There is an acquittal and therefore, there is double presumption in favour of the accused. Firstly, the presumption of innocence available to the accused under the fundamental principle of criminal jurisprudence that every person shall be presumed to be innocent unless he is proved guilty by a competent court of law. Secondly, the accused having secured acquittal, the presumption of their innocence is further reinforced, reaffirmed and strengthened by the Trial Court. For acquitting accused, the Trial Court observed that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. State of Maharashtra v. Chandrakant Bhagwan Katkar, Cri. Appeal No. 677 of 2003 decided on 16.12.2019
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The expression “honourable acquitta” was considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Deputy Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram, (2013) 1 SCC 598. In that case the Hon’ble Court was concerned with a situation where disciplinary proceedings were initiated against a police officer. Criminal case was pending against him under Section 509 IPC and Section 4 of the Eve Teasing Act. He was acquitted in that case because of the non-examination of key witnesses. There was a serious flaw in the conduct of the criminal case. Two material witnesses turned hostile. Referring to the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in RBI v. Bhopal Singh Panchal, (1994) 1 SCC 541, wherein in somewhat similar fact situation, the Hon’ble Court upheld a bank’s action of refusing to reinstate an employee in service on the ground that in the criminal case he was acquitted by giving him benefit of doubt and, therefore, it was not an honourable acquittal. It was further held that the High Court was not justified in setting aside the punishment imposed in the departmental proceedings. It was observed that the expressions “honourable acquittal”, “acquitted of blame” and “fully exonerated” are unknown to the Criminal Procedure Code or the Indian Penal Code. They are coined by judicial pronouncements. It is difficult to define what is meant by the expression “honourably acquitted”. The Hon’ble Court expressed that when the accused is acquitted after full consideration of the prosecution case and the prosecution miserably fails to prove the charges leveled against the accused, it can possibly be said that the accused was honorably accused.” State of Madhya Pradesh v. Abhijit Singh Pawar, 2018 (4) ESC 782.
The law is fairly well settled. Acquittal by a criminal court would not debar an employer from exercising power in accordance with the Rules and Regulations in force. The two proceedings, criminal and departmental, are entirely different. They operate in different fields and have different objectives. Whereas the object of criminal trial is to inflict appropriate punishment on the offender, the purpose of enquiry proceedings is to deal with the delinquent departmentally and to impose penalty in accordance with the service rules. In a criminal trial, incriminating statement made by the accused in certain circumstances or before certain officers is totally inadmissible in evidence. Such strict rules of evidence and procedure would not apply to departmental proceedings. The degree of proof which is necessary to order a conviction is different from the degree of proof necessary to record the commission of delionquency. The rule relating to appreciation of evidence in the two proceedings is also not similar. In criminal law, burden of proof is on the prosecution and unless the prosecution is able to prove the guilt of the accused “beyond reasonable doubt”, he cannot be convicted by a court of law. In a departmental enquiry, on the other hand, penalty can be imposed on the delinquent officer on a finding recorded on the basis of “preponderance of probability”. Acquittal by the Trial Court, therefore, does not ipso facto, absolve the employee from the liability under the disciplinary jurisdiction. Om Prakash Singh v. State Bank of India, 2016 (150) FLR 939.
In order to attract the provisions of Article 20 (2) of the Constitution of India, i.e. doctrine of autrefois acquit or Section 300 of Crpc or Section 71 of IPC or Section 26 of the General Clauses Act, the ingredients of the offences in the earlier case as well as in the latter case must be the same and not different. The test to ascertain whether the two offences are the same is not the identity of the allegations but the identity of the ingredients of the offence. Motive for committing the offence cannot be termed as the ingredients of offences to determine the issue. The plea of autrefois acquit is not proved unless it is shown that the judgment of acquittal in the previous charge necessarily involves an acquittal of the latter charge. Sangeetaben Mahendrabhai Patel v. State of Gujarat and another, (2012) 7 SCC 721