Every Non-Compliance Of Procedural Requirements Cannot Mechanically Lead To Setting Aside Of Disciplinary Proceedings- Delhi HC
The Delhi High Court in a service matter has observed that every non-compliance of procedural requirements would not lead to setting aside disciplinary proceedings.
The Court was dealing with a writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution seeking the quashing of the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the petitioner due to which he was dismissed from the services
The Bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh held that the Disciplinary Authority acted based on material evidence on record and have come to a reasonable conclusion after giving a detailed opportunity of hearing to the petitioner.
The Bench held –
"...no prejudice has been caused to the Petitioner as paragraph 4.12.2 (a) envisages procedural provisions which are substantially complied in the facts and circumstances of the present case in view of the law laid down in S.K. Sharma (supra) and every noncompliance cannot mechanically culminate into setting aside of the disciplinary proceedings."
The issues dealt with by the Court were -
1. Whether the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the Petitioner are without evidence and malicious, so as to warrant interference by the Court in the exercise of power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
2. Is there any delay in initiating disciplinary proceedings by the CCI? If yes, can the disciplinary proceedings be quashed on that ground.
3. Whether Paragraph 4.12.2 of the Central Vigilance Commission Manual has been complied in the facts and circumstances of the case? If not, then whether the disciplinary proceedings can be quashed on this ground?
Advocate A.K. Singla appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Advocate Arvind Kumar Gupta represented the respondents.
Facts of the Case –
In this case, the petitioner was dismissed from the services of the respondent i.e., Cement Corporation of India (CCI). He joined CCI as a Joint Senior Manager. A proposal was mooted for hiring/ taking on lease heavy earth moving equipment from the contractors for lifting and transportation of limestones at different CCI units. The proposal travelled from Mining Department to the Material Management Department and was approved by the then Chairman Managing Director (CMD). The Finance Department did not vet an estimate prepared by Geology and Mining Department. The contract value of all the units was estimated at Rs. 368.94/- lakhs as per the note as against the estimated value ranging between Rs. 412/- to Rs. 477/- lakhs as per the proposal. The note was not referred to anywhere in the entire process of obtaining administrative approval of the proposal.
Pursuant to the administrative approval of the above proposal by CMD and the Board of Directors of CCI, notice inviting tenders were issued for eight units. In response, 8 offers were received by CCI and after going through the techno commercial bids of the tenderers, the Tender Committee recommended the price bids of six contractors. The recommendation was approved by the Directors and the petitioner who joined as in charge of the Materials Management Department was inducted as a member of the Tender Committee for evaluating the price bids. The Tender Committee unanimously recommended the award of contracts to the respective contractors for different quantities. A case was registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by registering FIR against all the members of the Tender Committee including the petitioner and the then CMD under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. During the investigation by the CBI, the petitioner was summoned twice and even his house was raided. Thereafter, the petitioner submitted its representation against the Inquiry Report. However, the Disciplinary Authority passed the order thereby imposing a major penalty of dismissal against the petitioner. The petitioner being aggrieved with such an order approached the High Court.
The High Court after hearing both parties stated, "In the present case, memorandum of charges along with statement of imputations was issued to the Petitioner by CCI on 18th September 2007 and a statement of defense was called for. It is not the case of the Petitioner that he was not permitted to lead his evidence, including, the witnesses to prove his defense or any material was withheld from him but such material was relied upon by the Disciplinary Authority in arriving at its findings against the Petitioner. In my opinion, no prejudice has been caused to the Petitioner as paragraph 4.12.2 (a) envisages procedural provisions which are substantially complied in the facts and circumstances of the present case in view of the law laid down in S.K. Sharma (supra) and every non-compliance cannot mechanically culminate into setting aside of the disciplinary proceedings. Petitioner has failed to bring out any case showing infraction of the principles of natural justice leading to prejudice being caused to the Petitioner in meeting his defense. This issue is answered accordingly."
The Court also noted that it is essential to look at the powers of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to interfere in the findings of a Disciplinary Authority which on appeal has been upheld by the Appellate Authority.
The Court further concluded, "… the challenge to the impugned disciplinary proceedings fails and the present writ petition is dismissed as being devoid of merits."
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the writ petition.
Cause Title – VK Arora v. Cement Corporation of India & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2022/DHC/005271)