Karnataka government castigated over protracted departmental probes
Reprimanding the government authorities for denying retirement benefits to employees by protracting departmental inquiries for over a decade, the High Court of Karnataka has directed the State government to complete departmental inquiries within the window of nine months, as set in the norms.
Observing that the norms laid down way back in 2001 to complete inquiries within nine months have remained in cold storage, the court asked the government and all its instrumentalities to adhere to the timeline to complete inquires, including those entrusted to the Lokayukta, under the Karnataka Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeals) Rules.
A Bench of Justice M. Nagaprasanna issued the direction while allowing a petition filed by B.S. Ramaswamy, who retired from the Mysuru Urban Development Department in 2012 but could not get any retirement benefits till now because of the pendency of a departmental inquiry since 2003.
Any deviation from the timeline stipulated in the norms can only be for reasons recorded in writing, the court said.
“This court notices with pain that in an umpteen number of cases, disciplinary proceedings are initiated by issuance of charge-sheet, but are not concluded within a reasonable time. The employee against whom the proceedings are pending is always kept on tenterhooks and denied service and terminal benefits that would become available to him but for the pendency and protraction of such proceedings,” the judge observed.
Also, the court noted that the government itself had, in 1997, come out with the norms, fixing a timeline for the completion of various stages of departmental inquiries and setting 21 months as the maximum period for completion of inquiry proceedings. The window was reduced to nine months in the norms revised in 2001, and this was reiterated in 2020.
In Ramaswamy’s case, the court noted that the departmental inquiry was initiated in 2003, the charges framed in 2005, the proceedings commenced in 2009, and concluded only in March 2018 — that too after a direction by the High Court in September 2017. The High Court noted that the petitioner had no role in the protraction of the inquiry.
Interestingly, soon after the submission of the inquiry report in March 2018 exonerating the petitioner, MUDA initiated a de novo enquiry against him in June 2018, which the High Court has now set aside.
The court also directed the government to release all his terminal benefits and notional promotions, if any, within 15 days from the receipt of the order while awarding a cost of ₹25,000 in the petitioner’s favour.