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Employee can’t be sacked without following due process of law: HC

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Says dismissing an employee without proper inquiry is serious matter; must be avoided

Srinagar: In a landmark judgment, the J&K & Ladakh High Court has ruled that an employee cannot be dismissed from service without recording valid reasons for bypassing a departmental inquiry.

This ruling came in the case titled Abdul Hamid Sheikh versus the UT of J&K. Sheikh was an officer in J&K Police but his services were terminated in 2019 by the authorities “without following the due process of law”.

The court allowed the appeal of Sheikh, a Personal Security Officer (PSO), whom the authorities alleged of having connections with militants and planning to steal weapons from his fellow PSOs.

Underscoring the importance of sticking to the rule-book, a division bench comprising Justices Rajnesh Oswal and Moksha Khajuria Kazmi asked the authorities to adhere to legal procedures, and distinguish between the necessity and practicability of holding an inquiry.

Sheikh had initially challenged his dismissal in the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). But the Tribunal upheld his termination order.

Sheikh then challenged the order in the J&K High Court pleading that the authorities failed to follow proper procedure. He alleged that the authorities denied him a fair chance to defend himself.

The authorities argued that the weightiness of the allegations against Sheikh made holding an inquiry against him impractical.

The division bench, however, emphasized that the authorities can only bypass an inquiry after recording valid justification for its impracticability.

It observed that there was an absence of such recorded justification by the competent authority. Instead, the dismissal order lacked the necessary mention of the inquiry’s impracticability as required under constitutional provisions, it said.

It also said that dismissing an employee without a proper inquiry is a serious matter and cautioned the authorities against such actions.

The bench said “authority can dispense with the inquiry but after recording satisfaction that there are sufficient reasons which make the holding of an inquiry not practicable. So far as the present case is concerned, the respondent authority has miserably failed to record its satisfaction that holding of an enquiry is not practicable due to certain circumstances”.

It also said “the satisfaction to be recorded by the competent authority that holding of inquiry is reasonably not practicable due to some reason(s) is the constitutional obligation on the part of the competent authority before dismissing or removing or reducing the delinquent employee.”

It quashed Sheikh’s dismissal order due to procedural lapses and directed the authorities to reinstate Sheikh within three months.

The court also clarified that the respondents are free to initiate fresh proceedings against Sheikh following proper legal procedures.

 

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