The expression “honourable acquitta” was considered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Deputy Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram, (2013) 1 SCC 598. In that case the Hon’ble Court was concerned with a situation where disciplinary proceedings were initiated against a police officer. Criminal case was pending against him under Section 509 IPC and Section 4 of the Eve Teasing Act. He was acquitted in that case because of the non-examination of key witnesses. There was a serious flaw in the conduct of the criminal case. Two material witnesses turned hostile. Referring to the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in RBI v. Bhopal Singh Panchal, (1994) 1 SCC 541, wherein in somewhat similar fact situation, the Hon’ble Court upheld a bank’s action of refusing to reinstate an employee in service on the ground that in the criminal case he was acquitted by giving him benefit of doubt and, therefore, it was not an honourable acquittal. It was further held that the High Court was not justified in setting aside the punishment imposed in the departmental proceedings. It was observed that the expressions “honourable acquittal”, “acquitted of blame” and “fully exonerated” are unknown to the Criminal Procedure Code or the Indian Penal Code. They are coined by judicial pronouncements. It is difficult to define what is meant by the expression “honourably acquitted”. The Hon’ble Court expressed that when the accused is acquitted after full consideration of the prosecution case and the prosecution miserably fails to prove the charges leveled against the accused, it can possibly be said that the accused was honorably accused.” State of Madhya Pradesh v. Abhijit Singh Pawar, 2018 (4) ESC 782.
Tag Archives: Departmental Enquiry
The purpose of suspension of an employee in service jurisprudence is two fold. The traditional and dominant purpose of suspension is to aid and assist a disciplinary enquiry against an employee. Suspension in such cases is not a punishment. The second known purpose of suspension is to impose it as a punishment.
When suspension is made in contemplation of a disciplinary enquiry, certain prerequisites have to be satisfied. An enquiry should be contemplated or underway into charges of misconduct. The charges of misconduct, if proved, should be serious enough to warrant a major penalty.
The order of suspension should be passed after due and independent application of mind. The suspension should not be made as a matter of routine resulting from a suspension syndrome.
At the stage of suspension the veracity of the charges cannot be ascertained and the merits of the defence cannot be examined. However, the order of suspension should disclose a prima facie act of misconduct.
Suspension in contemplation of an enquiry, is made to aid the process of enquiry. Suspension takes out the delinquent employee from his domain of influence. This ensures that the enquiry is independent and fair.
Suspension also takes off the charged employee from his regular duties. This enables the employee to join the enquiry proceedings and give fulsome cooperation to the enquiry officer. It also gives him adequate time to prepare his defense. Continuing the employee on regular duties, with an enquiry on foot, would not be in institutional interests either. The official work would suffer and the enquiry proceedings would be impeded. The suspension in such cases is not a punishment. Deepika Shukla v. State Of U.P., 2018 (6) AWC 6050.
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.
The Hon’ble Apex Court in re: S. Ramachandra Raju v. State of Orissa, 1994 Supp (3) SCC 424, has held that the subjective satisfaction must be based on adverse material of the incumbent. It was held as under:
“In Baikuntha Nath Das v. Chief District Medical Officer, (1992) 2 SCC 299, a bench of three Judges of the Hon’ble Apex Court was to consider whether uncommunicated adverse remarks would be conisered to order compulsory retirement. The Court considering the scope of Fundamental Rule 56(j) on the anvil of administrative law, held that the order of compulsory retirement has to be passed on forming the opinion that it is in the public interest to retire a Government Servant compulsorily though the order is passed on the subjective satisfaction of the Government, the Government or the Review Committee shall have to consider the entire record of service before taking a decision in the matter, of course, attaching more importance to record of and performance during the later years. The record so considered would naturally include the entries in the confidential records, character rolls, both favourable and adverse. The order of compulsory retirement is not liable to be quashed on mere showing that while passing it, uncommunicated adverse remarks were taken into consideration. Further, this does not mean that judicial scrutiny is excluded altogether. Though the court would not examine the matter as an appellate court, they may interfere if they are satisfied that the order if mala fide or passed on no evidence or that is arbitrary, in the sense that no reasonable person would form the requisite opinion or the given material, in short, if it is found to be a perverse order, the remedy under Article 226 is an important safeguard, since the remedy is an effective check against arbitrary, mala fide or perverse actions.” Mukhtar Ahmad v. State of U.P., 2018 (3) ESC 1432.
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.
The Supreme Court in Union of India v. J. Ahmed, AIR 1979 SC 1022, observed that failure to attain the highest expectation of an officer holding responsible post or lack of aptitude of quality of leadership would not constitute as failure to maintain devotion to duty because if it is so then every officer rated average would be guilty of misconduct. In the said case the charges leveled against the officer indicated lack of efficiency, lack of foresight and lack of indecisiveness but the Supreme Court observed that these deficiencies in personal character or personal ability would not constitute misconduct for the purposes of disciplinary proceedings.
In M.M. Malhotra v. Union of of India, JT 2005 (9) SC 506, it was observed as under:
“Misconduct” as stated in Batt’s Law of Master and Servant (4th Edition) (at page 63) is comprised positive acts and not mere neglects or failures. The definition of the work as given in Ballentine’s Law Dictionary is “A transgression of some established and definite rule of action, where no discretion is left except what necessity may demand, it is a violation of definite law, a forbidden act. It differs from carelessness.” Chandra Bhushan Tripathi v. State of U.P., 2017 (6) AWC 6106.
Words “reasonably practicable” does not mean “impracticable”. Practicable means “capable of being put into practice, carried out in action, effected, accomplished, or done, feasible”. Whether it was practicable to hold enquiry or not must be judged in the context of whether it was reasonably practicable to do so. It is not a total or absolute impracticability which is required by clause (b) of Article 311(2), proviso. It should be looked into point of view, by an ordinary concerned, as he would have thought or opined and take a reasonable view of prevailing situations. The reasonable practicability of holding an enquiry is a matter of assessment to be made by the disciplinary authority who is competent to do so at present and available on the spot knowing each and every aspect of the facts and circumstances necessary for knowing whether an enquiry is reasonably practicable or not. A disciplinary authority however is not expected to dispense with a disciplinary enquiry lightly or arbitrarily or out of ulterior motives or merely in order to avoid the holding of an enquiry since the case of Department is weak or must fail if conducted. The statutory provisions also require the disciplinary authority to record its reasons for arriving at the satisfaction that the enquiry is not reasonably practicable. Ram Gopal v. Union of India, 2017 (152) FLR 822.
Increment has a definite concept in service law jurisprudence. It is an increase or addition on a fixed scale; it is a regular increase in salary on such a scale. As noted in SBI v. Central Government Labour Court, (1972) 3 SCC 595, under the labour and industrial laws, an increment is when in a timescale of pay an employee advances from the lower point of scale to the higher by periodic additions. In other words, it is addition in the same scale and not to a higher scale. An increment is an incidence of employment and an employee gets an increment by working the full year and drawing full salary. During the period of suspension, the contract of service remains suspended. The order of suspension by the departmental enquiry has the effect of temporarily suspending the relations between the master and servant with the consequence that the servant is not bound to render service and, therefore, an employee is not entitled to increments during this period which is taken as period not spent on duty. State of Punjab v. Jaswant Singh Kanwar, (2014) 13 SCC 622.