Departmental, criminal proceedings can proceed at a time: HC

NEW DELHI, June 10:
A Government official can be made to face departmental disciplinary proceedings and trial for his alleged role in a criminal case simultaneously, the Delhi High Court has ruled, rejecting the plea of an IFS officer, facing the twin trouble.
“The employer should not wait for the decision of the criminal court before taking any disciplinary action against the employee and that such decision on the part of the employer does not violate the principles of natural justice,” said a bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and V K Jain, rejecting the plea of the IFS officer, allegedly involved in trafficking nine persons to Germany in 2005.
“It would, thus, be seen that there is no legal bar on disciplinary proceedings and criminal trial proceedings simultaneously, against the same person,” the bench added, citing various apex court’s decisions.
Rakesh Kumar, a 1972-batch officer of the Indian Foreign Service, had moved the high court for stay on the disciplinary proceedings against him till conclusion of the criminal trial against him saying that it would cause “grave” prejudice to him.
A local court yesterday framed charges for offences of criminal conspiracy, cheating, forgery and corruption against Kumar and three others in the human trafficking case.
Kumar, the erstwhile director general with the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, had allegedly facilitated the trafficking of nine individuals to Germany under the guise of fake cultural group ‘Mehak Punjab Di’ by misusing his official position for extraneous considerations.
Justice Jain, writing the verdict, said “We… Find no reasonable possibility of any prejudice being caused to the petitioner, on account of the departmental proceedings being held simultaneously with the criminal trial.
The court clarified the legal position saying that “the findings in the disciplinary proceedings are not binding upon the criminal court and the standard of proof required for conviction in a criminal case is much higher than the standard of proof required to prove the charge in disciplinary proceedings.”
It said no prejudice would be caused if departmental and criminal trials are being carried out simultaneously as “neither the findings rendered in disciplinary proceedings are binding on the criminal court nor does the acquittal in criminal trial ipso facto lead to termination of disciplinary proceedings, which should ordinarily not be stayed during the pendency of the criminal trial.”
It also said that a criminal case drags for several years and “instances are not uncommon where some of the witnesses either die or become untraceable on account of reasons such as change of address, during the pendency of the criminal trial.”
It is neither in the interest of the employee nor of the administration to stall the disciplinary proceedings pending decision in a criminal trial, the court said. (PTI)