DepartmentL PROCEEDINGS SHOULKD BE FINISHED MAXIMUM WITHIN 1 YEAR. iF MORE TINME IS TAKEN DEPrtment is guilty of laches annd employee must be given clean chit.Rnquiry report of departmental proceedings must be submitted maximumn within 6 months to one year or a reasonable time. see below.
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Delhi High Court
Union Of India (Uoi) And Ors. vs Lalit Kumar on 9 January, 2007
Author: M Mudgal
Bench: M Mudgal, A Suresh
JUDGMENT Mukul Mudgal, J.
1. This writ petition belatedly challenges the order of the Tribunal dated 16th September, 2005 which quashed the show cause notice on the ground that the charge sheet was issued after 16 years of the incident. It is not in dispute that the incident from which this writ petition arises is an incident of 1987 and was admittedly detected by the appellant in 1990. The charge sheet was issued on 21st July, 2003. The learned Counsel for the petitioner has contended that the law laid down by the judgment of the Division Bench of this Court in LPA No. 505/2004 titled Municipal Corporation of Delhi and Anr. v. R.V. Bansal, delivered on 3rd March, 2006 is clear that in case of grave financial irregularties, the charge sheet cannot be quashed on account of delay.
2. The Tribunal has relied upon the position of law laid down in the following judgments of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in arriving at a conclusion that the charge-sheet was hopelessly belated:
1. State of M.P. v. Bani Singh where it was held as follows:
4. The appeal against the order dated 16.12.1987 has been filed on the ground that the Tribunal should not have quashed the proceedings merely on the ground of delay and laches and should have allowed the enquiry to go on to decide the matter on merits. We are unable to agree with this contention of the learned Counsel. The irregularities which were the subject-matter of the enquiry is said to have taken place between the years 1975-77. It is not the case of the department that they were not aware of the said irregularities, if any, and came to know it only in 1987. According to them even in April, 1977 there was no doubt about the involvement of the officer in the said irregularities and the investigations were going on since then. If that is so, it is unreasonable to think that they would have taken more than 12 years to initiate the disciplinary proceedings as stated by the Tribunal. There is no satisfactory explanation for the inordinate delay in issuing the charge memo and we are also of the view that it will be unfair to permit the department enquiry to be proceeded with at this stage. In any case there are no ground to interfere with the Tribunal's orders and accordingly we dismiss the appeal.
2. State of A.P. v. N. Radhakishan (1998) 4 SC 154; where it was held as follows:
In considering whether delay has vitiated the disciplinary proceedings, the court has to consider the nature of charge, its complexity and on what account the delay has occurred. If the delay is unexplained, prejudice tot he delinquent employee is writ large on the face of it. It could also be seen as to how much the disciplinary authority is serious in pursuing the charges against its employees. It is the basic principle of administrative justice that an officer entrusted with a particular job has to perform his duties honestly, efficiently and in accordance with the rules. If he deviates from this path, he is to suffer a penalty prescribed. Normally, disciplinary proceedings should be allowed to take its course as per relevant rules but then delay defeats justice. Delay causes prejudice to the charged officer unless it can be shown that he is to blame for the delay or when there is proper explanation for the delay in conducting disciplinary proceedings. Ultimately, the court is to balance these two diverse considerations.
3. State of Punjab v. Chaman Lal Goyal where it was held as follows:
Now remains the question of delay. There is undoubtedly a delay of five and a half years in serving the charges. The question is whether the said delay warranted the quashing of charges in this case. It is trite to say that such disciplinary proceeding must be conducted soon after the irregularities are committed or soon after discovering the irregularities. They cannot be initiated after lapse of considerable time. It would not be fair to delinquent officer. such delay also makes the task of proving the charges difficult and thus not also in the interest of administration. Delayed initiation of proceedings is bound to give room for allegations of bias, mala fides and misuse of power. If the delay is too long and is unexplained, the Court may well interfere and quash the charges. But how long a delay is too long always depends upon the facts of the given case. Moreover, if such delay is likely to cause prejudice to the delinquent officer in defending himself, the enquiry has to be interdicted. Whenever such a plea is raised, the Court has to weigh the facts appearing for and against the said pleas and take a decision on the totality of circumstances. In other words, the court has to indulge in a process of balancing.