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Disciplinary Inquiry in Service Matters and the Scope of Judicial Intervention: A Comprehensive Review


Disciplinary inquiries in service matters are a crucial part of maintaining the integrity of a given organization. These inquiries are conducted when an employee is suspected of violating the rules or policies of the organization. Judicial intervention in disciplinary matters is usually limited and governed by principles of judicial review.


Constitutional Court, while exercising its power of judicial review, cannot re-evaluate the evidence as if it is the first stage of the case or as if the inquiry is still being conducted.


In a recent case, the Supreme Court of India provided some important clarifications regarding the scope of judicial intervention in disciplinary matters. The Court held that a Constitutional Court, while exercising its power of judicial review, cannot re-evaluate the evidence as if it is the first stage of the case or as if the inquiry is still being conducted.

Case in Context: Indian Oil Corporation & Ors. v Ajit Kumar Singh & Anr

In this case, the Indian Oil Corporation filed an appeal against a High Court order which set aside a punishment imposed upon an employee (Ajit Kumar Singh) in departmental proceedings. The issue had arisen over a tampered bid document that contained the signature of Singh, leading to disciplinary proceedings against him. The Disciplinary Authority had imposed a major penalty on Singh, which was upheld by the Appellate Authority and by the Single Judge of the High Court. However, the Division Bench of the High Court reversed this decision in an intra-court appeal.

The Supreme Court held that the Division Bench had overstepped the limits of judicial review by re-appreciating the evidence, akin to examining a conviction in a criminal trial, which was not within its purview. The Court clarified that in disciplinary proceedings, the scope of judicial review by the High Court is confined to ascertaining whether due process was followed and whether a fair opportunity was accorded to the employee concerned.

Judicial Intervention in Disciplinary Matters

In the context of disciplinary proceedings, judicial intervention is typically limited to a review of the decision-making process, rather than the merits of the decision itself. This is to ensure fairness in treatment, not to ensure the fairness of the conclusion. The principles of judicial review dictate that courts should not interfere with findings of fact arrived at in departmental enquiry proceedings except in cases of mala fides or perversity. The findings must be sustained as long as there is some evidence to support them.

The Principle of Concurrent Findings of Fact

The principle of concurrent findings of fact refers to the idea that when two or more courts have reached the same conclusion on a matter of fact, higher courts should generally not interfere with those findings. This principle is rooted in the respect for the institutional competence of lower courts and the need for finality in litigation. The principle applies unless there is a demonstration of perversity in the findings, which means the findings are such that no reasonable person could have arrived at them.


The Supreme Court’s ruling in the Indian Oil Corporation case underscores the limited role of the judiciary in disciplinary proceedings. It reaffirms the idea that courts should not interfere with findings of fact in such proceedings, unless there is evidence of mala fides or perversity. This ruling provides important guidance for courts and disciplinary authorities alike, promoting fairness in disciplinary proceedings while also respecting the boundaries of judicial intervention.


written by Parthvi Patel, United World School of Law



1. Judicial Review Can’t Be Exercised To Re-appreciate Evidence In Departmental Enquiry Proceedings: Supreme Court – LiveLaw

2. Disciplinary Proceedings and the Principle of Concurrent Findings of Fact – Latest Laws



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