Disciplinary proceedings not to be stayed pending criminal trial: SC

The Supreme Court of India reiterated that it is not mandatory to stay the on-going disciplinary proceedings pending conclusion of a trial in the criminal case registered and filed in respect of the very same incident.

The Court said that “The answer to that question would primarily depend upon whether there is any legal bar to the continuance of the disciplinary proceedings against the employees based on an incident which is also the subject matter of criminal case against such employees. It would also depend upon the nature of the charges in the criminal case filed against the employees and whether the case involves complicated questions of law and fact. The possibility of prejudice to the employees accused in the criminal case on account of the parallel disciplinary enquiry going ahead is another dimension which will have to be addressed while permitting or staying such disciplinary enquiry proceedings”.

“The Court examining the question must also keep in mind that criminal trials get prolonged indefinitely especially where the number of accused arraigned for trial is large as is the case at hand and so are the number of witnesses cited by the prosecution. The Court, therefore, has to draw a balance between the need for a fair trial to the accused on the one hand and the competing demand for an expeditious conclusion of the on-going disciplinary proceedings on the other. An early conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings has itself been seen by this Court to be in the interest of the employees”, the Court observed.

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