Inquiries- Are Inquiries Compulsory:-
Inquiries are Mandatory Requirement of Laws. Punishing an Employee without giving all reasonable opportunities to defend against the allegation or Charge of Misconduct is not allowed /permissible as per Laws. Any Violation is Punishable and reversible. Employees terminated without Inquiry at all, or a Bad Inquiry have been “Reinstated with Full Wages” and Penalties imposed for Arbitrary or Perverse Termination. Hence, Domestic Inquiries and Inquiries by Internal Committees are Must.
What constitutes Misconduct:-
In brief, Misconduct means and includes any Act Unworthy of Employment as defined or illustrated sufficiently precisely, in the Certified Standing Orders or in the Codified Service Rules and made known to the Employees of the Establishments
Purpose of Inquiries:-
Inquiries are meant to be impartial and honest investigations into allegations or Charges of Misconduct allegedly committed at the Workplace or arising out of Workplace and in course of or arising out of Employment by an Employee or Group of Employees. Inquiries must be Fair, Just and Proper Inquiry conducted in accordance with the Twin Principles of Natural Justice. The sole purpose of Inquiries is to “ascertain” or “find out” or “know-for-sure the Facts of the Case” or the “Truth” about the allegations or Charges of Misconduct so that Appropriate, Correct, Fair, Just, Proper and Proportionate Disciplinary Action are taken without “Arbitrariness” or “extraneous considerations”.
Results of Bad Inquiries:-
Any Bad or “Perverse” Inquiry is most likely to be scrutinized by Judiciary or other Quasi-Judicial Authority, Rejected with Rebuke and steep Penalties on Employer.
What after Inquiries:-
Based on Inquiry Reports, the Employer has the Non-Negotiable Right to decide the Quantum of Punishment for Proven Misconduct with the Proviso that the Punishment is Proportionate to the seriousness of the Proven Misconduct.
Comparative Study of Similarities or Dis-Similarities between Domestic Inquiry and Internal Committee Inquiry:-
1. Both are Quasi-Judicial in Contents, Nature and Scope;
2. Both must Obey & Observe the Universal Twin Principles of Natural Justice throughout their Proceedings;
3. Both must Proceed in the Order of Events and Inquiry Procedures prescribed / laid down by Laws;
4. Both must maintain Records of the i) Order of Events, and ii) Testimonies on-oath recorded verbatim during entire Inquiry Proceedings in the Presence of a) the Charge-sheeted Employee and b) the Management Representative nominated by the Employer/Punishing Authority in the case of Domestic Inquiries and c) the Employee-Respondent only in the case of Internal Committee Inquiry Proceedings; and iii) Admit any Evidence produced during Inquiry Proceedings as Exhibits; iv) Records of Cross-examinations conducted during the Inquiry Proceedings, and lastly v) Record of Clarifications sought and secured. Care must be taken by the Inquiry Officer/Committee and the Internal Committee to “Not Allow” any “Leading Question” during Cross-Examination and Clarifications.
5. Both must follow the Principles of Natural Justice in Letter and Spirit and without any aberration and hesitation;
6. Both must give all reasonable opportunities to all present especially the Defendant to Cross-examine the Testimonies and other Evidence produced to substantiate the allegations;
7. Both, must proceed with ex-parte Inquiry when, in spite of due Notices issued, either the Charge-sheeted Employee /Employee-Respondent or the Management Representative / the Woman-Complainant, abstains from attending Inquiry Proceedings; and amongst other musts
8. Both must prepare and submit Inquiry Reports with conclusive and definite Findings on completion of Inquiry Proceedings.
Dis-Similarities between Domestic Inquiry and Internal Committee Inquiry shall be covered in the Next Post…………..
To be continued-----------
Harsh K Sharan, XLRI Alumnus,
Spl Educator PoSH Programs & Serving as IC Member (External)
From India, Delhi