Hon’ble Apex Court in Union Of India v. Gyan Chand Chattar, (2009) 12 SCC 78, has clearly held that no enquiry can be sustained on a vague charge. It was held as under:
“An enquiry is to be conducted against any person giving strict adherence to the statutory provisions and principles of natural justice. The charges should be specific, definite and giving details of the incident which formed the basis of charges. No enquiry can be sustained on vague charges. Enquiry has to be conducted fairly, objectively and not subjectively. Finding should not be perverse or unreasonable, nor the same should be based on conjectures and surmises. There is a distinction in proof and suspicion. Every act or omission on the part of the delinquent cannot be a misconduct. The authority must record reasons for arriving at the finding of fact in the context of the statute defining the misconduct.”
It was held in Anant R. Kulkarni v. Y.P. Education Society and others, (2013) 6 SCC 515, that it is absolutely clear that the charge sheet is vague and does not establish any charge, therefore, no enquiry can be proceeded on the basis of that. Tej Singh v. State of U.P., 2018 (3) ESC 1454.
An employee is entitled to subsistence allowance during an inquiry pending against him or her but if that employee is starved of finances by zero payment, it would be unreasonable to expect the employee to meaningfully participate in a departmental inquiry. Access to justice is a valuable right available to every person, even to a criminal and indeed free legal representation is provided even to a criminal. In the case of a departmental inquiry, the delinquent is at best guilty of a misconduct but that is no ground to deny access to pension (wherever applicable) or subsistence allowance (wherever applicable). UCO Bank v. R.S. Shukla, 2018 (2) ESC 372.
In Anant R. Kulkarni v. Y.P. Education Society, 2013 (138) FLR 168 (SC), the Hon’ble Apex Court considered the question as to whether continuation of departmental enquiry is permissible against a retired employee, wherein it was held that enquiry against a retired employee is subject to the statutory rules, which governs the terms and conditions of his service. If the inquiry was initiated while the delinquent employee was in service, it would continue even after his retirement but, nature of punishment would be limited to certain extent and accordingly, punishment of dismissal or removal of the employee from service cannot be imposed on the retired employee. The Hon’ble Supreme Court has categorically ruled that in the absence of any statutory power conferred on the management, to hold a fresh enquiry after the retirement, no such enquiry against the employee could be conducted. In the aforesaid decision, the Apex Court has decided the issue thus:
“Thus, it is evident from the above, that the relevant rules governing the service conditions of an employee are the determining factors as to whether and in what manner the domestic enquiry can be held against an employee who stood retired after reaching the age of superannuation. Generally, if the enquiry has been initiated while the delinquent employee was in service, it would continue even after his retirement, but nature of punishment would change. The punishment of dismissal/removal from service would not be imposed. S. Andiyannan v. Joint Registrar, Co-operative Societies, 2015 (146) FLR 1079 (FB).
In cases where there is no oral evidence adduced and documentary evidence is not proved or exhibited by witnesses, it cannot be read into evidence for proving guilt of the employee. It is for this reason that many unscrupulous employer/establishment/department fabricate documents for proving charge against innocent employee and punish him without proving the same, thus denying a reasonable opportunity to him to defend himself. Sita Ram v. State of U.P., 2015 (1) ESC 178.