A petition was filed before the H.C. of Himachal Pradesh to set aside the impugned termination order dated 17-06-2015.
The petitioner Bimla Devi, was working as an Anganwadi Helper in Anganwadi Centre, Karian, District Chamba H.P. from 12-08-1986. On 11-04-2015, a 10 year old girl disclosed to her mother that 15 days ago, on Saturday, which was a holiday, while she went to play along with other children, in Anganwadi Ground in evening at 4 pm, she was assaulted by the son of the petitioner. She even disclosed that the boy did the same act with other girls as and when he got opportunity. An F.I.R was registered thereafter at P.S Sadar, Chamba the same day.
The next day, the news flashed across all the newspapers. The Department & District Administration came immediately into action. An inquiry committee comprising of District Project Officer, President, 2 female members of Child Welfare Committee, Chamba & 2 outreach workers of District Child Protection Unit, Chamba was constituted. The committee was headed by Sub Division Officer (Civil) Chamba. The same day, they visited the spot & conducted inquiry. The notice was served to the petitioner, which was replied by her. The inquiry report was submitted on 16-04-2015.
The Department also conducted inquiry through Deputy Director (Social Justice & Empowerment), H.P. However, in all the inquiries it was found that neither the incident took place in the premises neither of Anganwadi Centre nor during the working hours. There was no dereliction of duty or role found on the part of the Anganwadi Staff.
The petitioner on 07-05-2015, despite all the findings was served with the show cause notice regarding the termination at Anganwadi Centre as Anganwadi Helper. A reply clarifying the matter was submitted by the petitioner however her services came to be terminated vide order dated 17-06-2015.
Prayer of the Petitioner :
The petitioner filed the instant petition, seeking the following reliefs :
Contentions of the Respondents :
The learned counsel appearing for the respondents contended that :
Observation of the Court :
The Court pointed out that the alleged offence took place on a date which was a holiday i.e second saturday, when the Anganwadi is closed. Not only that, the Anganwadi Centre was not running from petitioner's house as being found from the report submitted by DPO.
The Court stated that, it is evident from the statements of various people, the petitioner did not have any direct role in the alleged offence of sexual assault. Her services were terminated on the grounds of failure to discharge her duty as a mother, guardian.
The allegation of the respondents, that the petitioner's primary duty was to keep a watch on her son's activities when she was aware that her son was at home & used to allure children. However, the record reveals that petitioner wasn't aware of such alleged activities.
The Court found all the contentions of the respondents correct, but no evidence suggested that the petitioner has any role in the entire incident. Also there appears no reason why she would not have taken remedial measures when she lives with 2 daughters & 1 son beside the accused son.
Moreover, the Court pointed that inspite of a reply submitted by the petitioner, the CDPO terminated her services without considering her detailed reply. The Inquiry Officer did not mentioned any reason for terminating the services. The inquiry report being a quasi-judicial report must provide reasons for its conclusions. And especially when such report deprives anyone of likelihood or attaches a stigma to their character, such order should be supported with reasons.
The S.C has repeatedly emphasised on necessity of assigning reasons. In Kranti Associates Pvt Ltd & anr v Masood Ahmed Khan & ors (2010) 9 SCC 496, it was held that reasons reassures that the decision makers have exercised the discretion on relevant grounds.
In Ravi Yashwant Bhoir v District Collector Raigad & ors (2004) 4 SCC 407, it was held:
"Every State action may be informed by reason & it follows that an act uninformed by reason, is arbitrary".
In Sant Lal Gupta v Modern Coop Group Housing Society Ltd (2010) SC 336, it was held :
"While deciding on issue, the Court is bound to give reasons for its conclusions".
The court also held :
"Recording of reasons is the principle of natural justice & every judicial order must be supported by reasons recorded in writing".
The Learned Court came to the conclusion that the petitioner should not be made to pay the prices for the alleged offences of her son. The court quoted the maxim "an accused shall be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty & the charges must be proved beyond reasonable doubt". The respondents should've kept this in mind while terminating petitioner's services.
The court concluded stating :
"Knee-jerk reaction on the part of the respondents being not only influenced but prejudiced by the media trial/reports ensured that the petitioner is shown the door".
The petition was allowed, quashing the impugned order dated 17-06-2015 & directing the respondents to reinstate the services of the petitioner.
Judge : Hon'ble Mr Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan.
Case Courtesy : Bimla Devi v State of H.P.