In a decision with far-reaching impact for bureaucrats facing disciplinary proceedings,the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has ordered that hearings in such cases be held,as far as possible,on a day-to-day basis. The inquiry officer (IO) will have to record the reasons in writing whenever this is not possible.
This decision was taken by a committee of secretaries (CoS) headed by the Cabinet Secretary,which considered recommendations of an expert panel headed by former UPSC chairman P C Hota.
Recommending day-to-day hearings,the Hota panel had said all IOs should maintain order sheets to record proceedings of inquiries and other relevant matters.
If the Inquiry cannot be conducted on a day-to-day basis,the inquiry officer should record in the order sheet the reasons why the inquiry could not be held on a day-to-day basis, it said.
The CoS,however,did not accept the Hota panel recommendation to amend Departmental Enquiries (Enforcement of Attendance of Witnesses and Production of Documents) Act 1972 to empower IOs to exercise the powers of a civil court for enforcement of attendance of witnesses and production of documents.
Instead,to expedite disposal of departmental inquiries,it asked the DoPT to direct all departments concerned to decide within 30 days references for giving the power of a civil court to an IO.
The Hota panel had said for each departmental inquiry,the government has the power to issue a notification empowering an IO to enforce attendance of witnesses or ensure production of documents. Issuance of a separate notification in each case was a time-taking process and did not serve any useful purpose,it said. Therefore,the panel recommended amending the Act to confer civil court powers on all IOs.
But the CoS noted that the need to enforce attendance arises only in a few cases and hence there may not be a need to amend the Act and said the purpose could be served by issuance of administrative instructions laying down specific timelines for consideration of requests for issuance of notifications under the said Act.
In another important decision,the DoPT directed that to prevent delay in completing departmental inquiries,the official file submitted to the Disciplinary Authority to initiate an inquiry must have a copy of the draft Articles of Charge along with the imputations in support and a list of witnesses and documents.
Such action before approval of the Disciplinary Authority is obtained to initiate a Departmental Inquiry against a delinquent Government Servant would ensure timely framing and service of the Articles of Charge. We also recommend that when a case is sent to the CVC for its first stage advice,the Articles of Charge,complete in all respects,must be submitted to the CVC, it said.