How to conduct/defend Departmental Inquiries?

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How to Conduct/Defend Departmental Inquiry
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Action on Receipt of Report of Inquiry Officer

After ordering an oral inquiry by appointing inquiry and presenting officers, process control passes from the hands of the disciplinary authority to those of the inquiry and presenting officers. But the disciplinary authority can continue to monitor progress of the inquiry and he may also require the presenting officer, if so desired, to send him periodical progress reports, including daily reports once the regular inquiry commences. The disciplinary authority may also send communication to the inquiry officer requesting for expeditious completion of the inquiry. Where warranted, when the inquiry officer is unable to conduct or complete the inquiry for any reason, the disciplinary authority can rescind his appointment and make a fresh appointment. The same also applies in the case of the presenting officer, when for any reason he could not present the case.

Once Inquiry is over and the report of the inquiry officer is received by the disciplinary authority, the initiative reverts back to the fold of the disciplinary authority. He attends the post inquiry process on receipt of the report of inquiry. He has to process the report and taking suitable further decisions. These are discussed in detail in this page.

The report of the inquiring authority is intended to assist the disciplinary authority in coming to a conclusion about the guilt of the Charged Officer. Its findings are not binding on the disciplinary authority who can disagree with them and come to its own conclusion on the basis of its own assessment of the evidence forming part of the record of the enquiry.

Second Stage Reference - Extension of Natural Justice

On receipt of the report and the record of the enquiry the disciplinary authority, if it is different from inquiring authority, will forward a copy of the inquiry report to the Charged officer concerned, giving him an opportunity to make any representation or submission with the following endorsement:-

    "The report of the inquiry officer is enclosed. The disciplinary authority will take a suitable decision after considering the report. If you wish to make any representation or submission, you may do so in writing to the disciplinary authority within 15 days of receipt of this letter."

Processing Report of Inquiry Officer & Records of Inquiry

On receipt of his reply, or if no reply is received within the time allowed, the disciplinary authority will examine the report and records of the inquiry, including the points raised by the concerned Charged Officer carefully and dispassionately and after satisfying itself that the Charged Officer has been given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself, will record its findings in respect of each article of charge saying whether, in its opinion, it stands proved or not.

The foregoing statement quoted from CVC Manual implies two-fold responsibility of the Disciplinary Authority in dealing with the report of the inquiry officer

  1. First it has to satisfy itself that the charged officer has been given a reasonable opportunity to defend itself. CVC has further observed in this respect as under:

    If the disciplinary authority considers that a clear finding is not possible or that there is any defect in the enquiry, e.g., the Inquiring Authority had taken into consideration certain factors without giving the delinquent officer an opportunity to defend himself in that regard, the disciplinary authority may, for reasons to be recorded by it in writing, remit the case to the inquiring authority for further inquiry and report. The inquiring authority will, thereupon, proceed to hold the further inquiry according to the provisions of Rule 14 of the CCA Rules,(Corresponding DA Regulations No.6) as far as may be.

    Further enquiry when Principles of Natural Justice have not been Observed

    If the disciplinary authority comes to the conclusion that the inquiry was not made in conformity with principles of natural justice, it can also remit the case for further enquiry on all or some of the charges.

    The discretion in this regard should be exercised by the disciplinary authority for adequate reasons to be recorded in writing. A further enquiry may be ordered, for example, when there are grave lacunae or procedural defects vitiating the first enquiry and not because the first enquiry had gone in favour of the delinquent officer. In latter type of cases, the disciplinary authority can, if it is satisfied on the evidence on record, disagree with the findings of the Inquiring Authority.

    In this context the following observations of the Rajasthan High Court in Dwarka Chand Vs. State of Rajasthan (AIR 1959, Raj. 38) are relevant:-

      "If we were to hold that a second departmental enquiry could be ordered after the previous one has resulted in the exoneration of a public servant the danger of harassment to the public servant, would in our opinion, be immense. If it were possible to ignore the result of an earlier departmental enquiry, then there will be nothing to prevent a superior officer, if he were so minded, to order a second or a third or a fourth or even a fifth departmental enquiry after the earlier ones had resulted in the exoneration of a public servant."

  2. The second responsibility of the disciplinary authority is with regards to the assessment of the evidences submitted by the respective sides in respect of each imputation/articles and drawing an objective conclusion, whether each imputation/articles is proved or not. As the Inquiry officer has attended the same requirement in his report, the disciplinary authority may start checking the report of the inquiry officer to confirm that the process has been objectively carried out.

Action When Disciplinary Authority Disagrees with the Findings of the Inquiry Officer

When the disciplinary authority disagrees with the findings of the inquiry officer on any articles of charge, it should record its reasons for such disagreement and record its own findings on such charge, if the evidence on record is sufficient for that purpose.

Action when Articles of Charge are Held as Not Proved.

Having regard to its own findings on the articles of charge, if the disciplinary authority is of the opinion that the articles of charge have not been proved and that the charged officer should be exonerated, it will make an order to that effect and communicate it to the charged officer together with a copy of the report of the inquiring authority (if it has not been given to him earlier), its own findings on it and brief reasons for disagreement, if any, with the findings of the Inquiring Authority.

Imposition of a Minor Penalty.

If the disciplinary authority is of the opinion that any of the minor penalties should be imposed on the Charged Officer, it is not necessary to give any further show cause notice to the charged officer in such cases in the interest of natural justice or otherwise. Though the charge sheet is issued for award of major penalty and the oral inquiry under major penalty procedure is conducted, based on the findings as revealed by the evidences filed, the disciplinary authority may award only a minor penalty. This is more so, when part of the charges are deemed as not proved, and only a few of the allegations are held as proved, and when awarding a major penalty is not considered appropriate.

Award of Major penalty

In all other cases the disciplinary authority either by way of agreement with the findings of the Inquiry officer, or based on its own independent findings arrived at as aforesaid, award a major penalty to the delinquent officer, on the basis of the gravity of the charges held as proved. In this context the disciplinary authority will also take into account the guidelines of CVC in this respect given below.

Final Order on the Report of Inquiring Authority - Guidelines of CVC
as per their Manual

"It is in the public interest as well as in the interest of the employees that disciplinary proceedings should be dealt with expeditiously. At the same time, the disciplinary authorities must apply their mind to all relevant facts which are brought out in the enquiry before forming an opinion about the imposition of a penalty, if any, on the Charged Officer. In cases which do not require consultation with the Central Vigilance Commission, it should normally be possible for the disciplinary authority to take a final decision on the enquiry report within a period of 3 months at the most. In cases where the disciplinary authority feels that it is not possible to adhere to this time limit, a report may be submitted by him to the next higher authority indicating the additional period within which the case is likely to be disposed of and the reasons for the same. In cases where consultation with the CVC is required, every effort should be made to ensure that such cases are disposed of as quickly as possible.

In every case in which the charge of acceptance from any person of any gratification, other than legal remuneration, as a motive or reward for doing or forbearing to do any official act is established, the penalty of removal or dismissal should be imposed. The disciplinary authority may, however, impose any other punishment in any exceptional case and for special reasons to be recorded in writing.

In determining the quantum of punishment, the disciplinary authority should take into account only that material which the Charged Officer had the opportunity to rebut. The object is to ensure that no material of which the Charged Officer was not given prior notice and which he was not given adequate opportunity of rebutting or defending himself against should be taken into account for deciding the extent of punishment to be awarded."

Public Sector Banks - Second Stage Advice of CVC

Para 12.4.4 of Special Chapter on Vigilance Management in Public Sector Banks and para 22.6.4 of the Special Chapter on Vigilance Management in Public Sector Enterprises envisage that the inquiring authorities, including the CDIs borne on the strength of the Commission, would submit their reports to the disciplinary authority who would then forward the IO's reports, along with its own tentative views to the Commission for its second stage advice. The existing procedure in this regard may broadly continue. The disciplinary authority may, after examination of the inquiry report, communicate its tentative views to the Commission. The Commission would thereafter communicate its advice. This, along with the disciplinary authority's views, may be made available to the concerned employee. On receiving his representation, if any, the disciplinary authority may impose a penalty in accordance with the Commission's advice or if it feels that the employee's representation warrants consideration, forward the same, along with the records of the case, to the Commission for its reconsideration.

Thus, if on the receipt of the employee's representation, the concerned administrative authority proposes to accept the CVC's advice, it may issue the orders accordingly. But if the administrative authority comes to the conclusion that the representation of the concerned employee necessitates reconsideration of the Commission's advice, the matter would be referred to the Commission.

In all occasions of his role the disciplinary authority is a decision making authority and his decision may have considerable significance for the disciplinary case and can have momentous outcome, to the charged officer. He is a statutory authority, where the discipline and appeal regulations are statutorily formulated. Even otherwise, what he undertakes is a process of adjudication and hence he is a judicial, to be more precise a quasi-judicial authority. As his decisions are bound to decide significantly the career and the future of the delinquent officer, the nature of responsibility dwells upon him the utmost objectivity, fairness and impartiality.

Communication of Orders

The order made by the disciplinary authority will be communicated to the charged officer together with:-

  1. a copy of the report of the Inquiring Authority, if not supplied already;

  2. a statement of findings of the disciplinary authority on the inquiring authority's report together with brief reasons for its disagreement, if any, with the findings of the Inquiring Authority, if not supplied already;

Scope of Order of Punishment

When passing an order of punishment, the disciplinary authority should define the scope of the punishment in clear terms. It should be self-contained and in the nature of a reasoned speaking order

Functions The Disciplinary Authority, in dealing any part of a
Disciplinary Case is not Delegable

He should not act as the rubber stamp of the administrative authorities and ceremoniously sign the chargesheet presented for his signature. His powers are not like those of the Indian President, who is to exercise his pleasure as per advice of the Council of Ministers. He is a statutory authority. All his responsibilities are to be discharged by him through the exercise of his objective and independent judgement. No part of his functions is to be delegated even to his personal assistant. He should not study the notes put up to him, by some one else, but should study the original documents, i.e. the complaint, the investigation report, the reply to the Chargesheet, the report of the Inquiry Officer with the records of the inquiry etc. He will qualify himself to be called a quasi-judicial authority and statutory authority only if he fulfills this criterion. No Part of his work can be delegated to proxies, or section assistants. Assistants can only discharge secretarial & record keeping assistance, as the office of the Registrar functions in a Judicial Court.

He should take charge of the disciplinary case not in the middle, but at the beginning, i.e. on receipt of a complaint. In other words the receipt of a complaint, warranting investigation should be brought to his cognisance. Only on his taking a decision and authorising investigation, it should commence.

  1. Complaints should be investigated and acted without delay. Delay defeats justices and makes the process a witch hunting without purpose.

  2. Perfect investigation should be conducted and all relevant facts and evidences are gathered, before he takes a decision.

  3. Disciplinary Authority should ensure efficacy of audit/inspection machinery. Time gap between the occurrence of a serious irregularity and its detection should be studied. Normal time gap should not be more than 3 months. Time gap of more than six months should be looked into, as instance of weak/ineffective control function.

  4. Disciplinary authority is responsible for preventive discipline. Whenever an irregularity surfaces, it is the occasion for an intensive study for its causes, if it is due to lack of knowledge, efficiency, weakness of the system or failure of guidelines to reach in time. These are committed unwittingly by the officers without any intention on their part. Disciplinary authority has a responsibility to prevent its occurrence at other spots by preventive strategy, through training, guidelines and audit checks.


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[..Page updated on 20.11.2004..]<>[Chkd-Apvd-ef]
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