When a departmental enquiry is conducted against the Government servant, it cannot be treated as a casual exercise. The enquiry proceedings also cannot be conducted with a closed mind. The Inquiry Officer has to be totally unbiased. The rules of natural justice are required to be observed to ensure not only that justice is done but is manifestly seen to be done. The object of rules of natural justice is to ensure that a Government servant is treated fairly in proceedings which may culminate in imposition of punishment including dismissal/removal from service.
In Roop Singh Negi v. Punjab National Bank, (2009) 2 SCC 570, it was held as under:
“Indisputably, a departmental proceeding is a quasi judicial proceeding. The enquiry officer performs a quasi-judicial function. The charges leveled against the delinquent officer must be found to have been proved. The enquiry officer has a duty to arrive at a finding upon taking into consideration the materials brought on record by the parties. The purported evidence collected during investigation by the investigating officer against all the accused by itself could not be treated to be evidence in the disciplinary proceeding. No witness was examined to prove the said documents. The management witnesses merely tendered the documents and did not prove the contents thereof. Reliance, inter alia, was placed by the enquiry officer on the FIR which could not have been treated as evidence.” Ram Prakash Pal v. Chairman, 2018 (4) AWC 3952.
In B.T. Krishnamurthy v. Sri Basaveswara Education Society, 2013 (137) FLR 689 it was held as under:
“The Tribunal completely misdirected itself in passing such an order of regularization and reinstatement in a case where the Respondent allegedly worked in the College as a part-time Lecturer without any appointment letter and without any selection process. Since the society never issued any letter of appointment, a letter of termination was also not served upon the Respondent.
In the absence of any appointment letter issued in favour of the Respondent as he was temporary/part time lecturer in the college, there cannot be any legitimate expectation for his continuing in the service.” Zila Basic Shiksha Adhikari v. Seeta Ram, 2018 (159) FLR 952.
Clause (1) of Article 311 of the Constitution of India states that persons employed in civil services or posts under the Union or the States or members of the All India Service shall not be dismissed, removed or reduced in rank by an authority subordinate to that by which he/she was appointed. Clause (2) provides that such a person could be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank only after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and after being afforded a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges. The second proviso incorporates exceptions when the need for holding an inquiry under clause (2) can be dispensed with. Clause (b) of the Second Proviso to Article 311(2) can be invoked to impose a punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank on the satisfaction, to be recorded in writing, that it is not reasonably practicable to conduct an inquiry before imposing the punishment. The Hon’ble Apex Court in Jaswant Singh v. State of Punjab, (1991)1 SCC 362, relying on an earlier decision in Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel, (1985) 3 SCC 398, has affirmatively held that the obligation of the competent authority to record reasons when passing an order under clause (b) to the second proviso to Article 311(2) is mandatory, and it was inter alia observed:
“It was incumbent on the respondents to disclose to the court the material in existence at the date of the passing of the impugned order in support of the subjective satisfaction recorded by Respondent No. 3 in the impugned order. Clause (b) of the Second Proviso to Article 311(2) can be invoked only when the authority is satisfied from the material placed before that it is not reasonable practicable to hold a departmental enquiry. It was observed as under: “A disciplinary authority is not expected to dispense with a disciplinary inquiry lightly or arbitrarily or out of ulterior motives or merely in order to avoid the holding of an inquiry or because the Department’s case against the Government servant is weak and must fail.” Hari Niwas Gupta v. State of Bihar, (2020) 3 SCC 153.
When the termination order is superseded by a less severe punishment, the said punishment should come into effect from the date of original order of termination. As held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Deepali Gundu Surwase v. Kranti Junior Adhyapak Mahavidyalaya (D. Ed.) and others, (2013) 10 SCC 324, ‘reinstatement’ would mean putting the workman back to the stage when he was terminated. On such reinstatement, the punishment of removal gets substituted by the punishment of withholding of three annual increments for three years with cumulative effect.
As per shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 2, 3rd Edition, the word reinstate means to reinstall or re-establish (a person or thing in a place, station, condition, etc.); to restore to its proper or original state; to reinstate afresh and the word “reinstatement” means the action of reinstating; re-establishment. As per Law Lexicon, 2nd Edition, the word “reinstate” means to reinstall; to re-establish; to place again in a former state, condition or office; to restore to a state or position from which the object or person had been removed and the word “reinstatement” means establishing in a former condition, position or authority (as) reinstatement of a deposed prince. As per Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “reinstate” means to place again (as in possession or in a former position), to restore to a previous effective state.
As per Black’s Law Dictionary, 6th Edition, “reinstatement” means: “The very idea of restoring an employee to the position which he held before dismissal or removal or termination of service implies that the employee will be put in the same position in which he would have been but for the illegal action taken by the employer”. B.S. Raju v. A.P.S.R.T.C., 2017 (152) FLR 832.
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).
Loss of pay is based on the principle of “no pay no work”. It is an action quite separate and distinct from a disciplinary proceeding, which may visit an employee for such misconduct. In State of U.P. v. Madhav Prasad Sharma, 2011 (2) SCC 212, the Apex Court was considering the question whether the employer who had already sanctioned the leave, albeit without pay, was justified in terminating the service for the same charge and whether such an action is hit by the doctrine of double jeopardy. The Apex court after noticing the relevant statutory service rules concluded by holding that leave without pay is not a punishment prescribed under the rules and thus, denial of salary on the ground of “no pay now work” cannot be treated as a penalty nor the doctrine of double jeopardy would be attracted in case the employee is inflicted with the punishment of dismissal for the same charge. Purvanchal Bank v. Umesh Prasad Gupta, 2015 (3) ESC 1317.