India: Pendency of a criminal trial has no bearing on disciplinary proceedings.
The Supreme Court allowed the appeal and upheld the dismissal order. The key positions in the judgments are as follows:
The Labour Court should have restricted itself to merely examining the correctness of the punishment of dismissal imposed when the departmental enquiry was held. The Supreme Court clarified that a departmental enquiry is held independently of the criminal case and the enquiry can continue regardless of the decision of acquittal or conviction in the criminal case.
- The Employer had dismissed the employees based on the findings of the departmental enquiry, which is an employer’s right, and not based on the findings of the Criminal Court.
- Even if a person stood acquitted by the criminal Court, domestic enquiry can still be held because the standard of proof required in a domestic enquiry and that in criminal case are altogether different. In a criminal case, standard of proof required is beyond reasonable doubt while in a domestic enquiry; it is the preponderance of probabilities.