New Delhi: A Rajasthan Armed Constabulary (RAC) constable, punished for alleged lapse in guarding the Delhi High Court 16 years ago, got relief from the court which quashed disciplinary proceedings against him saying that he was not "given any opportunity to defend himself".
"The present writ petition is allowed. The findings of the Inquiry Officer are quashed. Punishment order dated 23 rd June, Appellate Authority`s 20th November, 1997 and order dated 6th May, 1998 passed in review are also set aside.”
"Under the above said circumstances, the petitioner is entitled to all the consequential benefits including pay and allowances, seniority etc", a bench of Justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Manmohan Singh said.
Following the disciplinary proceedings, the RAC, on June 23, 1997, awarded punishment to Constable Mukesh Chand stopping one future annual increment. Also, the suspension period from July 27, 1996 was to be treated as time spent on duty for all financial purposes.
Among three charges of misconduct, one of the allegations against Chand was that he remained absent from his duty at the Delhi High Court building from July 17 to July 20 in 1996 and "remained wandering with some unknown strangers for 4-5 hours leaving his duty...".
Coming to the rescue of the constable, the court said, "It is clear that the inquiry has not been conducted as per Rule 16 of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules."
"The petitioner has not been given any opportunity to defend himself in the matter. The request of the petitioner was rejected without assigning any reason. The charges framed against the petitioner are vague," it said, adding that the plea of constable that he be provided with a defence assistant was twice rejected by the inquiry officer.
Justice Manmohan Singh said "It appears from the material placed on record that the petitioner was not allowed to have the defence assistant of his choice under the Rule....".
The court lent credence to the testimony of Ram Kumar, a witness in the inquiry proceedings, who had said that "Chand had performed his duty (at the High Court premises) at the assigned time."
The constable and his other colleagues in the RAC were proceeded against in a joint disciplinary proceeding despite the fact that the allegations were not common, the court said.
"After having gone through relevant record, we totally agree with the submission of the learned counsel for the petitioner as apparently in the matter the joint inquiry was conducted against the petitioner and other charged officers and allegations against the petitioner were different," it said.