The Allahabad High court on Friday held that failure to give enquiry report to an employee, undergoing disciplinary proceedings, amounts to denial of reasonable opportunity to employee to prove his innocence and contravenes the principle "audi alterem partem", as imbibed under the principles of natural justice.
This observation was made by Justice Vivek Varma while adjudicating upon an order passed by the Basic Shiksha Adhikari, Bijnor whereby the services of the Petitioner, Vikalp Kumar, as an Assistant Teacher were terminated on the allegation that he had simultaneously pursued BTC course and M.Sc. first year as a regular student in the academic session 2014-15.
It was alleged by the Petitioner that after completing the inquiry, an inquiry report was submitted by the Block Development Officer to the District Basic Education Officer who then terminated the Petitioner's services, relying upon the said ex-parte inquiry report. He contended that he had not been provided any relevant documents including the copy of inquiry report, and was not afforded an opportunity of oral hearing.
In this regard, the court noted that the procedure for imposition of major penalty, as contemplated under Rule 9 of the Uttar Pradesh Government Servant (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1999 was not followed.
As per Rule 9, the Disciplinary Authority ought to give a copy of the inquiry report and its findings to the charged Government servant and require him to submit his representation if he so desires.
"Failure to supply copy of the inquiry report, before the disciplinary authority, takes its decision on the charges, is a denial of reasonable opportunity to the employee to prove his innocence and is a clear breach of the principles of natural justice," the court thus held.
Further noting that non supply of the inquiry report had seriously prejudiced the cause of the Petitioner, the court continued, "The object of rules of natural justice is to ensure that an employee is treated fairly in proceedings which may culminate in imposition of punishment including dismissal/removal from service. It is a basic requirement of rules of natural justice that an employee should be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in any proceeding which may culminate in a major punishment being imposed on the employee." Reliance was placed on Union of India & Ors. v. Mohd. Ramzan Khan, (1991) 1 SCC 588.
Accepting the Petitioner's submission that he had pursued BTC and M.Sc. in different academic sessions, the court clarified that even if the two courses were pursued simultaneously, the same was permitted by a resolution dated 28.12.2012, passed by the University Grants Commission, New Delhi, whereby a decision was taken that "a student pursuing a degree programme under regular mode may be allowed to pursue a maximum of one certificate/diploma/ advanced diploma/ PG Diploma programme simultaneously either in regular or open and distance mode in the same university or from other institutions". Reliance was also placed upon Kuldeep Kumar Pathak v. State of UP & Ors., 2016 (3) SCC 521 wherein a similar observation was made by the Apex Court.
The arguments for the Petitioner were advanced by Senior Advocates Siddharth Khare and Ashok Khare.