Corporation of India Vs. Bant Sigh & ANR  INSC
557 (7 July 1997)
RAMASWAMY, D.P. WADHWA.
O R D
have heard learned counsel for the parties.
appeal by special leave arises from the judgment and order of the High Court of
Punjab & Haryana dated 19.12.1996 made in CWP No. 18180 of 1996.
admitted position is that pursuant to the charge- sheet dated 1.6.1996 issued
to the respondent, on 20.11.1996, the Enquiry officer rejected permission to
the respondent to engage Shri Kamal Kumar, a retired employee, as a defence
assistant in the enquiry. The respondent was asked to appear either in person
or through an employee of the Corporation or a Central Government or the State
Government employee to defend himself, The respondent did not appear. On the
other hand, he filed a writ petition in the High Court contending that he is
entitled to the assistance of a retired employee of the Food Corporation of India. The High Court allowed the writ
petition with direction to the corporation to allow the respondent to engage
the retired employee as defence assistance. The question is: whether the High
Court is right in giving the direction? It is true that in an enquiry conducted
by the Department, the delinquent is entitled to a reasonable opportunity to
defend himself including the assistance of the employee of the Corporation or
of the Central Government or the State Government employee. Rule 58(8) of the
Food Corporation of India Staff Regulations, which postulates as under:
The employee may take the assistant of any other employee of the Corporation or
any State or Central Government employee to present the case on his behalf, but
may not engage a legal practitioner for the purpose unless the Presenting
Officer appointed by the Disciplinary authority is a legal practitioner, or,
the disciplinary authority, having regard to the circumstances of the case, so
permits." A reading thereof would clearly indicate that an employee is
entitled to an opportunity to defend himself either in person or through an
employee of the Corporation or of the Central Government of the State
Government employee, in the departmental enquiry conducted against the
delinquent. A legal practitioner is prohibited to appear before the Disciplinary
Authority. Under these circumstances, a direction given by the High Court to
allow the respondent to take the assistance of a retired employee, though he is
not a legal practitioner who is prohibited to appear and assist the delinquent,
in reality amounts to permitting the retired employee to have regular practice,
The High Court has committed an error in giving such a direction.
It is stated that pursuant to the direction given by the High Court, the
assistance of a retired employee was already given and the enquiry was
completed. If that is so, the enquiry need not be reopened. In the above facts
and circumstances of the case, we do not want to interfere with the directions
given by the High Court.
appeal is accordingly allowed. No costs.