The Karnataka High Court observed that a disciplinary authority cannot go on holding enquiry after enquiry against an employee till the desired report is given by the Enquiry Officer.

The Court was deciding a writ petition filed by the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), North Block, New Delhi against the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) by which the chargesheet in the disciplinary enquiry was quashed with a direction to hold ‘Review DPC’ within two months to consider case for promotion.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Krishna S. Dixit and Justice G. Basavaraja observed, “The vehement submission of learned ASG that subsequently the Enquiry Officer pursuant to further enquiry has submitted a Report finding the employee ‘guilty’ cannot be agreed to. Reasons for this are apparent: Firstly, no ‘further enquiry’ can be ordered unless a case is made out for the invocation of Rule 15(1) as interpreted in K.R.Deb supra. Secondly, what additional evidence was generated in the so called ‘further enquiry’ or that which additional witness was examined is not forthcoming from the pleadings or the record. Thirdly, not even a bus-ticket-size-paper is also not produced to show that any ‘further enquiry’ was ever held.”

ASG Arvind Kamath appeared for the petitioners while Senior Advocate S S Naganand appeared for the respondent.

Facts of the Case -

The respondent employee was convicted and sentenced by the Trial Court in Special (Corruption) Case for the offences punishable under Sections 7, 13(1)(d), and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PC Act). The High Court allowed the appeal and acquitted the employee.

In this case, the ASG for the petitioner, contended that Criminal Court’s order acquitting the respondent-employee does not have the trappings of honourable acquittal and therefore, the disciplinary proceedings could not have been quashed, the Enquiry Report having not been found satisfactory, further enquiry was directed and accordingly the report finding the employee guilty was submitted; there was no bar for soliciting the views of Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) on matters of the kind; that being the position, the Tribunal was not justified in quashing the charge sheet. So arguing, he sought for the quashment of the said order and after service of notice, the employee entered appearance through her counsel on record.

The senior counsel for the respondent contended that the order of the Criminal Court convicting the respondent was reversed by the Single Judge with a specific finding as to there being no ‘demand & acceptance’; this order, on challenge in a Civil Appeal, the Apex Court declined interference; the prosecution material & pertinent witnesses were the same in the disciplinary enquiry; the Enquiry Report had found the employee ‘not guilty’; strangely, further enquiry was directed and without holding any further enquiry, the Enquiry Officer submitted a contradictory report holding the employee guilty. It was further argued that in any circumstance, what the Tribunal did, perfectly accords with established cannons of service jurisprudence and so contending, he prayed for the dismissal of writ petition.

The High Court after hearing the contentions of the counsel noted, “Even to discredit assertion of the respondent that the notice of such enquiry was not given to her till date, absolutely no material is placed on record by the petitioners. Our Constitution expects all Article 12 – Entities to be fair & reasonable in their action. The Governments should conduct themselves as model employers, is a constitutional imperative. The action of the petitioners in somehow endeavoring to continue the disciplinary proceedings against the respondent employee runs counter to all this, to say the least.”

The Court said that the disciplinary authority cannot go on holding enquiry against an employee till the desired report is given by the Enquiry Officer and in the absence of a prima facie demonstration of further enquiry, the subsequent report finding the employee ‘guilty’ cannot come to the aid of the petitioners for voiding the Tribunal’s order.

“There is force in the submission of learned Sr. Advocate appearing for the respondent – employee that the further enquiry in terms of Rule 15 of the 1965 Rules is vitiated, such a decision having been taken by the disciplinary authority at the instance of ‘extra-departmental agency’ like the CVC. The disciplinary authority functions under the four corners of law namely the 1965 Rules. The CVC therefore, cannot influence the decision making at various stages of disciplinary proceedings, in the absence of statutory enablement. As adding salt to the injury, the said proceedings, if at all held, were behind the back of employee. All that is impermissible”, it further observed.

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the petition.

Cause Title- Chairman Central Board of Direct Taxes & Ors. v. K. Chandrika


Petitioners: ASG Arvind Kamath and CGC B Pramod

Respondent: Senior Advocate S S Naganand and Advocate Aravind V. Chavan

Click here to read/download the Judgment