Opportunity of hearing before penalty of dismissal

Does principles of natural justice would require an opportunity to be given to the delinquent employee before imposition of penalty?

The Disciplinary Authority after supplying the Report of the Inquiring Authority had given an opportunity to the Respondent to submit his explanation, which he did. In view of the disability of the Disciplinary Authority in passing an “order of removal” under Rule 68 (2), the entire record was sent to the Appointing Authority who examined the matter and passed an “order of removal”.

In State Bank of India v. Ranjit Kumar Chakraborty (supra) which is the basis of the judgment of the High Court, it was held that the Appointing Authority could not pass an order imposing a major penalty. In that case, the Disciplinary Authority sent the Records to the Appointing Authority who passed order of “dismissal from service”. It is not clear from the judgment as to whether the delinquent officer in that case was given a notice by the Disciplinary Authority before the records were sent to the Appointing Authority.

This Court held that even in the absence of any Rule requiring a notice to be given, the principles of natural justice would require an opportunity to the delinquent employee. It was not held in the said judgment that even if the Inquiry Report was furnished and an opportunity was given to the delinquent there is a further requirement of another opportunity before imposing the penalty. This Court found that before imposition of a major penalty the delinquent was entitled for an opportunity of being heard. The High Court was wrong in holding that the delinquent employee is entitled for a notice before the penalty is imposed.

 Though Article 311 (2) of the Constitution of India, 1951 is not applicable to the Officers of the Appellant-Bank; in Managing Director, ECIL v. B. Karunakar, (1993) 4 SCC 727 ,  Court held that Government servants as well as others are governed by their service rules and that whenever an Inquiry is conducted and a punishment is awarded, a delinquent employee is entitled to a copy of Report of the Inquiring Authority and an opportunity to submit his explanation. The absence of any rule providing for an opportunity to be given to a delinquent employee before imposition of a penalty cannot be taken advantage of by the employer. However, there is no requirement of a second show cause notice before imposition of a penalty.

In this case, the Respondent had sufficient opportunity to respond to the Report of the Inquiring Authority and to the findings of the Disciplinary Authority disagreeing with the Inquiring Authority regarding Charge Nos. 6 and 8. He is not entitled to any further notice before imposition of a penalty.

[Source: State Bank Of India And Ors. vs B.R.Saini, decided by SC on 15 December, 2017]
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