Monday, 26 July 2021

Conduct & Disciplinary Rules - 33: Article from Mr. K.V.Shridharan

 Conduct & Disciplinary Rules - 33: Article from Mr. K.V.Shridharan


Whether departmental proceedings can be initiated even after the acquittal of an employee by a Criminal Court

Acquittal of an employee cannot operate as res judicata to a disciplinary inquiry into the same charges of which he has been acquitted by the Criminal Court. The Criminal Court and Domestic Tribunal- both operate in different fields. An accused may be acquitted for want of proper evidence or benefit of doubt, but a Domestic Tribunal can rely even on hearsay evidence. Therefore, the decision of the Criminal Court cannot operate as res judicata and certainly not conclusive so far as the disciplinary proceedings is concerned. Accordingly, the initiation of disciplinary proceeding after the acquittal of an employee cannot be violative of any fundamental rights of the employee or cannot be branded as arbitrary or mala fide.

[O.R.T.C. Ltd. v. Loknath Patra 1988 Lab IC 595 (600) (Ori)(D.B.).]

Merely because the accused is acquitted, the power of the authority, to continue the departmental inquiry is not taken away nor its discretion any way fettered

The question whether or not the departmental inquiry pending against the employee involved in the criminal case should be continued even after his acquittal in a criminal case is a matter which is to be decided by the department after considering the nature of the finding given by the Criminal Court. Normally where the accused is acquitted honourably and completely exonerated of the charges, it is not expedient to continue a departmental inquiry on the very same charges or grounds or evidence. However merely because the accused is acquitted, the power of the authority concerned to continue the departmental inquiry is not taken away nor its discretion any way fettered.

[Corporation of City of Nagpur and another v. Ram Chandra G. Modek and another, AIR 1984 S.C. 656.]


It is not in dispute that the proposed departmental inquiry is also related to the self same offence under Section 5 (2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The judgment acquitting the appellant of the charges under Section 5 (2) became final and it is clearly indicated that it was on merits. Therefore, once the acquittal was on merits, the necessary consequence would be that the delinquent is entitled to reinstatement as if there is no blot on his service and the need for the departmental inquiry is obviated. It is settled law though the delinquent official may get an acquittal on technical grounds, the authorities are entitled to conduct departmental inquiry on the self-same allegations and take appropriate disciplinary action.

[Sulekh Chand and Sulekh Chand v. Commissioner of Police and others 1994 (5) SLR 742.]

There is no bar to hold departmental proceedings in respect of a charge which was not covered by the acquittal order by the court

The respondent was prosecuted for offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act for holding assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. There were also charges relating to his having acquired assets without permission of the Government in violation of the rules. In an application moved before the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal, the Tribunal held that if the respondent was acquitted in the criminal case, departmental inquiry cannot be held for the very same charge. The respondent was acquited in respect of the charge of acquiring assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The Tribunal also held that proceedings can be held in regard to other charges. The Government ordered that further action in the criminal case of allegation of disproportionate assets be dropped. A fresh charge memo was issued in regard to violation of the rules by acquiring and disposing of properties without informing and taking permission from the Government. This was also challenged and the said petition was allowed by the Tribunal. This order of the Tribunal was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court set aside the order of the Tribunal and held that there was no infirmity in the fresh charge memo. relating to the acquiring or disposing of properties without permission of the Government.

[State of A.P. & another v. C. Muralidhar J.T. 1997 (7) SC 59.] 


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