Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Which authority is competent to decide punishment for delinquent employee?

 It is a settled principle of law that once the
charges leveled against the delinquent employee are
proved then it is for the appointing authority to decide
as to what punishment should be imposed on the
delinquent employee as per the Rules. The appointing
authority, keeping in view the nature and gravity of
the charges, findings of the inquiry officer, entire
service record of the delinquent employee and all

relevant factors relating to the delinquent, exercised
its discretion and then imposed the punishment as
provided in the Rules.
Once such discretion is exercised by the
appointing authority in inflicting the punishment
(whether minor or major) then the Courts are slow to
interfere in the quantum of punishment and only in
rare and appropriate case substitutes the punishment.
 Such power is exercised when the Court finds
that the delinquent employee is able to prove that the
punishment inflicted on him is wholly unreasonable,
arbitrary and disproportionate to the gravity of the
proved charges thereby shocking the conscious of the
Court or when it is found to be in contravention of the
Rules. The Court may, in such cases, remit the case to
the appointing authority for imposing any other
punishment as against what was originally awarded to
the delinquent employee by the appointing authority

as per the Rules or may substitute the punishment by
itself instead of remitting to the appointing authority.

Reportable
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL No.958 OF 2010
Prem Nath Bali ……Appellant(s)
VERSUS
Registrar, High Court of
Delhi & Anr. ……Respondent(s)
Dated;December 16, 2015.


1) This appeal is filed against the final judgment and
order dated 21.08.2008 of the High Court of Delhi at New
Delhi in Writ Petition(c) No. 2046 of 2001 whereby the
High Court dismissed the petition filed by the appellant
herein.
1Page 2
2) In order to appreciate the issue involved in this
appeal, which lies in a narrow compass, it is necessary
to set out the relevant facts in brief infra.
3) On 01.10.1965, the appellant joined the office of
District & Sessions Court, Delhi as Lower Division
Clerk. He was confirmed w.e.f. 06.07.1976.
Thereafter on 26.07.1986, he was promoted as Upper
Division Clerk (U.D.C.). In May, 1989, he was posted
as U.D.C. as in-charge of copying agency criminal side
at Patiala House Court, New Delhi.
4) While working as U.D.C. and in-charge of
Copying Agency (Criminal) at Patiala House Court, on
23.01.1990, the appellant submitted a written
complaint against one Window Clerk, namely, Smt.
Brij Bala, to the officer in-charge of the Copying
Agency, Patiala House Courts stating therein that she
is not discharging her duty effectively and she often
used to close the counter of the Copying Agency before
the prescribed time and after lunch also she used to

resume her duty after the prescribed time. Therefore,
the litigants had occasion to make a complaint to the
appellant and he had to depute other official to attend
the work. The appellant requested for her transfer.
5) On the same day, Smt. Brij Bala also made a
statement to the superior officer that on 22.01.1990
after closing the application register at 1.00 p.m., she
came to know that some applications, which were not
even entered in the register on that day, were entered
in CD2/Dak register subsequently and the certified
copies were got prepared of those applications on the
same date. She was also pressurized to deliver the
copies on the same date at 2.30 p.m. When she
refused to deliver the copy, the appellant quarreled
with her and used unwanted words in the office, which
were uncalled for.
6) The office-in-charge forwarded the aforesaid
statement of Smt. Brij Bala to the District Judge. On
the basis of said complaint, a preliminary enquiry was
3Page 4
made. Thereafter a departmental enquiry was also
held against the appellant. On 06.02.1990, the
appellant was placed under suspension.
7) A memorandum dated 18.07.1990 was served
on the appellant by the office of the District &
Sessions Judge, Delhi that the authority proposes to
hold an enquiry against him under Rule 14 of the
Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and
Appeal) Rules, 1965 (in short “the CCS Rules”) which
included the statement of articles of charges and other
relevant documents.
8) The disciplinary proceedings, which commenced
on 18.07.1990, continued for more than nine years.
Pending disciplinary proceedings, the appellant sought
revocation of suspension order but such
representation made by the appellant was not
considered. Subsequently, vide order dated
01.03.1999, the then District & Sessions Judge,
exercising the powers conferred under Clause C of
4Page 5
sub-rule 5 of Rule 10 of CCS Rules revoked the order
of suspension with immediate effect. The issue,
whether the period of suspension is to be reckoned as
period on duty, was not decided and directed to be
taken up after conclusion of the disciplinary
proceedings.
9) The District & Sessions Judge, Delhi passed two
orders dated 27.10.1999 and 28.10.1999 imposing a
major penalty of compulsory retirement on the
appellant. It was also ordered that the appellant will
not be entitled to any amount more than the
allowances already paid during the period of
suspension.
10) Challenging the said order, the appellant filed an
appeal before the Administrative Judge of the High
Court of Delhi. Vide order dated 21.08.2000, the
Administrative Judge dismissed the appeal.
11) Against the said order, the appellant filed
W.P.No. 2046 of 2001 before the High Court. The

High Court, by impugned judgment dated 21.08.2008,
dismissed the petition.
12) Aggrieved by the said order, the appellant filed
this appeal by way of special leave before this Court.
13) The appellant appeared in-person. Mr. Wasim
Qadari, learned counsel appeared for respondents.
Since the appellant had no legal assistance, he was
appearing in person. We requested Mr. Sreegesh,
learned counsel, who was present in Court, to appear
for the appellant to enable us to decide the appeal.
14) Heard Mr. Sreegesh, learned counsel for the
appellant and Mr. Wasim A. Qadri, learned counsel for
the respondents.
15) We record our appreciation for Mr. Sreegesh,
learned counsel, who on our request argued the case
ably with fairness for the appellant and rendered his
valuable assistance on every date of hearing.
16) Submissions of Mr. Sreegesh were three-fold. In
the first place, he contended that no case whatsoever

is made out against the appellant for imposing the
punishment of compulsory retirement. He also made
attempt to find fault in departmental inquiry
proceedings and contended that the manner in which
the proceedings were held would indicate that the
appellant did not get fair opportunity to meet the
charges and, therefore, the departmental proceedings
are rendered bad in law having been conducted in
violation of principle of natural justice.
17) In the second place, learned counsel contended
that in any event the punishment of compulsory
retirement imposed on the appellant was not
commensurate with the gravity of charge and being
wholly disproportionate to the nature of charges, this
Court should interfere in the quantum of punishment
and reduce it to make the same in tune with the
gravity of the charges.
18) In the third place, learned counsel contended
that the appellant was kept under suspension for a

long period of 9 years and 26 days (06.02.1990 to
01.03.1999) without any justifiable cause on the part
of the respondents and yet the respondents excluded
this period while calculating the appellant's pension,
which according to him was not justified and,
therefore, a direction be issued to the respondents to
count the period of suspension for determining the
appellant’s pension and other retiral benefits.
19) In reply, learned counsel for the respondents
supported the impugned order. As regards the last
submission of the learned counsel for the appellant,
his reply was that since the departmental proceedings
were delayed due to the appellant’s seeking frequent
adjournments from time to time and hence he is not
entitled to claim the benefit of period of suspension for
fixing his pension which, according to him, was rightly
fixed after excluding the suspension period.
20) Having heard the learned counsel for the parties
and on perusal of the record of the case, we find force

only in the third submission of the appellant's counsel
whereas the first two submissions are concerned, we
find no substance.
21) We have perused the record of the departmental
proceedings and find that the inquiry officer fully
observed principle of natural justice while conducting
the departmental proceedings. It is not in dispute that
the appellant was served with detailed charge sheet
along with the documents referred to therein. He filed
reply to the charge sheet. The parties were then given
full opportunity to adduce evidence and which they
availed of by examining witnesses in their support and
by cross-examining each of them. What more, in our
opinion, is then required in any departmental
proceedings? The writ court examined this issue in
detail and rightly recorded the finding that the inquiry
officer observed the principle of natural justice in the
departmental proceedings and found no fault in the

proceedings so as to entitle the court to interfere in
writ jurisdiction.
22) We find no good ground to take a different view
on this issue and reject this submission being devoid
of any merit.
23) This takes us to the next question as to whether
the punishment of compulsory retirement inflicted on
the appellant was justified or not. It was the
submission of learned counsel for the appellant that
the punishment of compulsory retirement was not
justified. However, in our view, it was rightly inflicted.
24) It is a settled principle of law that once the
charges leveled against the delinquent employee are
proved then it is for the appointing authority to decide
as to what punishment should be imposed on the
delinquent employee as per the Rules. The appointing
authority, keeping in view the nature and gravity of
the charges, findings of the inquiry officer, entire
service record of the delinquent employee and all

relevant factors relating to the delinquent, exercised
its discretion and then imposed the punishment as
provided in the Rules.
25) Once such discretion is exercised by the
appointing authority in inflicting the punishment
(whether minor or major) then the Courts are slow to
interfere in the quantum of punishment and only in
rare and appropriate case substitutes the punishment.
26) Such power is exercised when the Court finds
that the delinquent employee is able to prove that the
punishment inflicted on him is wholly unreasonable,
arbitrary and disproportionate to the gravity of the
proved charges thereby shocking the conscious of the
Court or when it is found to be in contravention of the
Rules. The Court may, in such cases, remit the case to
the appointing authority for imposing any other
punishment as against what was originally awarded to
the delinquent employee by the appointing authority

as per the Rules or may substitute the punishment by
itself instead of remitting to the appointing authority.
27) Learned counsel for the appellant was not,
however, able to show us with reference to the facts of
the case that the case of the appellant satisfies any of
the aforementioned grounds so as to entitle this Court
to interfere in the quantum of punishment and hence,
in our considered view, the punishment of compulsory
retirement inflicted upon the appellant by the
appointing authority having regard to the nature of
proved charges appears to be just and proper and does
not call for any interference.
28) This takes us to the last submission of learned
counsel for the appellant, which in our considered
view, deserves serious consideration.
29) One cannot dispute in this case that the
suspension period was unduly long. We also find that
the delay in completion of the departmental
proceedings was not wholly attributable to the

appellant but it was equally attributable to the
respondents as well. Due to such unreasonable delay,
the appellant naturally suffered a lot because he and
his family had to survive only on suspension
allowance for a long period of 9 years.
30) We are constrained to observe as to why the
departmental proceeding, which involved only one
charge and that too uncomplicated, have taken more
than 9 years to conclude the departmental inquiry. No
justification was forthcoming from the respondents’
side to explain the undue delay in completion of the
departmental inquiry except to throw blame on the
appellant's conduct which we feel, was not fully
justified.
31) Time and again, this Court has emphasized that
it is the duty of the employer to ensure that the
departmental inquiry initiated against the delinquent
employee is concluded within the shortest possible
time by taking priority measures. In cases where the

delinquent is placed under suspension during the
pendency of such inquiry then it becomes all the more
imperative for the employer to ensure that the inquiry
is concluded in the shortest possible time to avoid any
inconvenience, loss and prejudice to the rights of the
delinquent employee.
32) As a matter of experience, we often notice that
after completion of the inquiry, the issue involved
therein does not come to an end because if the
findings of the inquiry proceedings have gone against
the delinquent employee, he invariably pursues the
issue in Court to ventilate his grievance, which again
consumes time for its final conclusion.
33) Keeping these factors in mind, we are of the
considered opinion that every employer (whether State
or private) must make sincere endeavor to conclude
the departmental inquiry proceedings once initiated
against the delinquent employee within a reasonable
time by giving priority to such proceedings and as far

as possible it should be concluded within six months
as an outer limit. Where it is not possible for the
employer to conclude due to certain unavoidable
causes arising in the proceedings within the time
frame then efforts should be made to conclude within
reasonably extended period depending upon the cause
and the nature of inquiry but not more than a year.
34) Now coming to the facts of the case in hand, we
find that the respondent has fixed the appellant's
pension after excluding the period of suspension (9
years and 26 days). In other words, the respondents
while calculating the qualifying service of the appellant
for determining his pension did not take into account
the period of suspension from 06.02.1990 to
01.03.1999.
35) Having regard to the totality of the facts and the
circumstances, which are taken note of supra, we are
of the view that the period of suspension should have
been taken into account by the respondents for

determining the appellant's pension and we
accordingly do so.
36) In view of foregoing discussion, the appeal
succeeds and is allowed in part only to the extent
indicated above in relation to fixation of appellant's
pension. The respondents are accordingly directed to
re-determine the appellant’s pension by taking into
account the period of suspension (06.02.1990 to
01.03.1999) and then pay to the appellant arrears of
the difference amount from the date he became eligible
to claim pension and then to continue to pay the
appellant re-determined pension regularly in future as
per Rules. It is to be done within three months from
the date of receipt of this order. No costs.
 .……...................................J.
 [J. CHELAMESWAR]

 ………..................................J.
 [ABHAY MANOHAR SAPRE]
New Delhi,
December 16, 2015.

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