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The Central Civil Services (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules, 1965

RULE 19. SPECIAL PROCEDURE IN CERTAIN CASES:

Government of India Decisions

(1) Scope of second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution:-

The judgment delivered by the Supreme Court on 11.07.85 in the case of Tulsi Ram Patel and others has been the cause of much controversy. The apprehension caused by the judgment is merely due to an inadequate appreciation of the point clarified in this judgment and in the subsequent judgement of the Supreme Court delivered on September 12, 1985 in the case of Satyavir Singh and others (Civil Appeal No. 242 of 1982 and Civil Appeal No. 576 of 1982). It is, therefore, imperative to clarify the issue for the benefit and guidance of all concerned.

2. In the first place it may be understood that the Supreme Court in its judgment has not established any new principle of law. It has only clarified the constitutional provisions, as embodied in Article 311 (2) of the Constitution. In other words, the judgment does not take away the constitutional protection granted to government employees by the said Article, under which no government employee can be dismissed, removed or reduced in rank without an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity to defend himself. It is only in three exceptional situations listed in clauses (a), (b) and (c) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) that the requirement of holding such an inquiry may be dispensed with.

3. Even under these three exceptional circumstances, the judgment does not give unbridled power to the competent authority when it takes action under any of the three clauses in the second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution or any service rule corresponding to it. The competent authority is expected to exercise its power under this proviso after due caution and considerable application of mind. The principles to be kept in view by the competent authority while taking action under the second proviso to Article 311 (2) or corresponding service rules have been defined by the Supreme Court itself. These are reproduced in the succeeding paragraphs for the information, guidance and compliance of all concerned.

4. When action is taken under clause (a) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution or rule 19 (1) of the CCS (CC&A) Rules, 1965 or any other service rule similar to it, the first pre-requisite is that the disciplinary authority should be aware that a Government servant has been convicted on criminal charge. But this awareness alone will not suffice. Having come to know of the conviction of a Government servant on a criminal charge, the disciplinary authority must consider whether his conduct, which had led to his conviction, was such as warrants the imposition of a penalty and if so, what that penalty should be. For that purpose, it will have to peruse the judgment of the criminal court and consider all the facts and circumstances of the case. In considering the matter, the disciplinary authority will have to take into account the entire conduct of the delinquent employee, the gravity of the misconduct committed by him, the impact which his misconduct is likely to have on the administration and other extenuating circumstances or redeeming features. This however, has to be done by the disciplinary authority by itself. Once the disciplinary authority reaches the conclusion that the government servant’s conduct was blameworthy and punishable, it must decide upon the penalty that should be imposed on the Government servant. (The position has been undergone a change with incorporation of first proviso to Rule 19, which may be kept in view). This too has to be done by the disciplinary authority by itself. The principle, however, to be kept in mind is that the penalty imposed upon the civil servant should not be grossly excessive or out of all proportion to the offence committed or one not warranted by the facts and circumstances of the case.

5. After the competent authority passes the requisite orders as indicated in the preceding paragraph, a Government servant who is aggrieved by it can agitate in appeal, revision or review, as the case may be, that the penalty was too severe or excessive and not warranted by the facts and circumstances of the case. If it is his case that he is not the person who was in fact, convicted, he can also agitate this question in appeal, revision or review. If he fails in all the departmental remedies available to him and still wants to pursue the matter, he can seek judicial review. The court (which term will include a Tribunal having the powers of a court) will go into the question whether impugned order is arbitrary or grossly excessive or out of all proportion to the offence committed, or not warranted by the facts and circumstances of the case or the requirements of the particular service to which the government servant belongs.

6. Coming to clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2), there are two conditions precedent which must be satisfied before action under this clause is taken against a government servant. These conditions are:-

(i) There must exist a situation which makes the holding of an inquiry contemplated by Article 311 (2) not reasonably practicable. What is required is that holding of inquiry is not practicable in the opinion of the reasonable man taking a reasonable view of the prevailing situation. It is not possible to enumerate all the cases in which it would not be reasonably practicable to hold the inquiry. Illustrative cases would be:-

(a) Where a civil servant, through or together with his associates, terrorises, threatens or intimidates witnesses who are likely to give evidence against him with fear of reprisal in order to prevent them from doing so; or

(b) where the civil servant by himself or with or through others threatens, intimidates and terrorises the officer who is disciplinary authority or members of his family so that the officer is afraid to hold the inquiry or direct it to be held; or

(c) where an atmosphere of violence or of general indiscipline and insubordination prevails at the time the attempt to hold the inquiry is made.

The disciplinary authority is not expected to dispense with a disciplinary inquiry lightly or arbitrarily or out of ulterior motives or merely in order to avoid the holding of an inquiry or because the Department’s case against the civil servant is weak and is, therefore, bound to fail.

(ii) Another important condition precedent to the application of clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2), or rule 19 (ii) of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965 or any other similar rule is that the disciplinary authority should record in writing the reason or reasons for its satisfaction that it was not reasonably practicable to hold the inquiry contemplated by Article 311 (2) or corresponding provisions in the service rules. This is a constitutional obligation and, if the reasons are not recorded in writing, the order dispensing with the inquiry and the order of penalty following it would both be void and unconstitutional. It should also be kept in mind that the recording in writing of the reasons for dispensing with the inquiry must precede an order imposing the penalty. Legally speaking, the reasons for dispensing with the inquiry need not find a place in the final order itself, though they should be recorded separately in the relevant file. In spite of this legal position, it would be of advantage to incorporate briefly the reasons which led the disciplinary authority to the conclusion that it was not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry, in the order of penalty. While the reasons so given may be brief, they should not be vague or they should not be just a repetition of the language of the relevant rules.

7. It is true that the Article 311 (3) of the Constitution provides that the decision of the competent authority under clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) shall be final. Consequently, the decision of the competent authority cannot be questioned in appeal, revision or review. This finality given to the decision of the competent authority is, however, not binding on a Court (or Tribunal having the powers of a Court) so far as its power of judicial review is concerned, and the court is competent to strike down the order dispensing with the inquiry as also the order imposing penalty, should such a course of action be considered necessary by the court in the circumstances of the case. All disciplinary authorities should keep this factor in mind while forming the opinion that it is not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry.

8. Another important guidelines with regard to this clause which needs to be kept in mind is that a civil servant who has been dismissed or removed from service or reduced in rank by applying to his case clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) or an analogous service rule can claim in appeal or revision that an inquiry should be held with respect to the charges on which such penalty has been imposed upon him, unless a situation envisaged by the second proviso is prevailing at the hearing of the appeal or revision application. Even in such a case the hearing of the appeal or revision application should be postponed for a reasonable length of time for situation to return to normal.

9. As regards action under clause (c) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution, what is required under this clause is the satisfaction of the President or the Governor, as the case may be, that in the interest of the security of the State, it is not expedient to hold an inquiry as contemplated by Article 311 (2). This satisfaction is for the President or the Governor as a constitutional authority arrived at with the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers. The satisfaction so reached by the President or the Governor is necessarily a subjective satisfaction. The reasons for this satisfaction need not be recorded in the order of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank; nor can it be made public. There is no provision for departmental appeal or other departmental remedy against the satisfaction reached by the President or the Governor. If, however, the inquiry has been dispensed with by the President or the Governor and the order of penalty has been passed by disciplinary authority subordinate thereto, a departmental appeal or revision will lie. In such an appeal or revision, the civil servant can ask for an inquiry to be held into his alleged conduct, unless at the time of the hearing of the appeal or revision a situation envisaged by the second proviso to Article 311 (2) is prevailing. Even in such a situation the hearing of the appeal or revision application should be postponed for a reasonable length of time for the situation to become normal. Ordinarily the satisfaction reached by the President or the Governor, would not be a matter for judicial review. However, if it is alleged that the satisfaction of the President or Governor, as the case may be, had been reached mala fide or was based on wholly extraneous or irrelevant grounds, the matter will become subject to judicial review because, in such a case, there would be no satisfaction, in law, of the President or the Governor at all. The question whether the court may compel the Government to disclose the materials to examine whether the satisfaction was arrived at mala fide or based on extraneous or irrelevant grounds, would depend upon the nature of the documents in question i.e. whether they fall within the class of privileged documents or whether in respect of them privilege has been properly claimed or not.

10. The preceding paragraphs clarify the scope of clauses (a), (b) and (c) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution, rule 19 of CSS (CC&A) Rules, 1965 and other service rules similar to it, in the light of the judgments of the Supreme Court delivered on 11.07.1985 and 12.09.1985. It is, therefore, imperative that these clarifications are not lost sight of while invoking the provisions of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) or service rules based on them. Particularly, nothing should be done that would create the impression that the action taken is arbitrary or mala fide. So far as clauses (a) and (c) and service rules similar to them are concerned, there are already detailed instructions laying down the procedure for dealing with the cases falling within the purview of the aforesaid clauses and rules similar to them. As regards invoking clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) or any similarly worded service rule, absolute care should be exercised and it should always be kept in view that action under it should not appear to be arbitrary or designed to avoid an inquiry which is quite practicable.

[Department of Personnel & Training OM No. 11012/11/85-Estt. Dated the 11th November, 1985]

(2) Issue of charge-sheet where action is taken under Rule 19:-

Paras 6 to 8 of this Department’s OM of even No. dated 11th November, 1985 (Decision No. 1 above) contain instructions relating to factors that are relevant where action is taken under Clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution.

2. A question has been raised whether, in a case where clause (b) of the second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution is invoked, the disciplinary authority may dispense with the issuing of charge memo listing the charges. Clause (b) is attracted in a case where the disciplinary authority concludes, “that it is not reasonably practicable to hold such an inquiry”. The circumstances leading to such a conclusion may exist either before the inquiry is commenced or may develop in the course of the inquiry. In the Tulsi Ram Patel case, the Supreme Court observed as under:-

“It is not necessary that a situation which makes the holding of an inquiry not reasonably practicable should exist before the disciplinary inquiry is initiated against a Government servant. Such a situation can also come into existence subsequently during the course of an inquiry, for instance, after the service of a charge-sheet upon the Government servant or after he has filed his written statement thereto or even after the evidence had been led in part. In such a case also, the disciplinary authority would be entitled to apply clause (b) of the second proviso because the word “inquiry” in that clause includes part of an inquiry”.

3. Article 311 (2) of the Constitution concerns itself with the punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank, which comes in the category of major punishment under the service rules providing the procedure for disciplinary action against Government servants. The first step in that procedure is the service of a memorandum of charges or a charge-sheet, as popularly known, on the Government servant, listing the charges against him and calling upon him, by a specified date, to furnish a reply either denying or accepting all or any of the charges. An inquiry hence commences under the service rules with the service of the charge-sheet. Obviously, if the circumstances even before the commencement of an inquiry are such that the disciplinary authority holds that it is not reasonably practicable to hold an inquiry, no action by way of service of charge-sheet would be necessary. On the other hand, if such circumstances develop in the course of inquiry, a charge-sheet would already have been served on the Government servant concerned.

4. In para 6 (i) of this Department’s OM dated 11th November, 1985 (Decision No. 1 above) certain illustrative cases have been enumerated where the disciplinary authority may conclude that it is not reasonably practicable to hold the inquiry. It is important to note that the circumstances of the nature given in the illustrative cases, or other circumstances which make the disciplinary authority conclude that it is not reasonably practicable to hold the inquiry, should actually subsist at the time when the conclusion is arrived at. The threat, intimidation or the atmosphere of violence or of a general indiscipline and insubordination, for example, referred to in the illustrative cases, should be subsisting at the time when the disciplinary authority arrives at his conclusion. It will not be correct on the part of the disciplinary authority to anticipate such circumstances as those that are likely to arise, possibly later in time, as grounds for holding that it is not reasonably practicable to hold the inquiry and, on that basis, dispense with serving a charge-sheet on the Government servant.

[Department of Personnel & Training OM No. 11012/11/85-Estt. (A) dated 4th April, 1986]