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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court said mere producing CCTV footage as a piece of evidence without any forensic test is not sufficient to be relied upon, unless and until corroborated and proved to be genuine.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, heard an appeal of Member (Administration), Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) against the Federal Service Tribunal (FST), Islamabad judgment.

The bench upheld the verdict of the FST dated 08-01-2020, wherein, the penalties of compulsory retirement and reduction to the lower rank awarded to Mian Khan, the respondent, were set aside.

Mian Khan being Havaldar, Customs Headquarter, Model Customs Collectorate was posted at the New Islamabad International Airport and was assigned the duty of checking and diverting the passengers towards Customs Counters. On the basis of a CCTV footage showing that he was allegedly receiving bribe from two passengers, he was proceeded against departmentally.

The authorised officer i.e. Additional Collector (HQ) after dispensing with the regular inquiry, issued him show cause notice on 15.10.2018.

Mian Khan submitted his reply on 30.10.2018 and was also afforded an opportunity of personal hearing but being dissatisfied with the reply, the Authorized Officer recommended for imposition of major penalty of compulsory retirement against the respondent, which was concurred by the Collector vide order dated 16.11.2018.

The respondent filed appeal against the penalty imposed.

The appellate authority on the appeal filed by the respondent vide order dated 16.04.2019 converted the major penalty of compulsory retirement into major penalty of reduction of lower rank as such he was demoted to the rank of Sepoy under Rule 4(1)(b)(ii) of Government Servants (E&D) Rules, 1973, for a period of three years, as such he was reinstated into service.

The respondent challenged both the orders i.e. dated 16.11.2018 and 16.04.2019 before the FST, Islamabad, which set aside both the orders.

The FBR challenged that order in the Supreme Court.

The apex court noted that it is an admitted fact that no regular inquiry was conducted and the case was decided against the respondent on the basis of a CCTV footage.

The Court said that it is an apathy that the said CCTV footage was never sent to the office of Forensic Science Laboratory for its authenticity. In the absence of any forensic report qua the authenticity of the CCTV footage, the same cannot be considered a legal basis for proceeding against a person.

In the case of Ishtiaq Ahmed Mirza vs Federation of Pakistan (PLD 2019 SC 675) this Court has held that with the advancement of science and technology, it is now possible to get a forensic examination, audit or test conducted through an appropriate laboratory so as to get it ascertained as to whether an audio tape or a video is genuine or not and as such examination, audit or test can also reasonably establish if such audio tape or video has been edited, doctored or tampered with or not because advancement of science and technology has also made it very convenient and easy to edit, doctor, superimpose or Photoshop a voice or picture in an audio tape or video, therefore, without a forensic examination, audit or test, it is becoming more and more unsafe to rely upon the same as a piece of evidence in a court of law.

We have noticed that the CCTV footage was even not produced before the learned Federal Service Tribunal. Even otherwise, The passengers, who allegedly gave the bribe, had also not been associated with the departmental proceedings.

The court said that departmental proceeding in such a casual way by the departmental authority inviting a public servant into litigation for considerable time should be avoided because at the one side, it wastes time of the court of law and on the other, it causes physical stress, loss of reputation in public eyes, which ultimately leads to mental agony for a public servant, which has no legal or moral justification.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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