HC quashes de-novo inquiry order of health services director into child swapping case
The Himachal Pradesh high court quashed an order of director (health) for initiating a de-novo inquiry (fresh inquiry) against two staff nurses of Kamla Nehru Hospital (KNH), Shimla, who are facing disciplinary proceedings in the baby swapping case pertaining to 2016.
Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan passed the judgment on the petition filed by the two staff nurses, who pleaded that de-novo inquiry was against the rules.
Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the two nurses after Anil Thakur, a Shimla resident filed a complaint on July 4, 2016, to the medical superintendent of KNH that on May 26, 2016, the staff on duty had swapped two babies on May 26, 2016, and demanded a thorough probe into the incident.
The petitioners (staff nurses) were served with Articles of charges and statement of imputations of misconduct and misbehaviour on December 5, 2016, which they denied.
Petitioners contended that Dr RK Baria, who was appointed as the inquiry officer, conducted a detailed inquiry and submitted it to the disciplinary authority that is director, health services, on December 28, 2017.
The inquiry report observed that the charges against the staff nurses were not proved.
Dissatisfied with the conclusion drawn by the inquiry officer, the disciplinary authority, director, health services, without setting aside the inquiry report, ordered a de-novo inquiry.
The disciplinary authority also appointed Dr Sanjay Pathak as the inquiry officer to conduct the fresh probe.
Aggrieved by the order of the director, the petitioners approached the court on the ground that the order was against the rules.
The high court observed that the rule 15 of the Central Civil Services (classification, control and appeal) Rules, 1965, clearly contemplates the power of the disciplinary authority and the action that is required to be taken on the basis of the Inquiry Report.
“Nowhere does the rule empower the disciplinary authority to set-aside the whole inquiry and get the Article of charges re-inquired from any other inquiry officer for no substantial reason,” observed Justice Chauhan.
While allowing the petition filed by the two staff nurses, Justice Chauhan further directed the state authorities to take the inquiry report submitted by the inquiry officer on December 28, 2017, to its logical end as expeditiously as possible and not later than January 31, 2020.