Criminal Proceedings And Disciplinary Enquiry Can Go On Simultaneously: Andhra Pradesh High Court
In the case of Subba Rao v. Enquiry Officer, Cotton Corporation of India & Ors. (WP No. No.19655 OF 2011), Justice Ravi Nath Tilhari observed that the charges framed against the petitioner in the departmental proceedings were different from the charges in criminal proceedings under Section 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act read with Section 109 IPC. In addition, there was no question of any disclosure of defence in the departmental proceedings as in Section 13(1) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the onus was on the accused to prove that the assets found were not disproportionate to the known source of income.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The petitioner was appointed in the respondent Corporation namely the Cotton Corporation of India Limited in 1979 and retired on attaining the age of superannuation in 2011. The CBI had registered cases against the Petitioners and his family members for alleged possession of disproportionate assets and FIR for Criminal Conspiracy, cheating and abuse of official position in 2006. The Corporation initiated the disciplinary proceedings against the petitioner under its Conduct Rules. The petitioner had requested for the enquiry to be kept in abeyance till disposal of the criminal cases. But the departmental proceedings continued. This writ petition was filed on the ground that before conclusion of the criminal case, the departmental proceedings cannot be proceeded with.
The issue before the Andhra Pradesh HC was to decide whether the departmental proceedings against the petitioner can be continued and concluded during pendency of criminal proceedings against him.
The writ petition was dismissed and the HC after considering various judgments of Apex Court, reiterated that disciplinary and criminal proceedings can continue simultaneously and pendency of the criminal proceedings is no legal bar for conducting departmental proceedings. In view of the settled legal position in Indian Overseas Bank, Anna Salai v. P. Ganesan (2008), which had observed “if a criminal case was unduly delayed that may itself be a good ground for going ahead with disciplinary proceedings as also that the delinquent official could not be permitted to prolong the criminal case on one hand and at the other hand to contend that the disciplinary proceedings be stayed on the ground that the criminal case is pending..”. This decision reiterated the point that disciplinary proceedings should not be stayed only on the sole ground that criminal proceedings are pending.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY ANAGHA K BHARADWAJ