In a trouble brewing for the Power Corporation management, Punjab deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who also holds the portfolios of home and power departments, has handed over the suicide case of PowerCom engineer Balbir Singh to the crime branch of the Punjab Police.
The decision came at a meeting of the dy CM with members of the PSEB Engineers Association. The members alleged that due to mounting pressure by the management on him, their colleague had committed suicide.
The PSPCL management had “downgraded” the Annual Appraisal Report of Balbir Singh, apart from issuing a “charge sheet to him for lapses in duty”. However, after suicide of Balbir, the management “silently dropped all inquiries and the charge sheet” issued to the deceased.
Sources said Sukhbir took the decision to hand over inquiry to crime branch, as the association members brought to fore several issues related to misconduct of management.
Balbir Singh, posted as deputy chief engineer (dy CE) in Amritsar, was issued a charge sheet on February 12, 2014 wherein it was alleged that the officer while working as superintending engineer (SE, city), Amritsar, and performing the duty of designated authority provided some relief to a consumer by reducing the penalty amount in a theft of energy case. It was also alleged that the officer took more time to review the case, thus violating the instructions of the Supply Code.
The officer, however, pleaded his case that as a quasi-judicial authority empowered to take decisions in such cases as per the law laid down by the Regulatory Commission, the charge sheet cannot be proceeded against him on this account.
Though the legal section of the PSPCL quoted a Supreme Court judgment, wherein the court has held — an authority passing an order in exercise of its quasi-judicial functions is immune from disciplinary proceedings so far his action is in good faith and within the scope of statutory powers.
The legal opinion held: since in the charge sheet no ulterior motives — giving undue benefit to the consumer or with corrupt motive or acting with mala fide intention — was levelled, in the light of the Supreme Court judgment, the charge sheet would not survive if any disciplinary action was taken against the officer because he was acting as quasi-judicial authority. This opinion was recorded on December 12, 2014, but no move was made to withdraw the charge sheet.
Instead of withdrawing the charge sheet, and despite the legal position available on record, PSPCL issued another charge sheet on January 15 on similar grounds to the officer, who was again performing the quasi-judicial functions of the designated authority. Apart from that the ACRs (Annual Confidential Report) of the officer were also downgraded.
It is further known that disciplinary proceedings against SEs and CEs are to be decided by WTDs (Whole Time Directors), but the cases against Balbir were kept pending, and thus, under pressure he committed suicide in April.
The National Commission for Schedule Castes has already started proceedings into the case, and with the engineers taking up the matter with Sukbhir, he marked an inquiry into the entire episode.
When contacted, Rahul Tiwari, special principal secretary to dy CM, said a formal direction to the police department would be sent by next week.