The Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that there is no absolute right in favour of the delinquent employee, to be represented by an agent of his choice, in departmental proceedings.
A bench of Justices M.R. Shah and Sanjiv Khanna said: “The only requirement is that delinquent officer must be given fair opportunity to represent his case and that there is no absolute right in his favour to be represented through the agent of his choice.”
The bench said however, at the same time, if the charge is severe and complex nature, then request to be represented through a counsel can be considered keeping in mind Regulation 44 of Regulations 2010 and if in a particular case, the same is denied, that can be ground to challenge the ultimate outcome of the departmental enquiry.
“However, as a matter of right in each and every case, irrespective of whether charges is severe and complex nature or not, the employee as a matter of right cannot pray that he may be permitted to represent through the agent of his choice,” it added.
The top court allowed the appeal filed by the Rajasthan Marudhara Gramin Bank, challenging the single judge bench’s order, confirmed by a division bench of the high court, permitting the delinquent employee who is facing disciplinary proceedings to be represented through an ex-employee of the bank.
The top court quashed the high court order, which observed that the Regulation 44 only restricts representation by a legal practitioner, and even that too is permissible with permission of competent authority, and the employee cannot be restrained from availing services of a retired employee of a bank.
The top court noted that in the departmental proceedings, the right to be represented through counsel or agent can be restricted, controlled or regulated by statute, rules, regulations, or standing orders.