Supreme Court in the case of B. C. Chaturvedi vs. Union of India and Ors.,(Civil Appeal No. 9830 of 1995, decided on 01.11.1995, reported as MANU/SC/0118/1996: AIR 1996 SC 484) was dealing with the appeal moved under laws and more specifically under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act. The challenge was in regard to the manner in which disciplinary action was conducted and disposed.
Court while addressing the contentions raised explained what is meant by judicial review. It was laid down that judicial review is not an appeal from a decision but a review of the manner in which the decision is made. In connection with issue falling under service law, power of judicial review, as held, is meant to ensure that the individual receives fair treatment and not to ensure that the conclusion which the authority reaches is necessarily correct in the eye of the Court. When an inquiry is conducted on charges of misconduct by a public servant, the Court/Tribunal is concerned to determine whether the inquiry was held by a competent officer or whether rules of natural justice are complied with. Whether the findings or conclusions are based on some evidence, the authority entrusted with the power to hold inquiry has jurisdiction, power and authority to reach a finding of fact or conclusion. But that finding must be based on some evidence. Neither the technical rules of Evidence Act nor of proof of fact or evidence as defined therein, apply to disciplinary proceeding. When the authority accepts that evidence and conclusion receives support therefrom, the disciplinary authority is entitled to hold that the delinquent officer is guilty of the charge.
It was further observed that the Court/Tribunal in its power of judicial review does not act as appellate authority to re-appreciate the evidence and to arrive at its own independent findings on the evidence. It may interfere where the authority held that proceedings against the delinquent officer in a manner inconsistent with the rules of natural justice or in violation of statutory rules prescribing the mode of inquiry or where the conclusion or finding reached by the disciplinary authority is based on no evidence. If the conclusion or finding be such as no reasonable person would have never reached, the Court/Tribunal may interfere with the conclusion or the finding, and mould the relief so as to make it appropriate to the facts of each case.
The Court further elaborated on power of Courts under Article 142 of the Constitution. It was laid down that undoubtedly, Article 142 of the Constitution has specifically conferred the power of doing complete justice on this Court, to achieve which result it may pass such decree or order as deemed necessary; it would be wrong to think that other Courts are not to do complete justice between the parties. If the power of modification of punishment/penalty were to be available to the Apex Court only under Article 142, a very large percentage of litigants would be denied this small relief merely because they are not in a position to approach this Court, which may, inter alia, be because of the poverty of the concerned person. Even the Service Tribunals were set up with the aid of Article 323-A, and were empowered to strike down a legislative act.
High Court also is within its jurisdiction to modify the punishment/penalty by moulding the relief when the punishment/penalty awarded shocks the judicial conscience. The mere fact that there is no provision parallel to Article 142 relating to the High Courts, can be no ground to think that they have not to do complete justice, and if moulding of relief would do complete justice between the parties, the same cannot be ordered. Absence of provision like Article 142 is not material. High Courts thus can exercise power of review, which inheres in every Court of plenary jurisdiction.