Uttaranchal High Court: The Division Bench of Narayan Singh Dhanik and Ramesh Chandra Khulbe, JJ., disposed of a writ petition while giving certain directions in the matter filed by an officer in the Higher Judicial Service of the State of Uttarakhand seeking a writ of certiorari to quash the orders dated 24-11-2020 and 9-1-2021.

The petitioner was appointed as the Civil Judge (Junior Division)/Judicial Magistrate, Ist Class in the State of Uttarakhand in September, 2003 and he had joined his duties on 23-9-2003. He was promoted in the High Judicial Cadre in the year 2011. When he was posted as Ist Additional District Judge, Haridwar, a complaint was lodged against him on 19-3-2018 for the incidents allegedly happened on 31-1-2018 and 2-2-2018. The petitioner was placed under suspension by the High Court vide its order dated 22-4-2018. A chargesheet was thereafter issued to him and a sitting Judge of this Court was appointed as Enquiry Officer to enquire into the charges levelled against the petitioner.

The Court noticed that the Presenting Officer did not admit the official documents which were issued on the administrative side by the District Judge, Haridwar. Same was the position regarding the e-mail which was sent by the delinquent officer to the official e-mail account of the Hon’ble High Court. The Enquiry Officer had rejected the said application on the ground that none of the documents, in question, had been filed by the delinquent officer. The Court mentioned that in the Supreme Court judgment of M.V. Bijlani v. Union of India, (2006) 5 SCC 88 it was held that departmental enquiry was a quasi-criminal in nature. The Court further explained that the distinction between the departmental enquiry and a criminal trial has been considered elaborately by the Supreme Court in Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation v. Sri C. Nagarju, (2019) 10 SCC 367 and held that this Court would, ordinarily, not interdict a departmental enquiry during its progress, as it is always open to the delinquent officer to question the mode and manner, in which the disciplinary enquiry is conducted, even after the enquiry is concluded and before the final order is passed. The court held that although the disciplinary proceedings are quasi-criminal in nature, the charges are not required to be proved like a criminal trial i.e. beyond all reasonable doubt.

Bench while disposing of the petition held that since the above documents had already been filed by the delinquent officer before the Enquiry Officer, one more opportunity should be given to the delinquent officer to prove the said documents submitted in defence while issuing certain directions:

  • The Registrar General will provide the video recording/CCTV footage of the enquiry proceedings to the delinquent officer within a period of ten days from the date of completion of the enquiry proceedings. The cost thereof shall be borne by the delinquent officer.
  • The Presenting Officer will verify the genuineness of the documents dated 13.11.2017, 31.1.2018 and 19.3.2018 as mentioned in the impugned orders within a period of three days and the Presenting Officer will submit its report regarding genuineness of these documents before the Enquiry Officer on or before 5th February, 2021.
  • The Presenting Officer will produce the concerned official of the Computer Section of the High Court before the Enquiry Officer on 5.2.2021 as the defence witness. In case the Enquiry Officer is not available on 5.2.2021, the Enquiry Officer would be at liberty to fix another date for recording the statement of the said witness.

[Kanwar Amninder Singh v. High Court of Uttarakhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Utt 157, decided on 01-02-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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