|"Right to representation available only to the extent provided for in the Rules"|
New Delhi: An employee has no legal right to engage a lawyer while facing charges in a domestic enquiry before the disciplinary authority, the Supreme Court has held.
A Bench of Justices Arijit Pasayat and Lokeshwar Singh Panta said, "the law in this country does not concede an absolute right of representation to an employee in domestic enquiries as part of his right to be heard. There is no right to representation by somebody else, unless the rules or regulation and standing orders, if any, regulating the conduct of disciplinary proceedings specifically recognise such a right and provide for such representation."
The Bench said, "the basic principle is that an employee has no right to representation in the departmental proceedings by another person or a lawyer unless the Service Rules specifically provide for the same. The right to representation is available only to the extent specifically provided for in the Rules."
In the instant case, respondent K.V. Rama Reddy, working in the National Seeds Corporation Ltd., faced misappropriation charges and called for a domestic enquiry. His request to have the assistance of a retired official of the company was rejected and his plea in the Karnataka High Court also failed.
Thereafter, he sought a lawyer's assistance and this was also rejected.
On a petition, the High Court directed the management to consider afresh his prayer for being represented by a legal practitioner. The present appeal by the Corporation is directed against this judgment.
The Bench, quoting an earlier judgment, said: "These are not enquiries in a court of law. In these enquiries, fairly simple questions of fact as to whether certain acts of misconduct were committed by a workman or not only are to be considered. It may often happen that the accused workman will be best suited and fully able to cross examine the witnesses who have spoken against him and to examine witnesses in his favour."
When the general practice by domestic tribunals was that a person accused conducted his own case, it was unable to accept an argument that natural justice demanded that in the case of enquiries into a charge sheet of misconduct against a workman he should be represented by a legal practitioner, the Bench said and set aside the impugned judgment.
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