Safeguards against arbitrary dismissal of the civil servants

Q.  Which of the following is/are true?

1) Safeguards against any arbitrary dismissal from their posts are applicable to members of civil and defense services whether they are from state or center.
2) The opportunity of being heard is given to a civil servant at two stages - at the inquiry stage and at the punishment stage.

- Published on 16 Mar 17

a. Only 1
b. Only 2
c. Both 1 and 2
d. None of the above

ANSWER: None of the above
  • Civil Servants hold office during the pleasure of the President or the Governor of the state (in case of state officers).

  • Article 311 places two restrictions on this.

  • It provides two safeguards to civil servants against any arbitrary dismissal from their posts -

    1. A civil servant cannot be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed.

    2. A civil servant cannot be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

  • The above two safeguards are available only to the members of the civil services of the centre, the All-India Services, the civil services of a state or to persons holding civil posts under the centre or a state.

  • They are not to the members of defense services or persons holding military posts.

  • However, the second safeguard (holding inquiry) is not available in the following three cases -

    a. where a civil servant is dismissed or removed or reduced in rank on the ground of conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge; or

    b. where the authority empowered to dismiss or remove a civil servant or to reduce him in rank is satisfied that for some reason (to be recorded in writing), it is not reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry; or

    c. where the President or the Governor is satisfied that in the interest of the security of the state, it is not expedient to hold such inquiry.

  • Originally, the opportunity of being heard was given to a civil servant at two stages - at the inquiry stage and at the punishment stage.

  • But, the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976 abolished the provision for second opportunity.

  • Hence, the present position is that where it is proposed( after inquiry) to impose upon a civil servant the punishment of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank, it may be imposed on the basis of the evidence adduced at the inquiry without giving him any opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed.

  • The Supreme Court held that the expression ‘reasonable opportunity of being heard’ envisaged to a civil servant (in the second safeguard mentioned above) includes -

    1. an opportunity to deny his guilt and establish his innocence which he can only do if he is told what the charges against him are and the allegations on which such charges are based;

    2. an opportunity to defend himself by cross-examining the witnesses produced against him and by examining himself or any other witnesses in support of his defense; and

    3. the disciplinary authority must supply a copy of the inquiry officer’s report to the delinquent civil servant for observations and comments before the disciplinary authority considers the report.

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