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Friday, December 27, 2013

Central Administrative Tribunal quashes fresh proceedings against retired employee

CHENNAI: Can an employee be punished twice for the same offence? No, said the Chennai bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on Wednesday quashing an order of the ministry of communications and IT to initiate fresh proceedings against a retired assistant postmaster who had undergone punishment for his supervisory lapses.

The matter pertains to V Muthukannu, sub-postmaster in Karur division, who was accused of irregular closure of a recurring deposit and non-account of deposits. In his submissions to the tribunal, Muthukannu said in March 2010, the superintendent of post offices ordered recovery of Rs 8,000 per month from his salary for the loss caused to the postal department. After seven months, it was increased to Rs 12,000. For his contributory negligence, he paid Rs 5.07 lakh to the department. Also, for a year, his salary was reduced and no increments were provided, said Muthukannu.

However, in April 2012, a month before his retirement, the member (personnel), department of posts, dropped the earlier concluded proceedings and initiated a fresh proceeding for the same lapses. He was also issued a memo stating his retirement benefits had been withheld. He asked the CAT to set aside the order for fresh proceedings.

In the counter, the department of post denied the averments and said Muthukannu was involved in a fraud to the tune of Rs 17.46 lakh at the Karur head post office. Fresh proceedings were initiated according to the rules and there was no question of "double jeopardy." Further, it was an exceptional case and had to be dealt with accordingly.

The bench comprising judicial member B Venkateshwara Rao and administrative member P Prabhakaran said, "Once the punishment imposed is undergone, no one can direct a fresh inquiry in the same set of charges." 

The bench quashed the order for fresh proceedings and directed the department to pay all retrial benefits to Muthukannu.

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