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The Delhi High Court on 13th August in DP Sharma v BSES Rajdhani Power overturned the departmental findings of the Electricity Board on both factual grounds as well as the fact that there had been inexplicable delay in initiating departmental enquiry, saying the same vitiated inquiry proceedings.

High Court ruling rendered by Single Judge, Justice Suresh K Kait observed, “the order passed by the Appellate Authority is a non-speaking order and suffers from vice of non application of mind.”

DP Sharma received a memo in October 1990 charging him of alleged misconduct in June 1980 and October 1982. He raised objection to the holding of departmental inquiry after an inordinate and unexplained delay of more than 13 years. The Disciplinary Authority held him guilty and imposed penalty severely affecting his pay grade.

It was noted that “the inquiry officer had given a finding in favour of the petitioner and held that the charges against the petitioner were not proved. The findings of the inquiry officer were based on material available on record.” Court thus held, “the disciplinary authority had no occasions/justifications to differ with the findings of the inquiry officer.”

On point, the court also pointed out, “Strict rules of evidence are not applicable to departmental enquiry proceedings. The only requirement of law is that the allegation against the delinquent officer must be established by such evidence acting upon which a reasonable person acting reasonably and with objectivity may arrive at a finding upholding the gravamen of the charge against the delinquent officer. Mere conjecture or surmises cannot sustain the finding of guilt even in departmental enquiry proceedings. The court exercising the jurisdiction of judicial review would not interfere with the findings of fact arrived at in the departmental enquiry proceedings excepting in a case of mala fides or perversity.”

“The alleged misconduct was purportedly committed in the year 1980-82 and period of almost 38 years have passed since the said alleged misconduct. Moreover, it is a case of no evidence against the petitioner and, therefore, fresh inquiry, if directed to be conducted, would be a futile exercise.” – the Court held.

— India Legal Bureau

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