There is no legal bar on the departmental inquiry proceeding when the criminal trial is pending: Tripura High Court

The departmental investigation process does not have a procedural bar while the criminal proceedings are underway. In the process of the operation, the departmental investigation is started for suspected wrongdoing whilst the disciplinary investigations are launched for charges of crime. The type of evidence used to justify an accusation in a criminal court is somewhat different from that expected in a departmental investigation. The judgement was passed by the High Court of Tripura in the case of Amit Debbarma v. The State of Tripura [WP(C) No.1201 of 2019] by Single Bench consisting of Hon’ble Justice MR. Akil Kureshi.

The FIR has been filed against the petitioner offence under Section 302 of IPC read with Section 27 of the Arms Act. The petitioner has prayed for a stay of disciplinary proceedings instituted by the competent authority under a charge sheet, till the conclusion of a criminal trial which he is facing and in which according to him the charges and the evidence are substantially similar to those involved in the departmental charge-sheet.

Learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the allegations and the material relied upon by the department in the departmental inquiry are the same as those relied upon by the prosecution in the criminal trial. The case involves extremely complicated questions of facts and law. If the departmental inquiry is therefore continued, the petitioner would be forced to disclose his defence which will be prejudicial to him in his defence in the criminal trial. He, therefore,

Learned counsel for the respondent opposed the petition contending that the case against the petitioner in the departmental charge-sheet is entirely different from in the trial pending against him. As per the law laid down by the Supreme Court in series of judgments the nature of proof required in a departmental proceeding is vastly different from one insisted upon by the criminal courts. For clean administration, the inquiry must be completed as soon as possible. During such inquiry, the petitioner would have full opportunity to defend himself. If the charges are true and proved the petitioner must be visited with appropriate punishment. If not, he must be absolved of all charges and honour be restored to him.

The Supreme Court reiterated certain findings in the case of State Bank of India and others versus Neelam Nag and anr, wherein it was noted that “the departmental inquiry is also not shackled by technical rules of evidence. It is also stated that it is in the interest of clean administration as well as in most cases in the interest of the employee that the departmental inquiry is concluded expeditiously. If the charges are proved the Government servant must face commensurate punishment.”

While allowing the petition the court held that “he is a fit case which falls under the exceptional category where the departmental inquiry must have stayed till the criminal trial is completed. The allegations in the departmental charge sheet and the criminal case may be, as is bound to be, worded differently. Nevertheless, they both relate to the same incident and implicate the petitioner for the same misconduct.”

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