The Supreme Court has ruled that disciplinary proceedings cannot continue against employees after their retirement unless such action is authorised under the rules regulating their service. The ruling came on a petition filed by one Dev Prakash Tewari challenging the disciplinary proceedings initiated against him in 2006 by UP co-operative institutional service board which continued even after he retired in March 2009. The Allahabad HC had turned down his plea.
“Once the appellant had retired from service on March 31, 2009, there was no authority vested with the respondents (Board) for continuing the disciplinary proceeding even for the purpose of imposing any reduction in the retiral benefits payable to the appellant,” a bench of justices T S Thakur and C Nagappan said.
“In the absence of such an authority, it must be held that the enquiry had lapsed and the appellant was entitled to get full retiral benefits,” the bench added setting aside the Allahabad HC’s order validating the continuation of disciplinary proceedings against Tewari.
The ruling is likely to benefit thousands of government employees who often continue to face disciplinary proceedings even after their retirement and their retiral benefits such as pension, gratuity etc are withheld.
Interpreting the Uttar Pradesh Co-operative Employees Service Regulations, 1975, the bench said there was no provision in it for initiation or continuation of disciplinary proceeding after retirement nor was there any provision stating that in case misconduct was established a deduction could be made from his retirement benefits.
The SC rejected the Board’s contention that the right of the employer to hold a fresh inquiry cannot be denied on the ground that the employee has since retired from service. It directed the state government and UP co-operative institutional service board to give retirement benefits to Tewari along with arrears and allowances during the period of his dismissal and up to the date of reinstatement as if there had been no proceeding against him.
A disciplinary proceeding was initiated against Tewari, an assistant engineer, under the Uttar Pradesh co-operative employees service regulations. He was served a charge sheet and after inquiry he was dismissed from service by an order dated April 27, 1988.
The Allahabad HC held that since disciplinary proceedings were not conducted in accordance with the procedure, there was violation of principles of natural justice and as such it was quashed. The HC, however, said the department was at liberty to conduct fresh proceedings against him in accordance with the regulations.
In July 2006, fresh proceedings were initiated against Tewari which continued even after his retirement in March 2009. In the second round of litigation, the HC allowed proceedings against him forcing him to approach the SC.
Tewari had contended before the SC that the disciplinary proceeding had been on for more than three years and in the absence of any provision in the regulations providing for continuation of disciplinary proceedings post retirement, the Board had no authority to continue such proceeding against him.