The Delhi High Court has ruled that protracted disciplinary inquiry against an employee by a management without adhering to a timeframe would be deemed as sheer harassment.
“Prolonged disciplinary inquiry against an employee should be avoided not only in his interest but in public interest and also in the interest of inspiring confidence in the minds of the employees,” Justice Rekha Sharma said.
The observations came while the court quashed Punjab and Sind Bank’s chargesheet and disciplinary proceedings against an employee, Som Nath Manocha, 27 years after he was accused of violating banking regulations. The court also ordered the Bank to release all his dues immediately.
Manocha, a scale II officer, had forgotten about the episode till the chargesheet was served on April 12, 2006, a few days before his retirement. The Bank had kept on hold all his dues totalling to Rs 21 lakh. The charge against him was that he stood guarantor in respect of four loans sanctioned by the Bank in 1980 in favour of a tyre company without official permission. The loans were not repaid.
The 62-year-old told the Hindustan Times: “This was a deliberate act. The management had an axe to grind against me. I had got the permission to stand as guarantor but was made a scapegoat when the amount could not be recovered. I desperately needed the money to fund my son’s higher education. I was shattered. But now the court has come to my rescue. I am thankful to the judge and God,” he said.
The issue was clinched in Manocha’s favour when his counsel RK Saini submitted in the court two judgments where the Supreme Court had deprecated initiation of disciplinary proceedings against employees after a long gap. Observed Justice Sharma: “The case of the petitioner stands on a far better footing than the two cases decided by SC in which the delay was 10-12 years. In the present case, the delay is of 25 years”.
The court said, “There is no explanation as to why it has taken the Bank as many as 25 years to issue a chargesheet against the petitioner when it was known to it from 1980 or at least from the year 1984 that the petitioner stood guarantor for the aforesaid parties”.