February 16, 2018
Case name: UCO Bank & Ors. v. Rajendra Shankar Shukla
Date of Judgment: February 15, 2018
In the case, the Supreme Court made a scathing attack on the Appellant Bank in view of illegalities in departmental inquiry against the Respondent Employee including the fact that the Respondent employee was denied even the subsistence allowance during the pendency of the inquiry against him.
In the case, the Bench considered the question of law on access to justice in a departmental inquiry. The Court opined that the Respondent was not given a fair opportunity to defend himself by denying him financial resources.
The Court primarily on the following two points dismissed the Bank’s appeal in the case:
Charge Sheet Issued after Inordinate delay is Liable to be set aside
Enormous delay of about 7 years in issuing a charge sheet against the Respondent. Moreover, no explanation was rendered by the Bank for the delay. On this ground itself, the charge sheet against Respondent was liable to be set aside due to the inordinate and unexplained delay in its issuance.
Non-Payment of Subsistence Allowance and Denial to Access Justice
The Supreme Court in the case took strong note of the fact that the Employee after his superannuation on 31st January, 1999 was paid nothing during the pendency of the disciplinary inquiry. He was not his salary because he had superannuated. For some reason he was not paid his pension, perhaps because a departmental inquiry was pending against him. He was also not paid any subsistence allowance during the period that the disciplinary inquiry was pending and even thereafter till 30th June, 1999. Thus, respondent employee was made to face a financial crunch and did not have a fair opportunity of defending himself.
That an employee is entitled to subsistence allowance during an inquiry pending against him or her but if that employee is starved of finances by zero payment, it would be unreasonable to expect the employee to meaningfully participate in a departmental inquiry. Access to justice is a valuable right available to every person, even to a criminal, and indeed free legal representation is provided even to a criminal. In the case of a departmental inquiry, the delinquent is at best guilty of a misconduct but that is no ground to deny access to pension or subsistence allowance.
The Bench in view of amount spent by the Respondent employee in litigation also imposed costs of Rs. 1 lakh on the Bank and directed the Bank to pay it to the Respondent employee within 4 weeks.
The entire case can be accessed here.