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Punishment – Proportionality of

Contents
Punishment & Disciplinary Authority
Punishment : The Supreme Court in the case of S.R. Tewari v. Union of India, (2013) 6 SCC 602, which read as under:

The question of interference on the quantum of punishment has been considered by this Court in a catena of judgments and it was held that if the punishment awarded is disproportionate to the gravity of the misconduct, it would be arbitrary, and thus, would violate the mandate of Article 14 of the Constitution.

In Ranjit Thakur v. Union of India (1987) 4 SCC 611, Apex Court observed as under:

Sentence has to suit the offence and the offender.
It should not be vindictive or unduly harsh.
It should not be so disproportionate to the offence as to shock the conscience and amount in itself to conclusive evidence of bias.
See Also:

Union of India v. G. Ganayutham AIR 1997 SC 3387
State of U.P. v. J.P. Saraswat (2011) 4 SCC 545
Chandra Kumar Chopra v. Union of India (2012) 6 SCC 369
High Court of Patna v. Pandey Gajendra Prasad AIR 2012 SC 2319
In B.C. Chaturvedi v. Union of India AIR 1996 SC 484, Apex Court after examining its various earlier decisions observed that in exercise of the power of judicial review, the court cannot “normally” substitute its own conclusion or penalty.

However, if the penalty imposed by an authority “shocks the conscience” of the court, it would appropriately mould the relief either directing the authority to reconsider the penalty imposed and in exceptional and rare cases, in order to shorten the litigation, itself impose appropriate punishment with cogent reasons in support thereof.

While examining the issue of proportionality, the court can also consider the circumstances under which the misconduct was committed.

In a given case, the prevailing circumstances might have forced the accused to act in a certain manner though he had not intended to do so. The court may further examine the effect, if the order is set aside or substituted by some other penalty.

However, it is only in very rare cases that the court might, to shorten the litigation, think of substituting its own view as to the quantum of punishment in place of punishment awarded by the competent authority.

In V. Ramana v. A.P. SRTC, AIR 2005 SC 3417 Apex Court considered the scope of judicial review as to the quantum of punishment is permissible only if it is found that it is not commensurate with the gravity of the charges and if the Court comes to the conclusion that the scope of judicial review as to the quantum of punishment is permissible only if it is found to be “shocking to the conscience of the court, in the sense that it was in defiance of logic or moral standards.

# Punishment & Disciplinary Authority

In a normal course, if the punishment imposed is shockingly disproportionate, it would be appropriate to direct the disciplinary authority to reconsider the penalty imposed. However, in order to shorten the litigation, in exceptional and rare cases, the court itself can impose appropriate punishment by recording cogent reasons in support thereof.

In State of Meghalaya v. Mecken Singh N. Marak, AIR 2008 SC 2862 Apex Court observed that:

A court or a tribunal while dealing with the quantum of punishment has to record reasons as to why it felt that the punishment is not commensurate with the proved charges.
In the matter of imposition of sentence, the scope for interference is very limited and restricted to exceptional cases.
The punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority or the appellate authority unless shocking to the conscience of the court, cannot be subjected to judicial review.
See Also: A.P. SRTC v. P. Jayaram Reddy, (2009) 2 SCC 681 : (2009) 1 SCC (L&S) 529

The role of the court in the matter of departmental proceedings is very limited and the court cannot substitute its own views or findings by replacing the findings arrived at by the authority on detailed appreciation of the evidence on record. In the matter of imposition of sentence, the scope for interference by the court is very limited and restricted to exceptional cases.

The punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority or the appellate authority unless shocking to the conscience of the court, cannot be subjected to judicial review. The court has to record reasons as to why the punishment is disproportionate. Failure to give reasons amounts to denial of justice. The mere statement that it is disproportionate would not suffice.

See Also

Union of India v. Bodupalli Gopalaswami, (2011) 13 SCC 553
Sanjay Kumar Singh v. Union of India, AIR 2012 SC 1783
In Union of India v. R.K. Sharma, AIR 2001 SC 3053 Apex Court explained the observations made in Ranjit Thakur observing that if the charge was ridiculous, the punishment was harsh or strikingly disproportionate it would warrant interference.

However, the said observations in Ranjit Thakur are not to be taken to mean that a court can, while exercising the power of judicial review, interfere with the punishment merely because it considers the punishment to be disproportionate.

It was held that only in extreme cases, which on their face, show perversity or irrationality, there could be judicial review and courts should not interfere merely on compassionate grounds.

See Also

Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangthan v. J. Hussain, (2013) 10 SCC 106
Chief Executive Officer, Krishna District Cooperative Central Bank Ltd. v. K. Hanumantha Rao, (2017) 2 SCC 528.

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