Punishment Order Can’t be Bereft of Any Consideration or Evaluation of Evidences in the Inquiry Report: Allahabad HC

Recently, The Allahabad HC stated that two similarly circumstanced employees even in the matter of departmental inquiry cannot be discriminated.

The bench of Justices Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Om Prakash Shukla was dealing with the appeal challenging the order passed by a Single Judge, whereby a petition instituted by the appellant-petitioner challenging the order of punishment has been dismissed.

In this case, by means of the order of punishment dated 03.06.2019, three punishments were inflicted upon the appellant-petitioner, namely, (1) stoppage of one increment for two years, (2) censure and (3) recovery of an amount of Rs. 8,27,155/-. 

The State Government has issued the said Government Order dated 04.01.2011 for the purposes of determining the responsibility for loss to the Government in the stores of the Public Works Department. 

According to the said Government Order, responsibility has to be fixed upon the Junior Engineer in case he is the physical custodian of the material in the store and responsibility of the Storekeeper has also to be fixed. Liability to the extent of 15% of the total loss has also to be fixed by the said Government Order dated 04.01.2011 upon the Executive Engineer. 

A specific case was taken by the appellant-petitioner it was held by the State in the case of departmental proceedings initiated against two other Executive Engineers, namely, Sri Shailendra Tripathi and Sri Haribansh Singh, that no responsibility of loss could be fixed upon them keeping in view the prospective operation of the Government Order dated 04.01.20211.

High Court stated that the Inquiry Officer has not applied his mind at all to the facts and circumstances as also to the evidence, documents and other material available in the inquiry proceedings. A perusal of the inquiry report submitted by the Inquiry Officer, dated 17.12.2015 would clearly reveal that the same appears to be an exercise in “cut and paste”. The Inquiry Officer after noticing the proceedings in the initial paragraphs of the said inquiry report, has copied verbatim the charge, reply submitted by the appellant-petitioner to the charge sheet, comments of the Presenting Officer and thereafter the reply submitted by the appellant-petitioner to the said comments.

The bench observed that the departmental proceedings conducted against the government officer/employee are quasi-judicial in nature. Any quasi-judicial authority is expected to arrive its conclusion only after consideration of all the materials available before it and after its evaluation. In the absence of any consideration or evaluation of material and evidences available before the Inquiry Officer, if any inquiry report is submitted, the same, cannot be made the basis of taking any decision by the Disciplinary Authority.

High Court after looking into the punishment order passed by the Disciplinary Authority observed that the said order is also completely non-speaking in the sense that the Disciplinary Authority has also not considered and evaluated the material and evidences available on the inquiry. The Disciplinary Authority has only stated, after quoting the charge, reply of the appellant petitioner and the conclusions drawn by the Inquiry Officer, that he is unable to deviate from the view taken by the Inquiry Officer. However, the punishment order is completely bereft of any discussion or consideration or evaluation of the materials and evidences available on the inquiry report. Such a punishment order is alien to the settled legal principles governing the departmental proceedings and accordingly, the same is not liable to be sustained.

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The bench noted that though during the course of inquiry, the Inquiry Officer himself had required the Presenting Officer to obtain the ‘Consignee Receipt Certificate’ from the supplier of the bitumen, namely, Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, however, the Presenting Officer could not obtain the said certificate. It has clearly been recorded in the inquiry report wherein the inquiry proceedings have been extracted, that in absence of ‘Consignee Receipt Certificate’ from the supplier i.e. Hindustan Petroleum Corporation, it will not be possible to determine the quantity of bitumen which was received in the store. 

Further, the High Court opined that in such a situation the said document i.e. ‘Consignee Receipt Certificate’ was one of the most crucial documents to bring home the guilt against the appellant-petitioner. However, despite noticing its significance to prove the charge, the Inquiry Officer has jumped to the conclusion of guilt of the appellant-petitioner even though the said document was not brought on record of the inquiry proceeding.

In view of the above, the bench allowed the appeal. 

Case Title: Sanjay v. State Of U.P.

Bench: Justices Devendra Kumar Upadhyaya and Om Prakash Shukla

Case No.: SPECIAL APPEAL No. – 247 of 2023

Counsel for the appellant: Sri Gaurav Mehrotra and Sri Utsav Mishra

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