Disciplinary Authority Cannot Unilaterally Alter Penalty in Sexual Harassment Case- Allahabad HC

Disciplinary Authority Cannot Unilaterally Alter Penalty in Sexual Harassment Case – Allahabad HC


The Allahabad High Court has decided that, especially in cases where the issue is under appeal, a disciplinary body cannot arbitrarily alter the nature of a punishment. This ruling resulted from a writ petition that a professor from Banaras Hindu University (BHU) filed after he was accused of misbehaving and harassing students sexually.

Facts of the Case

A professor at BHU’s Department of Zoology came under fire for allegedly making crude remarks to students. In response to grievances, BHU opened an investigation under the 2013 Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act through its Internal Committee (IC). The university’s Executive Council decided that the professor would have to retire by force after he was the target of disciplinary action. The professor contested this ruling, claiming that the Executive Council did not have the legal right to examine its own rulings because it was the disciplinary body established by the BHU Act of 1915.

Arguments by the  Petitioner

The petitioner argued that the Executive Council lacked the authority to examine its own disciplinary decisions because it was acting in a quasi-judicial capacity. He contended that the BHU Act, 1915, and its enacted statutes forbade such a review, and therefore, it was illegal. The professor argued that the Vice Chancellor had overreached the jurisdiction by sending the matter back to the Executive Council for review, and that the resolution for his mandatory retirement was flawed due to a lack of legal authority.

Arguments Made by the Respondent

The respondents contended that the IC’s  findings supported the necessity of disciplinary actions. They maintained that in addressing the professor’s allegations, the Executive Council had acted within its authority to guarantee adherence to the university’s laws and policies.

Observations of the Court

The HC noted that service jurisprudence does not give the disciplinary authority the authority to change or modify penalties on its own, particularly in cases where the matter is under appeal. According to the Court, a penalty that has already been imposed can only be changed or revised by a higher authority through an appeal or revision. The Court stated that any attempt to avoid the Executive Council’s quasi-judicial role as the disciplinary authority would result in a miscarriage of justice.

The Court also noted that the Executive Council was not authorized to review its decisions once they were made by the applicable statutes. Being the ex officio Chairman of the Executive Council, the Vice Chancellor did not have the authority  to refer the matter for review, as his role was limited to ensuring compliance with the Act, statutes, ordinances, and regulations.

Court’s Decision

The Allahabad High Court concluded that the Executive Council’s decision to review the penalty imposed on the professor was beyond its competence. The Court ruled that the Vice Chancellor’s reference to the Executive Council for reviewing its decision was not supported by any statutory power. Consequently, the Court directed that the petitioner be reinstated in service and awarded regular salary payments, including arrears. The writ petition was allowed, and the impugned resolution and consequential order were quashed.

Comments are closed.