1993 serial blasts: Bombay High Court grants relief to retired officials

There was no evidence to prove the charges against them in the departmental proceedings, says HC

Bombay High Court (photo: IANS)
Bombay High Court (photo: IANS)


The Bombay High Court has granted relief to two retired Central Excise officials, nearly 20 years after disciplinary action orders against them for allegedly allowing landing of explosives used in the 1993 serial bomb blasts in the city.

There was no evidence to prove the charges against them in the departmental proceedings, a division bench of chief justice Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and justice Arif Doctor said while quashing the disciplinary action orders.

The duo, S M Padwal and Yashwant Lotale, retired superintendents of the central excise department, shall be entitled to all consequential benefits such as arrears of salary and pension, which shall be made available to them within two months, the HC said in its judgment on 4 March.

Twelve bombs went off at different locations in Mumbai on 12 March, 1993, killing 257 persons and injuring more than 700 others.

A special court later convicted 100 persons in the case and acquitted 23 others.

The HC noted that Padwal and Lotale did not face any criminal trial in the case.

Based on the alleged evidence available, the charges against them do not stand proved, it said.

"Our indefeasible conclusion is that it is a case where there was no evidence at all and accordingly, the conclusion arrived at by the disciplinary authority while passing the punishment orders is erroneous," the HC said.

The high court said the only evidence available against them is the alleged confessional statements made by the accused persons to the police during investigation.

"In our opinion, this (confessional statements) could not be made the basis of inflicting the punishment upon the employees in this case," the bench said.

Padwal and Lotale were charged for accepting illegal gratification to permit landing of the consignments containing explosives, arms and ammunition that were used in the bomb blasts.

They were charged with failure to maintain absolute integrity and devotion of duty and for having acted in a manner unbecoming of a government servant.

While Padwal was ordered to be dismissed from service, Lotale was handed over compulsory retirement and was held to be entitled to only 65 per cent of the full compensation of pension and gratuity.

Both the officers challenged the orders before the Central Administrative Tribunal. While Padwal's dismissal order was quashed by the tribunal, Lotale's disciplinary order was upheld.

Lotale then moved the high court in appeal, while the Union government filed a petition in the HC against the tribunal order granting relief to Padwal.

The HC dismissed the Union government's petition against Padwal and allowed Lotale's plea.

The confessional statements made by the accused person in the criminal case of the 1993 serial bomb blasts before the police could not have been relied upon in the departmental proceedings, the court said.

In the departmental proceedings, the authority has heavily relied on the confessional statements of four accused persons but they were not examined during the proceedings, it noted.

"Such confessional statements made in a criminal case cannot be the basis of proving the charge in departmental proceedings," the HC said.

The duo had refuted the allegations.

They said there was no evidence against them and the disciplinary action was initiated against them merely on the statements given by some police officers who had relied on alleged confessional statements given by the accused in the 1993 serial bomb blasts case.

The two persons further said they were never named as accused in the criminal case.

The Union government, however, said due to the laxity and misconduct by officials, contraband goods such as explosives, arms and ammunition were allowed to be landed which were then used in the serial bomb blasts.

The bench in its judgment said mere suspicion even in the matter of departmental proceedings cannot be allowed to take the place of proof and the disciplinary authority should arrive at its conclusion of guilt based on definite evidence.

"In both the departmental proceedings, the employees (Padwal and Lotale) were not tried as accused persons in the criminal case which the CBI had investigated and even prosecuted certain other departmental officers," the HC said.

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