Legal Practitioner Cannot Be Engaged For Enquiry Proceedings Initiated Against An Employee: Delhi High Court

  • Shruti Kakkar
  • 11:08 AM, 10 Feb 2021

The Delhi High Court recently dismissed the petition to allow the petitioner to engage a Legal Practitioner in the enquiry proceedings initiated against her.

"Regarding the documents relied upon against the charged employee, she only has to explain the factual position, and thus the Lawyer would not be in a position to assist the employee in this regard", Single Bench comprising Justice V. Kameswar Rao noted.

In the present case, the petitioner was appointed as a Peon on the compassionate basis on March 11, 2000, after her father's demise. After her appointment, she was transferred to various branches in Delhi, and while she was working as a clerk in the branch office of Punjabi Bagh, she was suspended from the job on November 18, 2019. A show-cause notice was issued to her on December 3, 2019, with respect to omission and commission that resulted in misappropriation of cash. After that, a charge sheet was served upon the petitioner. Thus, she requested to allow her to be represented by a legal practitioner in the inquiry proceedings rejected by the Disciplinary Authority. This resulted in the filing of the present petition.

The Bench relied on the Judgement passed by the Division Bench of Delhi High Court in Mrs Subha Mukherjee vs. UCO Bank CWP No. 3818/1994 decided on May 19, 1995, in which the Court while referring to the Articles of Charges framed against the petitioner viewed that there are no complicated questions of law or fact and what has been alleged against the employee is her acts of negligence of not following the Bank's instructions from time to time. Involvement of a considerable amount of reference to Harshad Mehta does not question law or fact complicated. In this Judgement, it was observed that,

"(7) When there is no involvement of any complicated questions of law or fact in the case in which the prevent petitioner is involved in the disciplinary proceedings and when the Presenting Officer is not either a legal practitioner or law officer or officer trained in the law, the disciplinary authority, refusal of petitioner's prayer to allow hereto be represented by a legal practitioner could not be said to be a perverse order. It could also not be said that the order passed by the disciplinary authority is either against natural justice principles or in contravention of any legal rights of the petitioner. It could also not be said that by refusing the petitioner's request, the petitioner has been put in an unequal position in the said disciplinary proceedings. There are various legislations in which there is a specific provision in the Act that a legal practitioner shall not represent the parties as of right".

The Bench also relied on the Supreme Court's Judgement of National Seeds Corporation Ltd vs. K.V. Rama Reddy 2006 (11) SCC 645 in which the Supreme Court did not allow the employee to be represented by a Lawyer by holding the number of documents as the amount involved are not relevant factors to decide as to whether an employee should be granted permission to engage a Lawyer.

The Bench thus held that the petitioner has not stated how a Legal Practitioner would be better positioned to assist her in explaining the factual position of the documents relied on against the petitioner.

"Mere allegation of misappropriation or involvement of enormous sum does not make the charges framed against the employee complicated, thereby necessitating the assistance of an Advocate. Therefore, the plea of the counsel that the enquiry officer/presiding officer is legal minds and that the petitioner should be given assistance of Lawyer is not appealing", the Court further noted.

Case Title: Biswasri Mukherjee v. Punjab And Sind Bank

Access Copy of Judgment Here