Writ Petition : Allahabad High Court : No inquiry can be initiated or continue after the death of employees.
- In a peculiar case heard by the Allahabad High Court, the issue of continuing a disciplinary inquiry against a deceased employee was addressed.
- The case involved Sri Ghasi Ram, a Mali working for Nagar Nigam Bareilly, who was suspended on July 21, 2005. Unfortunately, Ghasi Ram passed away on July 31, 2005, and the information reached Nagar Nigam on August 2, 2005.
- Despite the employee’s death, the inquiry officer submitted a report on October 5, 2005, stating that all charges against Ghasi Ram had been proven.
- The disciplinary authority, acknowledging the employee’s demise, agreed with the inquiry report and found Ghasi Ram guilty of misconduct. However, due to his death, the penalty of dismissal was not possible. As a result, all the retirement benefits, including the provident fund, were withheld from Ghasi Ram’s legal heirs, and they were also denied compassionate appointment.
- The petitioner, Smt. Rajeshwari Devi, the deceased employee’s widow, argued that the continuation of the proceedings and the punishment imposed were illegal.
- She contended that after the employee’s death, no inquiry could proceed, and the punishing authority had no right to withhold the retirement benefits rightfully belonging to the legal heirs.
- Furthermore, she asserted that the right to compassionate appointment should not be denied as it was not listed as a punishment in the rules.
- She pointed out that the charge sheet had not even been served to her husband before his death and requested the payment of all dues and compassionate appointment for a family member.
- The counsel for the petitioner argued that there was no provision allowing the continuation of a departmental inquiry after the death of the employee concerned.
- In the case of government servants, it was clearly stated that if a government servant dies while a disciplinary proceeding is pending, the proceeding stands abated.
- The counsel emphasized that the penalties imposed had not been provided for in the rules and were unjustly imposed on the deceased employee’s legal heirs.
- Furthermore, it was pointed out that the entire proceeding was a farce as the notice of oral hearing was served after the employee’s death.
- The counsel representing Nagar Nigam contended that the employee’s death did not affect the pending inquiry and that the impugned orders were justified due to the serious misconduct committed by the petitioner’s husband, who had sold a house allocated to him by the Nigam.
- The court, after considering the arguments and the relevant rules, concluded that a departmental inquiry and the imposition of penalties could only be carried out while the employee concerned was alive and in service. As soon as an employee dies, their relationship with the employer ends, and the proceedings, including the disciplinary inquiry, cease to exist.
- The penalties listed under Rule 27 of the U.P. Nagar Mahapalika Sewa Niyamawali, 1962, could only be imposed on an employee who was still alive.
- Consequently, no penalty could be imposed on the legal heirs of a deceased employee, and no authority had the power to deprive them of their rightful benefits.
- The court expressed its displeasure with the Nagar Nigam officers for continuing the departmental inquiry against a deceased person despite being informed of the employee’s death.
- In light of these findings, the court allowed the writ petition, quashed the impugned orders, and directed the respondents to promptly pay all the dues to the legal heirs of Ghasi Ram, treating the disciplinary proceeding as abated on that date of death.