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Govt can initiate departmental action after employee retires: HC

Post by on Wednesday, August 24, 2022

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Srinagar, Aug 23: The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh Tuesday ruled that the government can conduct departmental proceedings against a retired government employee to determine the amount of loss caused to the public exchequer by negligence or fraud and recover the same from his pension.
The court ruled that under Article 168-A of the Jammu & Kashmir Civil Service Regulations, 1956, the government is well within its right to conduct departmental proceedings against a government Officer or government employee (serving or retired) to find out and determine the amount of loss caused to the government by negligence or fraud of such employee and recover the same from his pension.
"Such departmental enquiry shall, however, be restricted only to the determination of financial loss caused to the government by the delinquent government employee and would not be applied or made use of for the purposes of imposing the punishment(s) prescribed under Rule 30 of the J&K Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1956," the court held.
Justice Sanjeev Kumar held that under Rule 30 and 33 to 35 of the Rules of 1956, the government is empowered to institute and conduct disciplinary proceedings for imposition of penalties enumerated in Rule 30 only against "a member of service" and member of service would not include a "retired government employee."
The court was hearing a plea by Mukhtar Ahmad Bhat, who superannuated from service on May, 31, 2021 challenging an order issued by the government on May, 28, 2021 whereby the petitioner has been served with Article of Charges and statement of imputation in support of each charge and has been asked to submit his written statement of defence.
The petitioner challenged the order of the government on the ground that the order was served upon the petitioner after May, 31, 2021 i.e. after the date of his superannuation on retirement from service and, therefore, it was not permissible in law to hold any enquiry against the petitioner after his retirement. 
He contended that the order, which is purportedly issued on May, 28, 2021, even if assumed to have been issued while the petitioner was in service, yet the respondent could not have continued with the enquiry after the retirement of the petitioner from service.
The petitioner also prays for a direction to the respondents to settle, finalize and release his post retiral benefits i.e. monthly pension, gratuity and leave salary etc. 
Perusing the material on record, Justice Kumar directed that the order dated 28th May, 2021 issued in respect of the petitioner may be proceeded only for the purposes of determining the amount on account of loss, if any, caused by any negligent or fraudulent act of the petitioner.
"The petitioner, however, would not be proceeded in the departmental proceedings for the purposes of imposing any of the punishments prescribed in Rule 30 of the Rules of 1956," the court directed.
The court directed that the government shall be entitled to recover such amount of loss, as is found established in the departmental enquiry, if any, conducted by the respondents in pursuance of the notice dated 28th May, 2021.
"Till such enquiry is conducted and amount of loss, if any, is determined against the petitioner, he shall not be denied post retiral benefits," the bench directed.
The respondents were further directed to do well to process the case of the petitioner for post retiral benefits and release the same in his favour within a period of two months from the date a copy of this judgment is served upon them.

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