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Departmental enquiry is different from criminal trial: Uttarakhand High Court

The departmental enquiries are different from Criminal trials. The court shall not interdict a departmental enquiry during its progress, as it is always open to the delinquent officer to question the mode and manner, in which the disciplinary enquiry is conducted, even after the enquiry is concluded and before the final order is passed. This assertion was made by the Uttarakhand High Court presided by  J. Ramesh Chandra Khulbe and  J. Narayan Singh Dhanik in the case of Kanwar Amninder Singh vs Uttarakhand High Court [Writ Petition (S/B) No. 53/2021].

The facts of the instant case are that the petitioner was appointed as the Civil Judge (Junior Division)/Judicial Magistrate, Ist Class in the State of Uttarrakhand in September, 2003 and he joined his duties. He was promoted in the High Judicial Cadre in the year 2011. When he was posted as Ist Additional District Judge, Haridwar, a complaint was lodged against him for the incidents allegedly happened before his appointment. The petitioner was placed under suspension by the High Court. A charesheet was thereafter issued to him and a sitting Judge of this Court was appointed as Enquiry Officer to enquire into the charges levelled against the petitioner. It is clear that the Presenting Officer has produced all the witnesses as per the chargesheet. During the course of defence evidence, the delinquent officer submitted many applications as mentioned in the impugned orders, but the Enquiry Officer allowed the prayer partly. From the perusal of the impugned orders, it is clear that the Enquiry Officer has rejected the applications, while by the same orders it was directed that if the delinquent officer wishes to adduce his evidence, he may adduce same. The respondent fairly submitted that as per the record, these documents were already produced by the delinquent officer which were not admitted by the Presenting Officer and the Enquiry Officer rejected the application for summoning the original record to prove the genuineness thereof in defence.

The honorable High Court held, “We notice that the Enquiry Officer, on the one hand, rejected the application filed by the delinquent officer and, on the other hand, it was directed to the delinquent officer that he may adduce the defence evidence if he so desires. The documents which were mentioned in the order were passed by the District Judge, Haridwar in its administrative side. These documents were not admitted by the Presenting Officer before the Enquiry Officer. The documents as mentioned at Serial No. 3 (the fourth application) is an e-mail sent by the delinquent officer to the official e-mail account of the Hon’ble High Court. This document has also not been admitted by the Presenting Officer.” The court further held, “Since the above documents had already been filed by the delinquent officer before the Enquiry Officer, hence we are of the view that one more opportunity should be given to the delinquent officer to prove the said documents submitted in defence.”

The court referred to the judgment passed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in M.V. Bijlani v. Union of India, 2006 (5) SCC 88, has held that a departmental enquiry is a quasi-criminal in nature. The distinction between the departmental enquiry and a criminal trial has been considered elaborately by the Hon’ble Apex Court in Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation v. Sri C. Nagarju & Others, (order of the Supreme Court passed in Civil Appeal No. 7279 of 2019 on 16.9.2019 reported in 2019 (10) SCC 367) and held that this Court would, ordinarily, not interdict a departmental enquiry during its progress, as it is always open to the delinquent officer to question the mode and manner, in which the disciplinary enquiry is conducted, even after the enquiry is concluded and before the final order is passed.

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