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How to Conduct/Defend Departmental Inquiry
Sequential Steps covering a Departmental
Inquiry - Part: 1

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Sequential Steps covering a Departmental Inquiry - Part: 1

The various stages and sequential steps in the conduct of a departmental inquiry are as under :-

  1. Pre-charge sheet stage. (period - max. 3 months)
    1. Receipt of a recognisable complaint on the public servant

    2. Scrutiny of complaint
    3. Ordering investigation, if found justified
    4. Preliminary report to disciplinary authority about registration of complaint
    5. Investigation by Investigator
    6. Report of investigator received
    7. Scrutiny of investigation report
    8. Submission of investigation report (IR) to disciplinary authority
    9. Scrutiny of IR by disciplinary authority & decision to issue charge sheet.

  2. Pre-inquiry Stage
    1. Issue of charge sheet to delinquent officer ( 2 to 3 weeks)

    2. Written statement of delinquent officer received
    3. Scrutiny of Written State of the CO and decision, thereon.
    4. Appointment of inquiry officer & presenting officer and forwarding relevant material to both, when decided to issue charge sheet under major penalty
    5. Delinquent officer asked by disciplinary authority to nominate his defence assisting officer
    6. Delinquent officer (CO) nominates his DAO and advises disciplinary authority, Inquiry Officer and PO.
    7. Case Preparation by P.O.
    8. PO requests Inquiry Officer to fix date for preliminary inquiry
    9. Inquiry Officer issues summons for preliminary inquiry to PO, CO and DAO.
    10. Inquiry Officer advises controlling authority to relieve DAO for inquiry

  3. Preliminary inquiry & opportunities to CO for case preparation leading to commencement of regular inquiry (max. 4 weeks)
    1. Preliminary inquiry

    2. PO arranges inspection of original records by CO/DAO in respect of management documents submitted by him.
    3. CO submits list of defence documents/witness (additional documents & witness for the inquiry) to IO & PO.
    4. Inquiry Officer(IO) scrutinizes the list and approves the documents/witnesses. IO sends advice to custodians for discovery of the additional documents for the inquiry.
    5. PO arranges for discovery/verification of defence documents
    6. Inquiry Officer fixes date for regular inquiry and sends summons to PO, CO, DAO and all witnesses (both listed & additional). Copies of the summons sent to the respective controlling authorities of PO, CO, DAO and individual witnesses.

  4. Regular Inquiry (1 to 2 weeks depending on number of witnesses to be examined)
    1. Regular inquiry starts

    2. PO files listed documents
    3. Listed management witnesses examined
    4. PO closes management case
    5. CO files defence statement
    6. CO files additional documents
    7. Additional witness (Defence witnesses) examined
    8. CO offers his own testimony, else Inquiry Officer seeks mandatory clarification from CO of circumstances appearing against him.
    9. Regular inquiry closes
  5. Submission of report by Inquiry Officer (max. 4 weeks)
    1. PO submits his brief to Inquiry Officer and forwards copy to CO

    2. CO submits his brief
    3. IO scrutinizes the evidence in total and submits his report to disciplinary authority

  6. Action on inquiry report (2 to 3 weeks)
    1. Disciplinary authority forwards Inquiry Officer's report to CO for second time natural justice.

    2. CO forwards his submissions on the report of Inquiry Officer to the disciplinary Authority
    3. Disciplinary authority scrutinizes carefully the report of Inquiry Officer, submissions of the CO and the entire records of the inquiry.
    4. Disciplinary authority submits his orders and sends copy to the CO and the controlling authority of the CO
    5. Controlling authority implements the orders of the disciplinary authority.

A departmental inquiry involves direct role for a number of persons. In this the disciplinary authority, the inquiry officer and the presenting officer have statutory responsibilities. Witnesses are called in the inquiry to depose oral evidence and, if they are employees of the organization, they do have administrative responsibility to speak the truth. If it is subsequently proved that if any witness deposed perverse evidence, that is, false evidence fully knowing it as false, action can be initiated against him. Similarly the investigating officer will also have job responsibilities to shun bias and report the objective facts in his inspection report. In case of gross omission or distortions in its report, he is accountable.

If all these persons connected with the inquiry discharge their roles faithfully and impartially, the inquiry is rendered bonafide. The inquiry is not deemed aimed at the charged officer, as such, but for purposes of weeding misconduct and ensuring purity and cleanliness in the Service. This should be understood by all. Separate role profile for each person concerned with the inquiry is therefore given. Different functions are explained in subject-wise topics. This will help to provide better clarity and ease of understanding.

A brief account of each of the six stages is given hereunder.

Stage -1 Pre-Charge Sheet stage

This is an important stage, similar to registering an FIR by the police prior to taking up investigation of a complaint against an accused. Giving proper attention and providing structured procedures for compliance of this stage will facilitate getting accurate information on the facts of the charge sheet case and arriving at correct data facilitating a definite decision with respect to issue of charge sheet and planning a time bound schedule for the disciplinary inquiry under a single line approach. Material fallacies and subjective bias in the investigation report may adversely affect the departmental inquiry and render it defective. It is wrong to entrust this stage to the line authorities, as this stage is not specifically codified in the DA Regulations.

Objectives of the stage:
  1. The system should be transparent and impartial.

  2. Action should be time bound. Once issue crops up an equitable decision has to be taken and no one should be left in eternal suspense.
  3. Once a decision is taken to close a case/drop a case, a proper memorandum is placed on record. It should be binding and the hatchet once buried should not be dug out again, unless additional irregularities crop up, to upgrade the case to higher severity.
  4. The register (Complaints Received and Disposal Register) is open for scrutiny by competent authorities , to check, if action taken is impartial, equitable and fair.

Disciplinary action should be distinguished from routine audit and inspection. It should be based on a specific complaint, which should be registered, and at this stage cognizance of the complaint should be made by the disciplinary authority. This means that the registration of the complaint should be done at the level of the disciplinary authority, who should decide whether or not investigation should be made. Complaint register should be maintained separately for-

  1. allegation of corruption or demand/acceptance of illegal gratification i.e. the alleged facts prima facie indicate an element or potentiality of a vigilance angle, and for

  2. Complaints which relate to purely administrative matters or of technical lapses such as late attendance, disobedience, insubordination, negligence, lack of supervision or operational or technical irregularities and other lapses not having a vigilance angle

Sources of Information (Complaint)

Information about corruption, malpractice or misconduct on the part of public servants may come to light from any source, such as:

  1. Complaints received by an administrative authority, including the CVO

  2. Departmental inspection reports and stock verification surveys;
  3. Scrutiny of annual property statements;
  4. Scrutiny of transactions reported under the conduct rules;
  5. Reports of any serious irregularities in accounts revealed in the routine audit

Action to be Taken on Receipt of Complaint
  1. complaint should be brought to the cognizance of the disciplinary authority by the administrative heads within 3 days. Delay beyond this has to be satisfactorily explained.

  2. Observations of auditors/inspectors in their report can only be deemed as complaints for further investigation. They should not be deemed as ends for proceeding directly to issue charge sheets,
  3. However after annual audit/inspection a period of 3 months may be given to the branch to remove serious irregularities. Those omissions satisfactorily rectified may be dropped and no complaints need be registered.
  4. Only the disciplinary authority or higher officers in rank should be deemed competent to register complaints for investigation
  5. After registration of a complaint, investigation should be taken up immediately and completed. A decision taken whether to initiate action or not. If a charge sheet is served, it should be served within 3 months of registering a complaint. Executive authorities should not have the option to defer charge sheeting indefinitely and keep the officer in suspense all through.
  6. Guidelines of CVC in its Manual- Chapter II- to be followed with regards to complaints and chapter 3 with regards to investigation to the extent they are applicable. Relevant guidelines reproduced below. CVC is a specialized anti-corruption agency. It is now a statutory body and also an autonomous body. Its guidelines by default are binding on the Government-owned banks and deviations made in particular cases have to be satisfactorily explained.

Guidelines of CVC for Investigation of Anonymous and Pseudonymous Complaints

Detailed guidelines are issued by CVC in respect of anonymous and pseudonymous complaints. Please refer to them in the Chapter Complaints

Guidelines of CVC for Ordering Investigation

Detailed guidelines issued by CVC are provided in a separate page Investigation2 . Please refer to the same for guidance.

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