In a landmark judgment (read here) dated 16 February 2015, the Supreme Court had directed in the case of Ajay Kumar Choudhary v. Union of India, (2015) 7 SCC 291 : AIR 2015 SC 2389, that the suspension of a Government servant shall not be extended beyond a period of three months, if within this period the Memorandum of Charges / charge-sheet is not served on the delinquent officer / employee [see: Suspension order not to extend beyond 3 months if charge-sheet is not served, says Supreme Court]. Now, in compliance of the directions given in above judgment, on 23 August 2016, the Government of India has itself specifically decided, by issuing an Office Memorandum, that where a Government servant is placed under suspension, the order of suspension should not extend beyond three months, if within this period the charge-sheet is not served to the charged officer. The Government has also directed that it should be ensured that the charge sheet is issued before expiry of 90 days from the date of suspension and has also said that as the suspension will lapse in case this time line is not adhered to, a close watch needs to be kept at all levels to ensure that charge sheets are issued in time. In view of this, if at all there was a doubt about the implementation of the above legal principle laid down by the Supreme Court, that shall stand removed.
These directions are contained in the Office Memorandum vide F. No. 11012/04/2016-Estt.(A) dated 23.08.2016 of the Government of India, Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Personnel & Training. This O.M. has further directed that all Ministries / Departments / Offices should bring the above guidelines to the notice of all Disciplinary Authorities under their control.
The aforesaid O.M. issued by the Government of India specifically reproduces the following directions given by the Supreme Court in the above case:
“We, therefore, direct that the currency of a Suspension Order should not extend beyond three months if within this period the Memorandum of Charges/Chargesheet is not served on the delinquent officer/employee; if the Memorandum of Charges / Chargesheet is served a reasoned order must be passed for the extension of the suspension. As in the case in hand, the Government is free to transfer the concerned person to any Department in any of its offices within or outside the State so as to sever any local or personal contact that he may have and which he may misuse for obstructing the investigation against him. The Government may also prohibit him from contacting any person, or handling records and documents till the stage of his having to prepare his defence. … … Furthermore, the direction of the Central Vigilance Commission that pending a criminal investigation departmental proceedings are to be held in abeyance stands superseded in view of the stand adopted by us.”
It is noteworthy that in the above case, the Supreme Court had also observed that this will adequately safeguard the universally recognized principle of human dignity and the right to a speedy trial and shall also preserve the interest of the Government in the prosecution. The court recognized that previous Constitution Benches had been reluctant to quash proceedings on the grounds of delay, and to set time limits to their duration. It was observed that, however, the imposition of a limit on the period of suspension had not been discussed in prior case law, and would not be contrary to the interests of justice.
Thus, with these guidelines issued by the Government of India, now it should help many Government servants who continue on suspension for long durations without serving charge sheet on them.