Retired Judges who have represented any of the parties before should not be appointed as Inquiry Officers to avoid allegations of bias: SC

Retired Judges who have represented any of the parties before should not be appointed as Inquiry Officers to avoid allegations of bias: SC

An apex Court bench comprising of Justice S.J. Mukhopadhaya and Justice C. Nagappan yesterday directed the Delhi University to abstain from appointing any retired Judge who was earlier on its panel, as an Inquiry Officer to investigate any of its employees. The Bench reasoned that in case such a retired Judge is engaged by the Disciplinary Authority of the University, the other party may allege bias, which may in turn tarnish his reputation.

The Court stated, "We are of the opinion that if an Hon’ble retired Judge of a Court before his appointment as a Judge was a lawyer of any of the party (Delhi University herein), the Disciplinary Authority should not engage such retired Judge as an Inquiry Officer, as the other party may allege bias against the Inquiry Officer and the reputation of the Hon’ble Judge may be at stake.”

The Court further held that in such cases where any person who is or was a legal practitioner, including a retired Hon’ble Judge is appointed as Inquiry Officer in an inquiry initiated against an employee, the denial of assistance of legal practitioner to the charged employee would be unfair.

The retired Judge, who was appointed as the retired Judge in the instant case, held that the acts of the appellant giving an affidavit that he had no objection towards the registration of the ACBR as a Society situated at the said premises, and getting the Society registered without the approval of the University of Delhi, are clearly the acts of misconduct.

The Court was hearing an Appeal filed by Prof. Ramesh Chandra against a 2012 judgment of the Delhi High Court, wherein the Court had dismissed his Writ Petition and refused to interfere with the show cause notice issued to the Appellant, as well as the memorandums by which the Appellant was punished and removed from the service of the Delhi University.

Analyzing the procedure followed against the Appellant, the Court observed that the respondent first decided to punish the appellant and only thereafter memorandum of charges was framed, show-cause notice was issued and inquiry was conducted, just to give it a color of legal procedure. The memorandum was hence declared illegal.

The Departmental inquiries were hence set aside as being violative of the rules of natural justice. Reinstating Chandra to the post of Professor, the bench allowed 50 per cent of back wages to him from the date of his disengagement till the date of the judgment while directing that the aforesaid period be treated "on duty" for all purposes including seniority, increment, fixation of pay, retrial benefits, etc.

Read the judgment here.