In the wake of increasing cases of coronavirus across Haryana, the state government has decided to hold departmental inquiry proceedings and proceedings of revenue courts through video conferencing. A detailed set of guidelines were issued Friday to avoid piling up of pending departmental inquiries and revenue court cases across the state.
The Indian Express explains what all the inquiry officers, presiding officers, alleged delinquents, witnesses, number of other officers from various departments will have to follow while holding a departmental inquiry or revenue court proceedings.
Why the need for video conferencing?
The government has realised that the coronavirus pandemic “is estimated to last for a long time”, which is “hampering the ends of justice to be served by the pending inquiries and revenue matters”.
A government order reads, “Therefore, keeping in view of the of the present condition and the principles of justice, equity and fair conclusion, the government has decided that the online proceedings by way of video conferencing should be restored for speedy disposal of such proceedings, in such exceptional circumstances, which may include pandemic, natural calamities, circumstances implicating law and order or any other condition which the inquiry officer/presiding officer may deem it fit for such proceedings by the way of video conferencing”.
What will be the new procedure?
The concerned department (department that entrusts the inquiry to the inquiry officer) will appoint coordinators — one being at the inquiry point (the place where the inquiry officer physically holds proceedings), and others being at the remote points (the place where any delinquent or witness are required to be present, appear through a video link). The alleged delinquent and the witnesses scheduled to appear in a particular proceeding will have to be ready at the remote point 30 minutes prior to the scheduled inquiry. No unauthorised person shall be allowed to enter the video conference room while inquiry in progress. The person being examined will not be prompted, tutored, coaxed, induced or coerced in any manner by any person and that the person being examined will not refer to any document script or device without the permission of the inquiry officer. The coordinators will also conduct a trial video conferencing preferably 30 minutes prior to scheduled video conferencing in order to ensure that all the technical systems are in working condition at both, the inquiry point and the remote point. If required by the witness, the inquiry officer will also give sufficient notice in advance, setting out the schedule of VC and in appropriate cases may transmit transfer no-editable digital scanned copies of all or any part of the record of the proceedings to the official email account of the coordinator of the concerned remote point.
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How will the officers get reference material pertaining to an inquiry?
Before the scheduled video conference date, the coordinator at the inquiry point will ensure that the coordinator at the remote point receives the certified copies, print out or a soft copy of the non-editable scanned copies of all or any part of the record of proceedings which may be required for recording of statements. However, these will be permitted to be used by the delinquent and witness only with the permission of the inquiry officer.
How will summons be served to alleged delinquents or witnesses?
Summons issued to a witness, who is to be examined through VC, will mention the date, time and venue of the concerned remote point and will direct the witness to attend in person. The existing rules regarding service of summons and the consequences for non-attendance, as provided in the Haryana Civil Services (Punishment and Appeal) Rules, 2016, will apply with respect to service of summons for proceedings conducted by the way of video conferencing.
How will the persons be examined during inquiry?
The coordinator at remote point will check the identity of the witness, prior to the examination in such video conference. The inquiry officer will obtain signatures of the person being examined on the transcript once the examination is concluded. The signed transcript will form part of the record of the inquiry proceedings. The coordinator, at the inquiry point, will dispatch the recorded statement of the person preferably within three days to the coordinator at the remote point.
What if the alleged delinquent or witness demands any document related to inquiry proceedings?
During the course of an examination of a person at a remote point by video conference, if it is necessary to show a document to the person, the Inquiry Officer may permit the document to be shown tin he following manner – if the document is at the inquiry point, by transmitting a copy or the image of the document to the remote point electronically. The Inquiry Officer will use facilities recommended for video conference in draft model rules framed in this regard by the title of Rules for Video Conference for Courts circulated by Registrar General, Punjab and Haryana High Court to all the district and Sessions Judge in the state of Haryana, Punjab and UT.
The Inquiry Officer, Presiding Officer and Department Representative will remain present at inquiry point.
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