Jharkhand High Court: Shree Chandrashekhar, J. held that a charged employee has no unfettered right to ask for any document on which the department does not intend to place reliance.
The petitioner was an ex Block Co-operative Development Officer who was in-charge of Kuru LAMPS Project as Member Secretary. A departmental proceeding was initiated against him and he was placed under suspension later on.
The memorandum of charges was served upon him contained the following charges:
- The delinquent employee defalcated Rs. 12,58,048 in different development projects within Kuru Blocks.
- The delinquent employee defalcated Rs. 77,000 from the amount deposited in the recurring deposit scheme under Kuru LAMPS.
A supplementary charge-memo was also served upon the petitioner on an allegation that he defalcated Rs.11,22,125 and destroyed relevant records with a view to cause disappearance of the evidence. In the departmental proceeding, the petitioner asked for some records which were not provided to him and presumably for that reason he did not co-operate in the departmental proceeding. Accordingly, as punishment it was directed that the petitioner should not be entitled for any payment except subsistence allowance during the period of suspension and Rs. 24,57,173 was to be recovered from his post-retiral dues along with deduction of his 10% pension.
The petitioner had assailed the departmental action on the two grounds, namely; the departmental proceeding was conducted in complete breach of the rules of natural justice inasmuch as neither a show-cause notice was issued nor a copy of the inquiry report was furnished to him, and that the right of appeal under Jharkhand Pension Rules had been taken away because the punishment order was approved by the Secretary, Co-operative Department.
Rejecting the second contention, the Bench observed that Rule 43 of the Jharkhand Pension Rules discloses that the appellate authority under Rule 43 is the State Government and not the departmental secretary. Further, the Bench opined that the proceeding was not conducted against the petitioner in violation of the principles of natural justice as the materials on record clearly indicated that the petitioner was afforded opportunity to defend himself but on a specious plea that he was not provided some documents so as to prepare his defence he did not participate in the departmental proceeding.
Noticing that the petitioner had not shown that the documents sought by him were so important that in absence of the same he could not have effectively defended himself, the Bench stated that a charged employee has no unfettered right to ask for any document on which the department does not intend to place reliance–in many cases the procedure adopted by the department is that the charge officer is permitted to inspect the records.
Citing the decision in U.P. State Textile Corpn. Ltd. v. P.C. Chaturvedi, (2005) 8 SCC 211, wherein the Supreme Court had observed that in absence of showing how the alleged non-supply of documents caused prejudice to workman, the same cannot by itself vitiate the enquiry, the Bench stated that in a departmental proceeding in which the delinquent employee refused to co-operate, it was lawful for the departmental authority to proceed in the matter and take a final decision.
Consequently, in the view that the charges framed against the petitioner were very serious, the Bench held that the order of punishment was not outrageous or disproportionate to the charges framed and found proved against the petitioner. Further stating that the quantum of punishment is within the exclusive domain of the departmental authority and the writ Court would not interfere with the same, the Bench dismissed the instant petition. [Bivash Chandra Thakur v. State of Jharkhand, 2021 SCC OnLine Jhar 834, decided on 23-12-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.
For the Petitioner: Abhay Kumar Mishra, Advocate
For the Respondents: Om Prakash Tiwari, GP-III