The appeal before the Executive Council must be decided only after hearing to both the parties.: Sikkim High Court

“An aggrieved party has a statutory right to prefer an appeal within thirty days from the date of recommendation.”, this remarkable stand was forwarded by Hon’ble Sikkim High Court, in a single judge bench chaired by Hon’ble Justice Mr Bhaskar Raj Pradhan, in the writ appeal case of Silajit Guha v. Sikkim University and ors., [WP(C) No. 30 of 2019].

Petitioner, a Professor, in a Department of the respondent no.1 [Sikkim University (University)]. Pursuant to a complaint of sexual harassment filed by respondent no.5 (a student of that Department), the respondent no.4 [the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)], conducted an inquiry and forwarded the inquiry report dated 08.06.2019 to the Executive Council of the University, i.e., respondent no.3 (Executive Council). On 28.06.2019, the Registrar of the University issued office order bearing no. 201/2019 dated 28.06.2019, in which the petitioner was informed about the 33rd executive council’s meeting, where they concluded that, the petitioner was not fit to be retained in the service of the University and had imposed the major penalty of termination of service with immediate effect.

On 01.07.2019, the petitioner preferred a statutory appeal. It is the petitioner‘s case that the impugned office order was received by him only on 03.07.2019. The writ petition seeks the quashing of the show cause notice dated 10.06.2019, the inquiry report dated 08.06.2019 and the order of termination dated 28.06.2019 and for various other consequential reliefs.

After examining all the submissions, arguments and evidences forwarded by the councils, the Hon’ble HC observed that, “If the Executive Authority took the final step, as was done in the present case, before the expiry of the thirty days period, then prejudice would be writ large. Admittedly, the petitioner had preferred an appeal on 01.07.2019 and the facts disclose that he could have done so on or before 08.07.2019. Thus, the impugned order of termination dated 28.06.2019 could not have been issued. This court is, therefore, of the view that during the pendency of the appeal before the Executive Council, his termination order, bearing no. 201/2019 dated 28.06.2019, shall be kept in abeyance until the final decision in the pending appeal. The appeal before the Executive Council must be decided expeditiously after giving an opportunity of hearing to both the parties.”

The bench further added that, “The observations made on the facts of the case is only for the purpose of addressing the arguments made by the parties and it shall not influence the Executive Council before whom the appeal is pending. All issues and questions which are open to challenge under the law and taken in the appeal shall be decided by the Executive Council in its jurisdiction as the Appellate Authority.”

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