HC upholds paramilitary officer’s ouster over overtures on colleague’s wife

SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir High Court has upheld paramilitary CRPF’s decision about compulsory retirement of its officer against whom the charges of making overtures on his colleague medical officer’s wife were found true in a second enquiry.
The officer, Anil Vyas, commandant of CRPF’s 163 battalion posted at Rambagh Srinagar, had allegedly made overtures on the woman by sending her cherry boxes through his security aide, making repeated phone calls, and insisting for an exclusive meeting between them.
The lady had lodged a complaint with the higher authorities in the paramilitary force, following which an enquiry was ordered against the officer.
The enquiry officer filed the report, stating that allegations were not proved against Vyas. However, the IGP of the force found the report “full of lacunae” and ordered a fresh enquiry into the matter which corroborated the allegations.
Accordingly, a regular enquiry was ordered into the matter. Vyas was subsequently awarded punishment of compulsory retirement from the service.
Vyas moved the High Court and its single bench quashed the second enquiry with the observation that once an enquiry, charges and allegation were dropped, the CRPF had to give reasons for directing a second enquiry on the same allegations.
The CRPF challenged the verdict, stating that the court’s single bench has erroneously proceeded on the assumption that VYas was exonerated in a regular inquiry and that once the charges framed against him were found baseless, there was no reason to direct second enquiry against him.
Assistant solicitor general S A Makroo, representing CRPF, stated that the procedure to be followed in a regular enquiry, as reflected in Rules of 196, were strictly adhered to while conducting the second enquiry against the officer.
He submitted that preliminary enquiry was to be distinguished from a regular enquiry and, therefore, more than one preliminary enquires cannot stand in the ways of disciplinary authority to order a regular enquiry.
Makroo argued that a preliminary enquiry may proceed ex-parte, without giving opportunity to the employee to put forth his stand.
He said that once the competent authority decides to order a regular enquiry on the basis of outcome of preliminary enquiry, or even otherwise, a government employee gets a right to be associated with the regular enquiry.
He said that the allegations leveled were found without substance as per the first enquiry but it could not stand in the way of competent authority to act on second preliminary enquiry report and direct regular a enquiry against Vyas.
“We need not to be reminded that the competent authority may without preliminary inquiry order a Departmental inquiry against a government employee,” a division bench headed by Chief Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar said,
Similarly, the division bench said that the Disciplinary Authority may on receipt of the report from the officer, asked to make a fact finding inquiry, disagree with his tentative conclusions or opine that the IO had not dealt with all aspects of the matter or examined all those expected to unfold true facts.
In such case, the division bench said, they authority would be free to direct a regular inquiry, notwithstanding the outcome of the fact finding inquiry or ask investigating officer to conduct preliminary inquiry afresh.
“The authority would be acting within its powers when it directs a regular inquiry on the basis of report of officer asked to inquire into the matter,” the division bench said, observing that the single judge was not right in assuming that the delinquent officer was exonerated of the charges and therefore the second inquiry in absence of valid reasons was incompetent.