Departmental proceedings during criminal trial not contempt of court


The Supreme Court, in hearing an appeal against a Bombay High Court judgment in the Secretary, Lucy Sequeira Trust and Anr v Kailash Ramesh Tandel And Ors case, held that the initiation of a process in a departmental proceeding does not amount to contempt of court, even if there are criminal proceedings pending in the court.

While upholding the termination of a teacher accused of harassing girl students in a private school, the Supreme Court observed that pendency of criminal trial does not have any bearing on the domestic inquiry against the teacher.

On the basis of allegations of female students, first information reports were registered against a teacher of a school run by the appellant. In the meantime, an inquiry committee was constituted by the school to probe the allegations against the teacher. The committee consisted of the convenor (nominee of the management), a teachers’ nominee and an award-winning teacher.

The convenor prepared a report recommending the termination of the teacher’s employment, while the other two members of the inquiry committee opined that a decision by the committee during the pendency of the criminal trial will amount to a contempt of court.

After the teacher challenged the report, the school tribunal, though disagreeing with the view adopted by the teacher and the other members, ordered a fresh inquiry. Bombay High Court, however, dismissed the management’s challenge against the tribunal order.

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