W.P. (C) 2267/2022, CM APPL. 6521/2022 (for Ad-Interim Relief), CM APPL. 10543/2022
Anish Gupta Vs Union Of India
DATE OF ORDER:
05TH JULY, 2022
Hon’ble Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta
PETITIONER: ANISH GUPTA
RESPONDENT: UNION OF INDIA
Allowing Disciplinary Proceedings to continue indefinitely would not only be highly prejudicial to an individual, but would also be detrimental to the Rule of Law, according to the Delhi High Court. A division bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Anoop Kumar Mendiratta was hearing cross petitions filed against the Union of India by Anish Gupta.
- Gupta was suspended in August 2013 as an Officer on Special Duty (Legal at the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs).
- In connection with an incident in July 2013, he was served with a Departmental Charge Sheet/Memorandum of Charge. To be sure, no criminal investigation or prosecution was ever launched or considered against him.
- The Petitioner then moved CAT, requesting that the Charge Sheet be quashed. CAT granted the Union of India four months to complete the Disciplinary Proceedings arising from the subject Charge Sheet in May 2016.
- Because the Union of India did not comply with the aforementioned directions, the Petitioner petitioned CAT once more to have the Charge Sheet closed. The Union of India admitted that no application was filed with extention of time.
- The case was pending before the CAT for approximately four years, during which time the Petitioner was subjected to Disciplinary Proceedings. Despite this, in December 2020, the CAT granted the Union of India another six-month extension to complete the proceedings, while allowing the Petitioner to approach the Tribunal if the proceedings were not completed.
- Despite the passage of nearly five years since the Charge Sheet's issuance and two extensions granted by the CAT, the Departmental Inquiry had not been completed.
- The CAT granted the Petitioner's application for closure of the Charge Sheet in the impugned Order dated July 20, 2021 and denied the Union's application pending before the Tribunal on the grounds of a challenge pending before the High Court. After that, the Petitioner withdrew his application to the High Court.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- The Court noted that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) issued a Circular on January 18, 2016 containing instructions to comply with the Supreme Court's said directions in all Disciplinary Proceedings, including those involving CBI investigations, in the Prem Nath Bali case.
- Furthermore, the Court determined that no application for extension of time on any genuine meritorious ground specific to the Petitioner's case was filed by the Respondent before the expiration of the CAT's extension granted in the year 2020.
- In this context, the Court observed: "There is no legal argument that the Disciplinary Proceedings cannot continue indefinitely. Allowing such proceedings to continue indefinitely would not only be extremely detrimental to the Petitioner herein, but would also be detrimental to the Rule of Law."
- The Respondent-Union of India-has not filed any evidence to demonstrate that the aforementioned judgement is per incuriam, as asserted. A mere ipse dixit, or bald assertion, cannot a fortiori render an Apex Court judgement as per incuriam.
- The Union of India, as a "State" under Article 12 of the Constitution, is required to act in a fair, non-discriminatory, reasonable, and non-arbitrary manner. The Respondent's conduct in the facts of the case over a long period of 05 years, rather than just on one or two dates of hearing, disentitles it to any discretionary relief of time extension.
- In light of the foregoing, the Petitioner's claim that the Respondent-Union of India has failed to follow the dicta of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Prem Nath Bali (supra) as well as the CVC Circular has ex-facie force.
As a result, the Court dismissed the Union of India's plea and granted Gupta's petition, adding that the Departmental Charge Sheet proceedings would be closed.All subsequent proceedings will also be terminated and deemed non-est ab initio. "The Petitioner must thus be granted all consequential benefits, including necessary promotions on par with his juniors, within four weeks of the receipt of this judgement," the court ordered. As a result, the pleas were dismissed.
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