The Telangana High Court has reiterated that long-standing disciplinary proceedings against an employee cannot be a ground for denial of promotion.
Justice Juvvadi Sridevi emphasised that in the present case, the proceedings against the petitioner had not concluded despite the lapse of 14 years and that he could not be denied promotion on that ground anymore.
“In the present case also, inspite of initiating the departmental proceedings and also the criminal proceedings in the year 2009, the respondents have failed to conclude the same even after lapse of almost 14 years. The petitioner cannot be made to suffer for this long period of time without his case being considered for promotion on the pretext of pendency of disciplinary proceedings against him.”
The petition was filed by an employee (Superintendent Engineer) of the Public Health Municipal Engineering Department challenging a Government Order which deferred his promotion until the conclusion of ongoing disciplinary proceedings against him.
He thus approached the court seeking a direction to the respondents to consider his case for the promotion to Chief Engineer.
The petitioner, initially appointed as Deputy Executive Engineer in 1987, faced suspension on 12.11.2009 due to an Anti Corruption Bureau case alleging disproportionate assets. Both departmental and criminal inquiries were initiated and are still pending.
The petitioner, reinstated on 14.07.2010, now seeks consideration for promotion to Chief Engineer for the panel year 2020-2021. Nonetheless, he was being denied promotion on the ground that disciplinary proceedings had not yet concluded.
The respondents argued that the petitioner did not submit a written statement of defence regarding the charge memo issued on 21.11.2012 and missed multiple court appearances between 01.04.2020 and 15.02.2021, causing delays in the proceedings. They cited a Supreme Court judgment Ranjan Dwivedi v CBI, stating that an accused cannot claim the right to a speedy trial if they cause delays.
However, the petitioner contended that the said judgment is not applicable as he explained his non-appearance during the Covid-19 lockdown.
The Court noted that the delay in completion of proceedings could not be attributed to the petitioner as contended by the respondents. It was also found that if any absence was caused by the petitioner, it was due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Justice Sridevi relied on A. Jalander Reddy v. State of Telangana and K. Sai Ram Vs. State of Andhra Pradesh to reiterate that an individual cannot be penalised for the unexplained delay in completion of disciplinary proceedings, and is entitled to ad-hoc promotion.
It was highlighted that despite the initiation of proceedings in 2009, the authorities had failed to conclude them even after almost 14 years. The Court held that the petitioner should not be denied promotion on the grounds of pending disciplinary proceedings.
Justice Sridevi accordingly directed the respondents to consider the petitioner for promotion to Chief Engineer on an ad hoc basis within two months.
It was also clarified that if the petitioner proves his innocence in the ongoing disciplinary proceedings, he would be entitled to claim all service benefits from the date of promotion of his juniors.
Counsel for petitioner: M. Srikanth
Counsel for respondent: GP for Services III