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Departmental inquiry can be quashed if there is inordinate delay: CAT

J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI: Inordinate and unexplained delay in conducting an enquiry against a delinquent employee after serving the memo for minor charges will vitiate disciplinary proceedings, which can be terminated or quashed without waiting for the enquiry to be completed, the Central Administrative Tribunal has held.

A government employee has some dignity. If one may lose some money, much is not lost, but if he loses his dignity, he may lose everything. Dignity of a government employee, which is the prime concern, cannot be tempered by keeping the enquiry pending for an indefinite period, said Justice V. K. Bali, chairman and L.K. Joshi, vice-chairman of the Principal Bench of the CAT, New Delhi.

The Bench quoting a Supreme Court decision said normally charge sheet or show cause notice should not be quashed by any judicial forum, but there were indeed exceptions to the same and delay in initiating or finalising the departmental proceedings was certainly one such exception.

In the instant case, applicant B.A. Dhayalan, Joint Director, Defence Estates, Central Command, Lucknow, was facing departmental action for minor charges and enquiries started in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Even after the police cleared him in the FIR holding that no case was made out, the proceedings were kept pending and he was denied promotion, while his juniors were promoted . He moved the CAT for quashing the charges.

Allowing the application, the Bench said “there appears to be ring of truth in the contention raised by the applicant that the enquiries are kept pending against him only with a view to stalling his promotion and to see to it that he retires on his present post in humiliation. There cannot be any direct proof of male fides. The facts and circumstances of the case unmistakably at least reveal total callous attitude on the part of the respondents with a pre-determined mind to prolong the enquiries and when it appeared to them that it may not be possible to do so, to inflict punishment upon the applicant. The applicant does not appear to have been met with justice.”

The Bench pointed out that enquiry with regard to minor charges had prolonged for over a decade and if the application had not been filed, the respondents would have kept the files of the applicant in their archives.

Respondents

“It is only after the filing of the application that the respondents have woken up from their long slumber and hurriedly tried to finish the matter without following the right procedure with a pre-determined mind to inflict punishment upon the applicant.”

The Bench quashed the charge memos and said if the applicant was found fit for promotion as per the recommendations of the Departmental Promotion Committee, he should be immediately promoted with all consequential benefits.

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