Unexplained Delay Of 13 Years In Initiating Inquiry Vitiated The Disciplinary Proceedings: Delhi HC [Read Judgment]
Delhi High Court grants relief to a government servant who was held liable for misconduct through a disciplinary proceedings that took place 15 years after the alleged incident took place. The court held the delay to be unreasonable, devoid of any justification and of a nature that vitiated the disciplinary proceedings.
In the present case, an inquiry for misconduct was initiated against the Petitioner, a meter-reader in the erstwhile Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking, after 13 years of the alleged act. Despite the Inquiry Officer's report which found no grounds for any action against the Petitioner, the Disciplinary Authority disregarded the findings of the Inquiry Officer, and went on to penalise the Petitioner. When an appeal was made to the Commissioner, the penalty was reduced but the decision of the Disciplinary Authority was upheld. Therefore, the present appeal before the High Court was preferred.
The counsel for the Respondents relied upon the rule laid down in A.K. Bindal v. UOI: (2003) 5 SCC
163 to submit that once the VRS has been accepted without any protest or demur, the employee cannot raise any other claim in respect of
past services as there is total severance of relationship once the amount in terms of SVRS has been accepted.
The Petitioner on the other hand had claimed that delay in disciplinary action against him and in issuance is show cause notices deprived him of various employment benefits. Hence, he's entitled to dues.
The court relied upon UOI vs. Yuvraj Gupta &Ors MANU/DE/3605/2015 to opine that there was no explanation for the unwarranted delay of 15 years in ensuing the proceedings. In order to evaluate as to whether the delay was grave enough to vitiate the disciplinary proceedings, the court considered the following:
'nature of charge, its complexity and on what account the delay occurred. If the delay is unexplained prejudice to the delinquent employee is writ large on the face of it. It could also be seen as to how much disciplinary authority is serious in pursuing the charges against its employee. Delay causes prejudice to the charged officer unless it can be shown that he is to blame for the delay or when there is a proper explanation for the delay in conducting the disciplinary proceedings'.
The Single Bench of Justice Kait also held that the Disciplinary Authority had no reason or justification to differ from the opinion of the Inquiry Officer who had given a clean chit to the Petitioner in his report. The court also criticised the appellate procedure and observed that the Appellate Authority failed to consider the submissions made by the petitioner in its departmental appeal. The order passed by the
Appellate Authority is a non-speaking order and suffers from vice of non application of mind.
The court admitted the writ petition and also set aside all the show cause notices issued against the Petitioner.