'In Domestic Inquiry, Strict Rules Of Evidence Not Applicable, Even Hearsay Is Admissible’: Bombay HC

'In Domestic Inquiry, Strict Rules Of Evidence Not Applicable, Even Hearsay Is Admissible’: Bombay HC

The school formed a committee following the allegation, which held an inquiry and directed the peon’s dismissal in March 2019

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Saturday, December 16, 2023, 09:02 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

In a domestic inquiry, strict rules of evidence are not applicable and even hearsay evidence is admissible, ruled the Bombay High Court.

The high court reversed the School Tribunal’s order of reinstatement of a peon of a suburban school who was dismissed from duty for allegedly sexually assaulting a 12-year old daughter of the headmistress of the school. 

“... in domestic inquiry, strict rules of evidence are not applicable. Even hearsay evidence is admissible. On perusal of evidence, if a person of ordinary prudence reaches a conclusion that the occurrence of an event alleged is probable, such evidence is sufficient to prove misconduct in domestic inquiry. This is the test of preponderance of probability,” noted Justice Sandeep Marne recently. 

The HC was hearing an appeal filed by the school challenging the school tribunal’s  order of January 11, 2022, directing the management to reinstate the peon in service with full backwages, continuity of service and all other consequential benefits. 

The peon was terminated by the school on March 15, 2019 following a complaint by the school’s headmistress alleging that the peon had sexually assaulted her minor daughter on two occasions. The daughter who studied in another school, would come to her mother’s school after her school hours. The alleged incidents took place in March 2017. The headmistress registered an FIR with the police. 

The school formed a committee following the allegation, which held an inquiry and directed the peon’s dismissal in March 2019.

On the peon’s plea, the School tribunal directed his reinstatement which was challenged by the school before the HC. He contended that the inquiry was a farce and was not given a copy of the CCTV footage relied on by the committee while directing his dismissal. He also alleged that he was being falsely implicated by the headmistress. 

Mother’s deposition sufficient to prove charge of molestation, sexual assault: Court

The high court said that the mother’s deposition is sufficient to prove the charge of molestation and sexual assault against the peon. “The School Tribunal ought to have appreciated that the deposition given by the mother of a minor child could not have been lightly brushed aside considering the nature of charge faced by the delinquent,” Justice Marne said. 

The tribunal agreed with the peon’s argument that he was not given a copy of the CCTV footage. 

The management justified the withholding of the CCTV footage to avoid further vilification of the victim, who happens to be a minor girl. It expressed apprehension that making CCTV footage public would further damage the reputation of the victim. 

Justice Marne observed that the Tribunal was "expected to be more sensitive to the issue rather than giving undue importance to the technicalities”. 

The court also disbelieved peon’s stand that he was being falsely implicated saying: “It is difficult to believe that a mother would use a 12 year old daughter for the purpose of falsely implicating a Peon in her school.” 

The HC upheld peon’s dismissal noting that the penalty imposed is commensurate with the gravity of misconduct alleged and proved against him.

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