acted as prosecutor which violated the principles of natural justice.

The Appellant in the case contended that Rule 27 of CRPF Rules, 1955 which provides for holding of disciplinary inquiry does not provide for appointment of Presenting Officer. Hence, one of the issue in the case was that when the statutory provision does not require appointment of Presenting Officer whether there can be any circumstances where principles of natural justice can be held to be violated?

Bench’s Verdict

The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court while upholding the High Court’s order made the following observations in the case:

  • That there is no requirement of appointment of Presenting Officer in each and every case, whether statutory rules enable the authorities to make an appointment or are silent. When the statutory rules are silent with regard to the applicability of any facet of principles of natural justice the applicability of principles of natural justice which are not specifically excluded in the statutory scheme are not prohibited. When there is no express exclusion of particular principle of natural justice, the said principle shall be applicable in a given case to advance the cause of justice.
  • That the question as to whether Inquiry Officer who is supposed to act independently in an inquiry has acted as prosecutor or not is a question of fact which has to be decided on the facts and proceedings of particular case.
  • With reference to the instant case, the Supreme Court noted that the High Court had summoned the entire inquiry proceedings and after perusing the proceedings the High Court came to the conclusion that Inquiry Officer himself led the examination in chief of the prosecution witness by putting questions. Thus, the Inquiry Officer acted himself as prosecutor and Judge in the said disciplinary enquiry.

The entire case can be accessed here.