Personal Website of R.Kannan
|Home||Table of Contents||Feedback|
Article of Module
the Strategy to Counteract the Same?
To the charged officer, the charge sheet is a challenge directly hitting his bonafides and raising doubts about his integrity and devotion to duty. It can adversely affect the security of his service, or may tarnish his fair name and service record. Replying the charge sheet should, therefore, be a part of his overall strategy for counteracting the disciplinary case. His purpose or objective is not merely to protect the security of his service, but also to re-confirm the utmost good faith, trust, and fidelity that should characterise an employee's intangible assets in public service. In short he has to re-assert his bonafides.
Detailed guidelines are given to the charged officer and the Defence Assisting office to counter-act the likely harm that the charge sheet can inflict and how to build and present the case of the defence effectively in the oral inquiry.
Here our objective is confined to the single point of responding and sending a suitable reply to the charge sheet.
Replying the Charge Sheet
As per detailed guidelines given to the charged officer, the following steps must have been already attended by him.
You have now prepared and are holding the requisite background information for submission of a reply to the charge sheet. However you have to decide what to state or how much to state foreseeing the likely effects of your reply. In this context please peruse the relevant provisions of the DA Regulations (6.3 & 6.4) to understand the scope and purpose of your reply, as provided therein.
These are omnibus provisions. Identically worded provisions can be found in C.C.S.(C.C.A) Rules or in any other DA Regulations. It will be seen from the wording of these regulations that there is no obligation statutorily cast on the disciplinary authority to consider your written statement of reply and review the case on the merits thereof. If you deny the charges and explain why they should be dropped, it is still open to the disciplinary authority to directly order an oral inquiry, heeding only your denial of the charges and disregarding your explanation, why the charges should be dropped, without commenting on any way on the merits of your reply. And if you accept the charges, the disciplinary authority without further inquiry can record his findings and to award appropriate penalties immediately.
You may choose not to reply the charge sheet, and still the disciplinary authority has to conduct a regular oral inquiry and cannot deem the charges as accepted, despite any such clause incorporated in the charge sheet (e.g. "if no reply is received with in....days, it will be deemed that you have nothing to offer by way of explanation and that you accept the charges etc..."). However it will be a weak course of action on the part of the charged officer to take recourse to this step. It will be a negative beginning to start with and imply lack of resources on the part of the CO to meet the situation. He must reply the charge sheet and must submit the reply at least one day earlier, before expiry of the time granted for submission of reply. He should not seek extension of time, unless justifiably warranted.
While thus there is no statutory obligation cast on the disciplinary authority, he can still exercise his discretionary powers and consider the written statement of reply and thereafter either drop the disciplinary case in toto (seldom done in practice) or he can award a minor punishment (normally "censure") and complete the process of the disciplinary case without an oral inquiry.
However there are other limitations in the way. If the case is investigated by the CBI, their consent has to be obtained by the disciplinary authority for such an exercise of discretionary powers and premature disposal of the case, and if the disciplinary case is covered under the compulsory advisory jurisdiction of the CVC, the second stage advice is to be obtained from CVC before such closure of the case. So normally when a charge sheet is issued there will be an oral inquiry. Only in rare occasions, in non-vigilance cases, the disciplinary case may be closed awarding a minor penalty to the charged officer, after submission of his written statement of reply, without conducting a regular inquiry. Whether this is beneficial to the charged officer is doubtful. The disciplinary authority will only take recourse to this route as an administrative expediency, when he has a number of disciplinary cases on hand and want to circumvent or cut short avoidable job.
It is more appropriate for the charged officer to act on the assumption that there would be an inquiry and that he has to categorically deny the allegations, or else it would he held by the disciplinary authority that he has admitted the charges and to award the penalty without an oral inquiry.
Submission of the written statement of reply is the first response from the charged officer to the disciplinary authority after initiating the disciplinary case. His reply should indicate a calm, controlled and dignified demeanor of the charged officer. The charged officer should accept total emotional control and there is no scope for exhibition of anger or frustration or to be seen as beseeching pity or sympathy from the management. It should only convey that the charge officer is confident of proving the truth, which will speak in his favour.
Do not bring in extraneous assertions or statements in your reply (like -"the records will clearly convey that I have an unblemished service throughout my career for the last....years" or "the authorities are well aware that I am steadfast in my duties and would never compromise" etc.)
You may acknowledge the receipt of the charge sheet, specifically mentioning the date of receipt. This is more important when the charge sheet is received more than 2 days from the date it bears.
Do not ask for additional time. Any sign of delaying effort, from your side will convey the disposition on your part that your case is week and you are nervous about it. Avoid generating this feeling in the mind of anyone. The time for reply should be minimum 7 days and maximum 15 days. If you are not permitted to refer to the relevant records, 7 days time may be given. This can be position if the charge-sheet case pertains to the same branch where you are presently working.
But if the case relates to transactions more than one year old at an earlier branch, if no permission for referring to the records is allowed, immediately, you must represent, for permission to visit the branch for 2 days and to refer to relevant records to refresh your memory and submit you reply. You can also commit that your reply will be sent within 7 days after verification of the records.
If reasonable facilities are denied, be firm in your action, but do not be impolite. Do not exhibit the feeling in others that you are inclined to make an issue of each and every trivial and insignificant matter and prefer to lodge a number of procedural complaints, but express all your objections in convincing language as genuine "grievances" affecting your interests. Mere procedural violations will not render an inquiry invalid, unless if it is also proved that such violations have materially harmed the interests of the charged officer.
If examination of records is not permitted, or if only 3 days time is allowed to you to submit your reply, You may only deny categorically deny each and every allegation (articles and imputations) and request the disciplinary to conduct a bonafide oral inquiry and disclose before hand the complete material he relies in support of the charges, to enable you to submit your defence. By way of a rider, you may also add that, however, if reference to records is permitted and minimum time of....days for replying the charge sheet is allowed, you will be in a position to submit a "more detailed submissions representing your stand point".
by way of reply to the charge sheet
Follow the three guidelines as below:-
In case a spokesman of the management were to appear as the initial witness, before disclosing the material evidences of the management and testifies verbatim the contents of the charge sheet before the Inquiry Officer, and you are then asked to cross-examine this witness, what will you do? What questions and clarifications will you demand from the witness? Assume such a scenario and only put those questions and clarifications in your reply after categorically denying each and every imputations & articles of charge.
To illustrate this point, I will give a concrete case. My name is R.Kannan. In the 10th charge sheet served on me in my career, an allegation was made about one borrowal account "Decorators" as under:-
"The borrower was executing "job-orders" and still Mr.Kannan financed them"
"Decorators" were dealing with the Branch for the last 20 years, while I joined therein only a couple of years before. They are furniture makes and interior decorators. They will not manufacture products for store or stock adopting a standardised design and specifications as Godrej & Co will fabricate its steel furniture. They will only execute as per design and tastes of individual customers and execute the job at the site of the customer. The disciplinary authority has confused between "job-work" and "job-order". If I were to mention that the borrower is executing job-orders as per specifications of customers, the PO will contend that I have admitted the charge. My written statement of reply to this imputation was made as under:-
Indirectly I have brought out the discrepancies in the charge sheet, but these things will be recognised only if the inquiry is organised through a bonafide process and reply suibmitted by me is processed sincerely.
Seek information on all such discrepancies and weak points of the charge sheet. You are still submissive and polite in making such questions and no adverse comment can be made on you. If these are clarified in the preliminary inquiry, it will weaken the management case, and if these are not clarified, the discrepancies will continue to remain and to haunt the PO in the inquiry.
However the above is by way of suggestion and these should not be taken as directory or mandatory rules that should be invariably complied with. It all depends on the standard of the bonafides of the inquiry process and the sincerity and responsibility of your management. As these may differ from case to case. no thumb rules should be made for universal application. But understand the basic approach conveyed above and devise your standpoint as suited to the circumstance of the case.
My underlying point is that the management should learn to effectively deal with "misconduct" by employees and when management themselves perpetuate questionable acts the employee must learn necessary skills to cope up with the situation. Integrity and good conduct are not for one-way flow. It is wrong for an employee to abuse an officer, but is it justified for an officer to regularly be provoking an employee? Here the employee's misconduct occasions by way of "reaction to repeated provocation" and not by way of "his instinct or premeditated intention".