CAT quashes Rlys order against officer
The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has set aside an order of the Railways for a 10 per cent cut in the monthly pension of an officer of the Indian Railway Traffic Service for various charges. A bench of CAT chairman Justice V.K. Bali and vice-chairman L.K.Joshi quashed the August 27, 2007 order against IRTS officer R.S. Harit mainly on the ground of inordinate delay of 15 years in completing the departmental inquiry. Department inquiry proceedings against Harit, an IRTS officer of 1963 batch and a resident of Jangpura in Delhi, was started in February 1992 on nine charges, but it could be completed only in 2007, 12 years after his retirement in 1995. “It is apparent that there has been an unconscionable delay of nearly 15 years in concluding the inquiry, which started in 1992. The explanation of the Railways that the delay was due to a stay granted by the National Commission on Scheduled Caste and Tribes cannot be accepted as the said commission does not have the power to stay disciplinary proceedings. The delay is unexplained,” the bench said. Allowing the IRTS officer’s plea, the bench ordered immediate restoration of his pension and reimbursement of the amount deducted from his pension, with six per cent simple interest, within two months from the date of receipt of a certified copy of its order. It also took note of the fact that some documents relied upon by the Railways were not given to Harit. Harit was served chargesheet on nine counts, the main charge being refunding wharfage and demurrage (W&D) charges without authority. “W&D charges are like penalties to deter rail-users from delaying removal of their goods from Railway premises and the waiving of such charger cannot be said to have been at the cost of the Railway though this meant pecuniary benefit to some rail-users.” The lone witness had died and the inquiry was ex-parte as the officer did not participate in it. Though the inquiry officer indicted Harit on most of the counts, he said that no ulterior motive could be attributed to him. The report also blamed an Assistant General Manager for the lapses.
Taking objection to it, the bench said, “It is now a well settled principle of law that the note of disagreement recorded by the disciplinary authority has to be tentative in nature and not the final expression of the disciplinary authority’s views. The disciplinary authority has to take a final view in the matter after considering the reply of the delinquent to the report of inquiry officer, the tentative note of disagreement, the representation of the delinquent officer and other ancillary information. If the disciplinary authority comes to the conclusion that the charges are fully substantiated without considering the delinquent officer’s representation, it is unlikely that the disciplinary authority would change his views. His mind is made up. He has a closed mind, likely to be impervious to the applicant’s post-decisional pleas.”
Source: Hindustan Times