The SC in State of Madhya Pradesh vs Akhilesh Jha held that delay in conducting an inquiry does not vitiate it or make it void. It must be shown that prejudice has been caused on the basis of all the circumstances of the case.
- Prejudice must be demonstrated to have been caused and cannot be a matter of conjecture to conclude that the right to defend oneself is prejudicially affected by the delay in conducting the inquiry.
- The case pertains to an officer who allegedly formed and supervised a Gunda squad. It was revealed that some of the Gunda squad members arrested a person who died in police custody.
- A magisterial inquiry was conducted into the incident, the report of which was submitted in Oct 2014. A charge sheet was issued against the officer on June 8, 2016.
- The chargesheet was quashed by the Central Administrative Tribunal on the grounds that it did not provide enough details of the charges and there was a delay of nearly two years. The SC, however, observed that the charges were well elaborated.
- The Court held that the Tribunal did not have the authority to dismiss the inquiry completely. It was illegal.
- The Supreme Court held that every delay in conducting a proper inquiry does not imply that it is tainted. It has to be decided on the basis of the occurrence of prejudice in the facts and circumstances of the case and not on conjecture.
- Respondent claimed to have been a victim of prejudice due to delay of proceedings by losing opportunities of promotion and deputation at par with his other batchmates.
ORDER OF THE COURT
- The Supreme court stated that the High Court failed to properly exercise the jurisdiction vested in it by simply following the judgment of the Tribunal. It should have been noted that the delay in completing the inquiry does not prejudicially affect the claimant's right to defend himself.
- The court said that since the charge sheet was issued while the officer was on duty, the disciplinary inquiry must proceed to a conclusion.
Hope you enjoyed reading this. You may now be able to answer the following questions, let us know in the comments section-
- Can delay in conducting disciplinary inquiry vitiate it?
- What must be demonstrated to hold the inquiry void due to delay?