AMARENDRA KUMAR PANDEY VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS.

AMARENDRA KUMAR PANDEY VERSUS UNION OF INDIA & ORS.


Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOS. 11473­11474 OF 2018
AMARENDRA KUMAR PANDEY  ….APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
UNION OF INDIA & ORS. ….RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
J. B. PARDIWALA, J.
1. These   appeals,   by   special   leave,   are   directed   against   the
judgment and order passed by a Division Bench of the Guwahati High
Court dated 21.12.2017 in the Writ Appeal No. 354 of 2017 by which
the High Court allowed the appeal filed by the Union of India & Ors.
thereby setting aside the judgment and order passed by a learned
Single Judge of the High Court dated 19.01.2015 in the Writ Petition
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(C) 2783 of 2004 filed by the appellant herein.
2. The facts giving rise to this appeal may be summarized as under:
(i) The   appellant   herein   (original   writ   petitioner)   had   joined   the
Assam Rifles as a Rifleman in the year 1993. While he was in service,
he came to be discharged vide order dated 31.01.2004 passed by Lt.
Col Offg Comdt.
(ii) The order of discharge referred to above reads thus:
OFFICE OF THE COMMANDANT 24 ASSAM RIFLES, 
C/O 99 APO
ORDER
2401637/AKP/2004 DATED 31.01.2004
1. WHEREAS it is considered that the conduct of No
2401637W   Rfn/GD   Amrandra   Kumar   Pandey   of
which has led him getting four Red Ink entries is
such as to render his further retention in the public
Service undesirable being a incorrigible offender and
having shown no improvement during his service.
2. AND WHEREAS No. 2401637W Rfn/GD Amrandra
Kumar   Pandey   was   afforded   opportunity   to   show
cause against the proposed action vide 24 AR letter
No. 11014/A36­2003/635 dt. 02 Sep., 2003.
3. AND WHEREAS No 2401637W Rfn/GD Amrandra
Kumar Pandey submitted his replies vide letter No.
Nil dated 01. Oct.2003. the same was considered in
terms of ROI 4/99 and was found unsatisfactory by
the competent authority.
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4. NOW   WHEREFORE,   In   exercise   of   the   powers
conferred on me under AR Act 1941 Sec 4(a) read
with Para 24, Chapter VIII of AR Manual and Para 6
of ROI 4/99, the undersigned hereby discharge the
said   No.2401637W   Rfn/GD   Amrandra   Kumar
Pandey   from   the   Assam   Rifles   being   incorrigible
offender   soldier   with   effect   from   31   Jan.,   2004
(Afternoon) No.2401637W Rfn/GD Amrandra Kumar
Pandey  is   entitled   to   get  pension   and   gratuity   as
admissible under rule.
s/d
(Santosh Joseph)
Lt. Col Offg Comdt
3. Thus, the aforesaid order of discharge was passed on the basis of
the four Red­Ink entries received by him during his period of service.
The four Red­Ink entries were on the following grounds:
Entry 1 (1996) For staying back to take care of his
ailing   mother   –  ‘without   sufficient
cause   over   staying   leave   granted’.
Sentenced   to   14   days   of   rigorous
imprisonment   with   deduction   in
salary.
Entry 2 (1998) For being on the way out to make a
phone call, but stopped before he
could leave the compound – “visited
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out of bound areas as specified in
unit BRO Part I Ser No 202 dated 30
Aug 96 without permission from his
superior  officers”.  Sentenced to 28
days   of   rigorous   custody   and   14
days of Military Custody.
Entry 3 (1999) For losing his luggage while coming
back from home – “lost his identity
card   bearing   machine   No.   078550
by   neglect   the   property   of   the
Government   issued   to   him   for   his
use”.  Sentenced   to   28   days   of
rigorous imprisonment and 14 days
of detention in AR custody.
Entry 4 (2004)  For   playing   cards   all   alone   by
himself   –  ‘to   obey   unit   standing
orders and was found Gambling in
unit line’.  Sentenced to 28 days of
rigorous imprisonment and 14 days
of fine.
4. The appellant herein challenged the order of discharge before the
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Guwahati High Court by filing the Writ Petition (C) No. 2738 of 2002. It
appears from the materials on record that a learned Single Judge of
the   Guwahati   High   Court   decided   the   Writ   Petition   filed   by   the
appellant   herein   along   with   two   other   identical   petitions   of   two
similarly situated riflemen and by a common judgment and order dated
19.01.2015 allowed the same. The impugned order of discharge came
to be set aside. The learned Single Judge remitted the matter to the
authorities concerned for a fresh decision in the light of a Division
Bench decision of the Guwahati High Court.
5. The learned Single Judge while allowing the Writ Petition filed by
the appellant herein held as under:
“The issue regarding discharge from Assam Rifles on
securing   four   Red   Ink   entries   was   gone   into   by   a
Division   Bench   of   this   Court   in   Balwant   Singh   Vs.
Union of India & Ors., reported in 2011 (5) GLT 640.
That was a case where a Rifleman was discharged
from the Assam Rifles on getting four Red Ink entries.
Out   of   the   four   Red   Ink   entries,   three   related   to
intoxication   and   one   related   to   overstay   of   leave
period. The Division Bench examined the provisions of
Clause­5   of   the   Record   Branch   Instruction   (ROI)
No.1/2004.   Clause­5   of   ROI   provides   that   under
Chapter­VIII,   Rule   24   of   the   Assam   Rifles   Manual
power is conferred on the Commandant of an Assam
Rifles   battalion   to   discharge   any   member   of   the
Assam Rifles below the rank of Naib Subedar in case
he receives four or more Red Ink entries. The Division
Bench held that the use of the expression “four or
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more Red Ink entries” and also the use of the word
“may” in Clause­5 indicates that discretion is vested
in the disciplinary authority to decide as to whether
the person who is found to have received the Red Ink
entries ought to be discharged from service or not. It
was held that merely because a man receives four
Red Ink entries, discharge is not automatic. Discretion
is   given   to   the   Commanding   Officer   to   consider
discharge.   The   severity   and   the   nature   of   the
misconduct will have to be weighed before recourse is
taken to exercise power conferred by Clause­5 of the
ROI.
It is a settled position in law that when a discretion is
vested in an authority to exercise a particular power,
the   same   is   required   to   be   exercised   with   due
diligence,   and   in   reasonable   and   rational   manner.
Since order of discharge and the procedure preceding
such   discharge   is   of   a   summary   nature,   it   is
necessary that the order of discharge is a speaking
order and must indicate how and in what manner the
authority   exercised   the   discretionary   power.   The
Hon’ble Supreme Court in a catena of decisions has
reiterated   time   and   again   the   necessity   and
importance   of   giving   reasons   by   the   authority   in
support of its decision. It has been held that the face
of an order passed by a quasi­judicial authority or
even   by   an   administrative   authority   affecting   the
rights of parties must speak. The affected party must
know how his case or defence was considered before
passing   the   prejudicial   order.   Coming   back   to   the
three impugned orders, it is evident that none of the
orders disclose how the responses of the petitioners
were considered and why discharge was necessary.
As   held   by   the   Division   Bench   just   because   the
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petitioners incurred four Red Ink entries, it does not
ipso facto mean that they are to be discharged from
the   Assam   Rifles.   As   pointed   out   by   the   Division
Bench,   the   authority   vested   with   the   power   to
discharge   must   examine   the   response   of   the
concerned person and weigh the same vis­à­vis the
severity of the misconduct which led to incurring of the
Red Ink entries in the service rolls. Such examination
is not discernible from the impugned orders.
Having regard to the above, this Court is of the view
that   the   impugned   orders   of   discharge   cannot   be
sustained. Accordingly, the orders of discharge of the
petitioners   are   set   aside   and   quashed.   Matter   is
remanded back to the respondents for a fresh decision
in the light of the Division Bench judgment in Balwant
Singh   (Supra)   and   the   discussions   made   above.
Respondents may consider imposition of any lesser
punishment on the petitioners balancing the interest of
the   organization   and   also   that   of   the   petitioners
subject   to   assessment   of   physical   fitness   of   the
petitioners.
Writ   petitions   are   allowed   to   the   above   extent.   No
costs.”
6. The  Union  of  India  being dissatisfied  with  the  judgment and
order passed by the learned Single Judge referred to above challenged
the same by filing the writ appeal before the Division Bench of the
Guwahati High Court. The Division Bench allowed the writ appeal filed
by the Union of India and thereby set aside the order passed by the
learned   Single   Judge   referred   to   above.   The   Appeal   Court   while
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allowing the writ appeal filed by the Union of India essentially took the
view that neither the Assam Rifles Act, 1941 under which the decision
to discharge was taken nor the Assam Rifles Act, 2006 requires the
authority to record any reasons or the satisfaction in the order of
discharge itself. The Appeal Court took the view having regard to the
provision of Clause 5 of the ROI 1/2004 that the Commandant has the
discretion to discharge a person who has four or more Red Ink entries.
All that is required is to serve a notice on the individual affording an
opportunity to explain. The provision of Clause 5 does not require the
Commandant  to   record   the  reasons   of  satisfaction  in   the  order  of
discharge.
7. Being dissatisfied with the impugned order passed by the Appeal
Court of the High Court, the appellant herein (original writ petitioner)
is here before this Court with the present appeal.
SUBMISSIONS :
8. The   learned   Counsel   appearing   for   the   appellant   vehemently
submitted that the High Court committed a serious error in passing
the impugned order. He would submit that there was no good reason
for the Appeal Court to disturb the order passed by the learned Single
Judge of the High Court.
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9. The learned Counsel has broadly classified his submissions as
under:
(a) Discharge is not mandatory even after four Red entries.
(b) There is a difference between cases of major misconducts and
minor misconducts.
(c) In the order of discharge no reasons have been assigned.
(d) The plea of malafide raised against the authority has not been
considered.
10. The   learned   Counsel   appearing   for   the   appellant   invited   the
attention of this Court to the Record Office Instruction No. 4 of 1999
which provides for the procedure for discharge/retirement from service
of Assam Rifles personnel. The same reads thus:
RECORD OFFICE INSTRUCTION NO.4/99
PROCEDURE FOR DISCHARGE/RETIREMENT FROM 
SERVICE ASSAM RIFLES PERSONNEL
1. A comprehensive instruction, containing all existing 
orders on the subject has been compiled in the form of
this ROI for guidance and strict compliance by all 
concerned.
***** ***** *****
***** ***** *****
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***** ***** *****
6. Discharge/Disposal of Undesirable/Inefficient 
Personnel
Chapter VIII, Rules 24 of the Assam Rifles Manual
invests powers to the Commandant of Assam Rifles
Battalions to ‘dismiss’ or ‘remove’ any member of the
Assam Rifles below the rank of Nb/Sub. This power
may be invoked by a Commandant in case where a
person   has   got   four   red   ink   entries.   As   far   as
practicable, however, discharge under this provision
should be avoided as personnel sent on discharge on
this account are not eligible for pension. In case it is
necessary to send an individual on discharge under
this provision, a notice will be served on the individual
to give opportunity to explain his case. Complete case
will be forwarded to Range HQ alongwith the notice
and   reply   received   from   the   individual,   for   the
approval of the DIGAR. The documents will be sent to
this   Directorate   Records   (Doc)/UPAO   (And   the
individual to Depot Coy (No.1 Constr Coy))……
11. The learned Counsel also invited the attention of this Court to
the Assam Rifles Manual. The relevant clause of the Assam Rifles
Manual reads thus:
ASSAM RIFLES MANUAL
“24. A Commandant may dismiss any member of the 
Assam Rifles below the rank of Jemadar. 
The word “dismissal” should be restricted to the case
of an officer removed with disgrace. In other cases
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“removal” is the proper word to be used. A “dimissed”
officer may not be re­employed.
Dismissal   is   the   last   resource,   and   should   not
ordinarily   be   ordered   until   all   other   means   of
punishment   have   been   tried   and   failed.   For
incorrigible   offenders;   confirmed   bad   characters,
confirmed   drunkards,   for   offences   involving   moral
disgrace, fraud and dishonesty, continued and willful
disobedience   or   neglect,   it   is   generally   the   only
appropriate punishment”
12. The principal argument of the learned Counsel appearing for the
appellant   is   that   the   discharge   from   service   is   not   automatic   or
mandatory   after   four   Red   entries.   Four   Red   entries   are   only   a
minimum   requirement   and   cannot   be   the   sole   ground   to   order
discharge. It is argued that the Rule itself states that the power “may
be invoked” and that “as far as practicable, however, discharge under
this provision should be avoided as the Personnel sent on discharge on
this account are not eligible for pension”. The submission is that the
provision can be pressed into service only when “continued and willful
disobedience or neglect” comes on record.
13. The   learned   Counsel   with   a   view   to   fortify   his   aforesaid
submission placed strong reliance on the decisions of this Court in the
case of  Virendra   Kumar   Dubey   v.   Chief   of   Army   Staff  &   Ors.,
(2016) 2 SCC 627, and Vijay Shankar Mishra v. Union of India and
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Ors., (2017) 1 SCC 795, respectively.
14. In such circumstances referred to above, the learned Counsel
prays that there being merit in his appeal the same be allowed and the
impugned judgment and order passed by the High Court may be set
aside   including   the   order   of   discharge   and   the   appellant   may   be
ordered to be reinstated in service with all Full Back Wages and all
other statutory benefits.
15. On the other hand, this appeal has been vehemently opposed by
the   learned   Counsel   appearing   for   the   respondents.   The   learned
Counsel would submit that no error not to speak of any error of law
could be said to have been committed by the High Court in passing the
impugned judgment and order. She would submit that the High Court
was absolutely justified in taking the view that it was not necessary for
the   authority   concerned   to   assign   any   reasons   for   the   purpose   of
passing an order of discharge. The four Red Ink entries were sufficient
for   the   authority   to   arrive   at   the   subjective   satisfaction   that   the
appellant   herein   was   not   fit   to   be   retained   in   service   and   more
particularly being a Rifleman with the Assam Rifle. 
16. It is argued that before passing the order of discharge, notice to
show cause was issued to the appellant herein and an opportunity of
hearing was given to him.
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17. The learned Counsel submitted that all that the appellant did
was to tender an apology for his mistakes. No other ground was raised
in his reply to the show cause notice except that he hails from a poor
family and his parents and children are dependent on him. Having
regard to the reply the authority concerned rightly formed an opinion
that the appellant was a habitual offender. She invited the attention of
this Court to Para 6 of the impugned judgment of the High Court
wherein the High Court has noted that the appellant failed to offer any
explanation in the reply to the show cause notice except the family
circumstances.
18. The learned Counsel further submitted that the decision of this
Court in the case of Union of India v. Balwant Singh, (2015) 14 SCC
389, has not been referred to in the case of Virendra Kumar Dubey
(supra).
19. In the last the learned Counsel placed reliance on the decision of
this Court in the case of  Satgur  Singh   v.  UOI  &  Ors.  reported in
(2019)9 SCC 205, more particularly, the observations made in Para 6
and 7 respectively. Para 6 & 7 respectively are as under: 
“6. We   do   not   find   any   merit   in   the   present
appeal.   Para  5(a)   of   the   circular  dated   28­12­1988
deals with an enquiry which is not a court of inquiry
into the allegations against an army personnel. Such
enquiry   is   not   like   departmental   enquiry   but
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semblance of the fair decision­making process keeping
in view the reply filed. The court of inquiry stands
specifically excluded. What kind of enquiry is required
to   be   conducted   would   depend   upon   facts   of   each
case. The enquiry is not a regular enquiry as Para 5(a)
of   the   Army   Instructions   suggests   that   it   is   a
preliminary enquiry. The test of preliminary enquiry
will be satisfied if an explanation of a personnel is
submitted   and   upon   consideration,   and   order   is
passed thereon. In the present case, the appellant has
not offered any explanation in the reply filed except
giving vague family circumstance. Thus, he has been
given   adequate   opportunity   to   put   his   defence.
Therefore, the parameters laid down in Para 5(a) of
the   Army   Instructions   dated   28­12­1988   stand
satisfied….
7. In   reply   to   the   show­cause   notice,   the
appellant   has   not   given   any   explanation   of   his
absence from duty on seven occasions. He has been
punished on each occasion for rigorous imprisonment
ranging from 2 days to 28 days. A member of the
Armed Forces cannot take his duty lightly and abstain
from duty at his will. Since the absence of duty was
on   several   different   occasions   for   which   he   was
imposed punishment of imprisonment, therefore, the
order of discharge cannot be said to be unjustified.
The   Commanding   Officer   has   recorded   that   the
appellant   is   a   habitual   offender.   Such   fact   is
supported by absence of the appellant from duty on
seven occasions.”
20. In such circumstances referred to above the learned Counsel
appearing for the respondents pray that there being no merit in this
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appeal, the same may be dismissed.
ANALYSIS
21. Having heard the learned counsel appearing for the parties and
having gone through the materials on record, the only question that
falls for our consideration is whether the Division Bench of the High
Court committed any error in passing the impugned order?
22. We must first look into the decision of this Court rendered in the
case of Virendra Kumar Dubey (supra). In the said case, the appellant
Virendra Kumar Dubey was enrolled as an operator in the corps of
Artillery of Indian Army on 27.09.1980. Having served in that capacity
for nearly twelve years, he received a show cause notice pointing out
that he had been awarded four Red Ink entries for various offences set
out   in   the   notice   and   that  Virendra  Kumar   Dubey  had   become   a
habitual offender, thereby setting a bad example of indiscipline in the
army. Virendra Kumar Dubey ultimately came to be discharged from
service by an order dated 14.12.1992. He preferred a departmental
appeal, which failed. He, thereafter, went to the High Court of Madhya
Pradesh at Jabalpur, however, the High Court declined to entertain the
petition on the ground of lack of territorial jurisdiction. He, thereafter,
preferred an appeal before the Appeal Court and the writ appeal was
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ultimately ordered  to be transferred  to  the  Armed  Forces  Tribunal
Regional   Bench,   Lucknow.   The   Tribunal   ultimately   dismissed   the
transferred petition which gave rise to the appeal before this Court.
23. This Court in Virendra Kumar Dubey (supra) held as under:
 “19. It is common ground that a red ink entry may be
earned by an individual for overstaying leave for one
week or for six months. In either case the entry is a
red ink entry and would qualify for consideration in
the matter of discharge. If two persons who suffer
such entries are treated similarly notwithstanding the
gravity   of   the   offence   being   different,   it   would   be
unfair and unjust for unequals cannot be treated as
equals. More importantly, a person who has suffered
four such entries on a graver misconduct may escape
discharge which another individual who has earned
such   entries   for   relatively   lesser   offences   may   be
asked to go home prematurely. The unfairness in any
such   situation   makes   it   necessary   to   bring   in
safeguards to prevent miscarriage of justice. That is
precisely what the procedural safeguards purport to
do in the present case.”
Taking the aforesaid view, this Court ultimately passed the following
order:
“21. In the result this appeal succeeds and is hereby
allowed. The order of discharge passed against the
appellant is hereby set aside. Since the appellant has
already crossed the age of superannuation, interest of
justice will be sufficiently served if we direct that the
appellant shall be treated to have been in service till
the   time   he   would   have   completed   the   qualifying
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service  for grant of  pension. No back wages  shall,
however,   be   admissible.   Benefit   of   continuity   of
service for all other purpose shall be granted to the
appellant   including   pension.   Monetary   benefits
payable   to   the   appellant   shall   be   released
expeditiously but not later than four months from the
date of this order. No Costs.”
24. In  Vijay   Shankar   Mishra  (supra), the appellant therein was
enrolled in the Army Medical Corps on 23.06.1984. On 03.10.1997, a
notice to show cause was issued to him to explain why he should not
be discharged from service under Rule 13(3) Table (III)(v) of the Army
Rules, 1954 on the ground that his conduct and service had not been
found satisfactory. He ultimately came to be discharged from service.
By that time, he had rendered service of thirteen years and eight
months. The minimum qualifying service for earning pension under
Rule 132 of the Pension Regulations for the Army ,1961 is fifteen
years. He filed a writ petition before the Madhya Pradesh High Court
which   was   dismissed   on   21.11.2006.   In   appeal,   a   Division   Bench
directed reconsideration of the case of the appellant. Pursuant to the
order of the High Court, an order was issued rejecting his claim for
pension on the ground that he had not put in fifteen years of service
and had been discharged for the reason that he was unlikely to become
an efficient soldier. He again filed a writ petition before the Madhya
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Pradesh   High   Court   which   was   transferred   to   the   Armed   Forces
Tribunal. The Tribunal dismissed the matter. Thereafter, Mishra came
before this Court. The very same argument was canvassed before this
Court on behalf of Vijay Shankar Mishra that the mere fact that he had
been punished while in service on nine occasions inclusive of six Red
entries was no ground to exercise the power under the relevant rule for
the   purpose   of   discharge.   The   Court   relied   upon  Vijay   Shankar
Mishra (supra) and ultimately held as under:
“9. In the present case, it is evident that there was no
application   of   mind   by   the   authorities   to   the
circumstances   which   have   to   be   taken   into
consideration while exercising the power under Rule
13. The mere fact that the appellant had crossed the
threshold of four red entries could not be a ground to
discharge   him   without   considering   other   relevant
circumstances including: (i) the nature of the violation
which   led   to   the   award   of   the   red   ink   entries;   (ii)
whether the appellant had been exposed to duty in
hard stations and to difficult living conditions; (iii) long
years of service, just short of completing the qualifying
period for pension. Even after the Madhya Pradesh
High Court specifically directed consideration of his
case bearing in mind the provisions of the circular, the
relevant factors were not borne in mind. The order
that   was   passed   on   26­2­2007   failed   to   consider
relevant   and   germane   circumstances   and   does   not
indicate a due application of mind to the requirements
of the letter of Army Headquarters dated 28­12­1988
and the Circular dated 10­01­1989.
18
10. For these reasons, we are of the view that the
Armed Forces Tribunal was in error in rejecting the
application. The orders of the Tribunal dated 23­9­
2010 Vijay Shankar Mishra V. Union of India, 2010
SCC OnLine AFT 1127 and 15­9­2011 are set aside.
Since the appellant would have attained the age of
superannuation, the ends of justice would be met if he
is treated to have been in service till the time he would
have   completed   the   qualifying   service   for   grant   of
pension. No back wages shall however be admissible.
The   benefit   of   continuity   of   service   for   all   other
purposes shall be granted to the appellant including
pension.   The   monetary   benefits   payable   to   the
appellant shall be released within a period of four
months from the date of this order.”
25. In   both   the   aforesaid   decisions,   this   Court   took   into
consideration the fact that there was no application of mind by the
authority to the relevant aspects which were taken into consideration
while exercising the power under Rule 13 of the Rules. In both the
aforesaid cases, this Court took the view that the mere fact that the
Personnel had crossed the threshold of few Red Ink entries could not
have been made a ground to discharge them without considering other
relevant circumstances, more particularly, the nature of the violation
which led to the award of the Red Ink entries. The crux of the ratio of
the decision of this Court in the case on  Veerendra  Kumar  Dubey
(supra) is that the only safeguard against arbitrary exercise of power by
the authority would be to ensure that there is an enquiry, howsoever,
19
summary and a finding about the defence set up by the individual
besides   consideration   of   the   factors   made   relevant   under   the
procedure.
26. The reliance placed by the learned Counsel appearing for the
respondents on the decision of this Court in the case Satgur Singh
(supra) is of no avail. It was a case in which the appellant failed to
furnish any explanation of his absence from duty on seven occasions.
On facts, this Court took the view that as the absence from duty was
on several different occasions for which he was imposed punishment of
imprisonment, the order of discharge could not be said to unjustified.
27. We may elaborate the aforesaid a little further. 
28. Where an Act or the statutory rules framed thereunder left an
action dependent upon the opinion of the authority concerned, by
some such expression as ‘is satisfied’ or ‘is of the opinion’ or ‘if it has
reason to believe’ or ‘if it considered necessary’, the opinion of the
authority is conclusive, (a) if the procedure prescribed by the Act or
rules   for   formation   of   the   opinion   was   duly   followed,   (b)     if   the
authority acted bona fide, (c) if the authority itself formed the opinion
and   did   not   borrow   the   opinion   of   somebody   else   and   (d)   if   the
authority did not proceed on a fundamental misconception of the law
and the matter in regard to which the opinion had to be formed.
20
29. The action based on the subjective opinion or satisfaction, in our
opinion, can judicially be reviewed first to find out the existence of the
facts or circumstances on the basis of which the authority is alleged to
have formed the opinion. It is true that ordinarily the court should not
inquire into the correctness or otherwise of the facts found except in a
case where it is alleged that the facts which have been found existing
were not supported by any evidence at all or that the finding in regard
to circumstances or material is so perverse that no reasonable man
would say that the facts and circumstances exist. The courts will not
readily defer to the conclusiveness of the authority’s opinion as to the
existence   of   matter   of   law   or   fact   upon   which   the   validity   of   the
exercise of the power is predicated.
30. The   doctrine   of   reasonableness   thus   may   be   invoked.   Where
there are no reasonable grounds for the formation of the authority’s
opinion, judicial review in such a case is permissible. [See Director of
Public Prosecutions v. Head, (1959) AC 83 (Lord Denning).
31.  When we say that where the circumstances or material or state
of affairs does not at all exist to form an opinion and the action based
on such opinion can be quashed by the courts, we mean that in effect
there is no evidence whatsoever to form or support the opinion. The
distinction between insufficiency or inadequacy of evidence and no
21
evidence must of course be borne in mind. A finding based on no
evidence as opposed to a finding which is merely against the weight of
the evidence is an abuse of the power which courts naturally are loath
to tolerate. Whether or not there is evidence to support a particular
decision has always been considered as a question of law. [See Reg. v.
Governor of Brixton Prison, Armah, Ex Parte, (1966) 3 WLR 828 at
p. 841].
32. It is in such a case that it is said that the authority would be
deemed to have not applied its mind or it did not honestly form its
opinion. The same conclusion is drawn when opinion is based on
irrelevant matter. [See  Rasbihari  v.  State  of  Orissa,  AIR 1969 SC
1081].
33. In the case of  Rohtas   Industries   Ltd.   v.   S.D.   Agarwal  and
another,  AIR   1969   SC   707,   it   was   held   that   the   existence   of
circumstances is a condition precedent to form an opinion by the
Government.   The   same   view   was   earlier   expressed   in   the   case   of
Barium Chemicals Ltd. and another v. Company Law Board and
others, AIR 1967 SC 295.
34. Secondly,   the   court   can   inquire   whether   the   facts   and
circumstances so found to exist have a reasonable nexus with the
22
purpose for which the power is to be exercised. In other words, if an
inference from facts does not logically accord with and flow from them,
the Courts can interfere treating them as an error of law. [See Bean v.
Doncaster Amalgamated Collieries,  (1944) 2 All ER 279 at p. 284].
Thus,   this   Court   can   see   whether   on   the   basis   of   the   facts   and
circumstances found, any reasonable man can say that an opinion as
is   formed   can   be   formed   by   a   reasonable   man.   That   would   be   a
question   of   law   to   be   determined   by   the   Court.   [See  Farmer   v.
Cotton’s Trustees, 1915 AC 922]. Their Lordships observed:
“………..   in   my   humble   judgment   where   all   the
material facts are fully found, and the only question is
whether the facts are such as to bring the case within
the provisions properly construed of some statutory
enactment, the question is one of law only.”
[See also Muthu Gounder v. Government of Madras,  (1969) 82 Mad
LW 1].
35. Thirdly, this Court can interfere if the constitutional or statutory
term essential for the exercise of the power has either been misapplied
or misinterpreted. The Courts have always equated the jurisdictional
review with the review for error of law and have shown their readiness
to quash an order if the meaning of the constitutional or statutory
term has been misconstrued or misapplied. [See  Iveagh (Earl  of)  v.
23
Minister of Housing and Local Govt., (1962) 2 QB 147; Iveagh (Earl
of) v. Minister of Housing and Local Govt. (1964) 1 AB 395].
36. Fourthly, it is permissible to interfere in a case where the power
is exercised for improper purpose. If a power granted for one purpose
is exercised for a different purpose, then it will be deemed that the
power has not been validly exercised. If the power in this case is found
to   have   not   been   exercised   genuinely   for   the   purpose   of   taking
immediate action but has been used only to avoid embarrassment or
wreck personal vengeance, then the power will be deemed to have been
exercised improperly. [See  Natesa   Asari   v.   State   of   Madras,  AIR
1954 Mad 481].
37. Fifthly, the grounds which are relevant for the purpose for which
the power can be exercised have not been considered or grounds which
are not relevant and yet are considered and an order is based on such
grounds, then the order can be attacked as invalid and illegal. In this
connection, reference may be made to  Ram  Manohar   v.   State   of
Bihar,  AIR 1966 SC 740;  Dwarka  Das  v.  State  of  J.  and  K.,  AIR
1957 SC 164 at p. 168 and Motilall v. State of Bihar,  AIR 1968 SC
1509.   On   the   same   principle,   the   administrative   action   will   be
invalidated if it can be established that the authority was satisfied on
the wrong question: [See (1967) 1 AC 13].
24
38. At this stage, it may be apposite to refer to the Assam Rifles
Regulation, 2016. We are conscious of the fact that these regulations
do not apply to the case on hand as the order of discharge is of 2004.
However,   we   deem   fit   to   reproduce   the   relevant   regulations,   more
particularly, 107(c) and 108 respectively, as these regulations seem to
have been enacted and brought into force having regard to the ratio of
the decision of this Court in the case of  Veerendra  Kumar  Dubey
(supra). Regulation 107(c) reads thus:
“107. Removal   of   undesirable,   incorrigible   and
inefficient   Subordinate   Officers,   Under   Officers   and
other enrolled persons. 
(a) …………
(b) …………
(c) The procedure for dismissal/discharge of unsuitable
subordinate officer/under officer/enrolled person will be
as under:­ 
(i) As provided under Rules 24 and 25 of Assam
Rifles Rules, the person concerned, subject to the
exception mentioned therein, shall be served with a
Show Cause Notice against the contemplated action. 
(ii) Preliminary   enquiry.   Before   recommending
discharge or dismissal of an individual the authority
concerned will ensure that an impartial enquiry (not
necessarily a Court of Inquiry) has been made into
the   allegations   against   him   and   that   he   has   had
adequate opportunity of hearing. 
25
(iii) Rule 24 of the Assam Rifles confers powers on
the   Commandants   of   the   Assam   Rifles   Units/
establishment   to   discharge   any   subordinate
officer/under   officer/enrolled   persons   of   Assam
Rifles.   However,   the   power   of   discharge   by   the
Commandant shall be exercised with prior approval
of   immediate   superior   officer   not   below   Sector
Commander   in   case   of   Under   Officers   and   other
enrolled person and that of Inspector General Assam
Rifles in case of Subordinate Officers. 
(iv) After compliance of the provisions enumerated
above, a show cause notice will be served on the
individual affording him an opportunity to explain his
case.   Thereafter,   the   complete   case   file   will   be
forwarded   to   next   superior   authority/Sector
Headquarters   for   approval   of   the   superior
authority/Sector Commander.
(v) The   authority   competent   to   sanction   the
dismissal/discharge   of   the   individual   will   before
passing orders re­consider the case in the light of the
individual reply to the show cause notice. A person
who   has   been   served   a   show   cause   notice   for
proposed dismissal may be ordered to be discharged
if it is considered that discharge would meet the end
of   justice.   If   the   competent   authority   accepts   the
reply of the individual to the show cause notice as
entirely satisfactorily, he will pass orders accordingly.
108.  Discharge   on   ground   of   red   ink   entries.  A
Subordinate   Officer,   Under   Officer   or   other   enrolled
person who has incurred four or more red ink entries may
be recommended for discharge from the service on the
ground   of   unsuitability,   subject   to   the   following
conditions:­ 
(a) After an individual has earned three red ink
entries, he shall be warned in writing that his service
will   be   liable   to   be   terminated   by   the   competent
authority if he earns one more red ink entry. Such a
warning   letter   shall   be   issued   to   him   by   the
26
concerned Sector Commander through Commandant
of the individual. 
(b) Each case of individuals having earned four or
more red ink entries shall be examined on its own
merit depending upon the nature and gravity of the
offences   and   the   aggravating   circumstances   under
which   these   were   committed.   The   authority
competent   to   sanction   discharge   under   this   para
shall record reasons for ordering the discharge, or
otherwise. 
(c) A   person   who   has   put   in   eighteen   years   of
qualifying   service   for   pension   may   be   allowed   to
complete the required qualifying service for grant of
pension before he is recommended for discharge on
ground of four or more red ink entries, unless there
are   compelling   reasons   to   sanction   his   discharge
before   completion   of   the   qualifying   service   for
pension, which must be specified in the discharge
order. 
(d) Before   taking  the  final   decision  to   order  the
discharge, the person concerned shall be informed
through a show cause notice that his retention in the
service is considered undesirable for having incurred
four   or  more   red   ink   entries,   thereby   also   calling
upon him to show cause as to why he should not be
discharged   from   the   service   for   being   considered
unsuitable for the service in the Assam Rifles. The
individual shall be given minimum fifteen days, after
receipt of Show Cause Notice, to submit his reply.
(e) After receipt of the individual’s reply, if any, the
case shall be put up to the authority competent to
sanction the discharge alongwith recommendations
of the Commandant of the unit concerned. Before
passing the discharge order, the authority competent
to sanction the discharge under this para may seek
the advise of the Law Officer concerned. 
(f) An order of discharge under this para shall be
27
passed   by   an   officer   not   less   than   a   Sector
Commander in the case of Under Officer or other
enrolled   persons   and   an   officer   not   less   than
Inspector General Assam Rifles/Additional Director
General   Assam   Rifles   in   case   of   Subordinate
Officers.”
39. Having regard to the nature of the misconduct alleged against the
appellant we are of the view that the ends of justice would be met if we
set aside the order of discharge and treat the appellant herein to have
been in service till the time, he could be said to have completed the
qualifying service for grant of pension. We are inclined to pass such an
order with a view to do substantial justice as there is nothing on record
to indicate that the nature of the misconduct leading to the award of
four Red Ink entries was so unacceptable that the competent authority
had no option but to direct his discharge to prevent indiscipline in the
force.
40. The order of discharge passed against the appellant herein is
hereby set aside. The appellant shall be treated to have been in service
till the time he would have completed the qualifying service for grant of
pension.   We   are   informed   that   only   six   months   were   left   for   the
qualifying service to be completed before the appellant came to be
discharged. No back wages shall, however, be admissible. The benefit
of continuity of service for all other purpose shall be granted to the
28
appellant  including  pension.  The   monetary  benefits   payable   to   the
appellant   shall   be   released   expeditiously   but   not   later   than   four
months from the date of this order.
41. The appeals are allowed in the aforesaid terms. No order as to
costs.  
42.  Pending application, if any, stands disposed of.
………………………………………..J.
     (SURYA KANT)
………………………………………..J.
                              (J.B. PARDIWALA)
NEW DELHI
JULY 14, 2022
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