CAT dismisses plea of PGIMER professor, seeking to quash chargsheet over complaint of harassment against him

Jagpreet Singh Sandhu
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The Sexual Harassment Committee, however, did not recommend any action against him.

The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has dismissed the plea of 46-year-old PGIMER, Chandigarh professor, seeking to quash a chargesheet against him over a harassment complaint by a woman employee of the institution.

The petitioner, Dr Pramod Kumar Gupta, Associate Professor of Department of Biostatistics, PGI, submitted in the tribunal that, in 2015, a woman employee who joined the institute that year, was frequently absent from duty and, therefore, requested higher authorities to transfer her. He added that due to this, the woman submitted a complaint against him on January 27, 2016 levelling allegations of harassment against him. The complaint was investigated into by the Sexual Harassment Committee which submitted its report concluding that the complaint of physical touch was not proved, the use of abusive and vulgar language towards all employees of the department (male and female) was proved against him (professor) by the complainant as well as the witnesses. The Sexual Harassment Committee, however, did not recommend any action against him.

Meanwhile, another committee was set up, which was illegal in view of the committee already looking into the sexual harassment charges. The professor was subsequently charge-sheeted in 2017. The professor, thus filed a petition before the tribunal, challenging the charge memorandum/articles of charge and contended that since the governing body is his appointing authority, therefore, serving of charge sheet by the Director is illegal and arbitrary. The tribunal, thus in an order January 30, 2018, quashed and set aside the charge sheet stating that the charge sheet has been issued by Director and not by a competent authority, which is the governing body. However, the competent authority was given liberty to take appropriate action in this regard, if it so desires.

Following which two charge sheets were issued against the professor by the director of the institute and the authority appointed the IO in June 2019, and the professor was informed that as the disciplinary proceedings are pending against the him, he should attend the same. The professor, however, then filed a fresh petition at the tribunal in 2019, seeking to quash the charge-sheets against him, by the governing body.

In reply, PGIMER submitted that the director, PGIMER is competent to initiate disciplinary proceedings against all Group-A faculty posts except Director in terms of schedule 2 of the PGIMER regulation, and the professor has not yet submitted his reply to the charge sheet and has approached the Tribunal against the appointment of the IO. Meanwhile, the petition filed in the tribunal is pre-mature and cannot be sustained in terms of the law laid down by the Apex Court, and the Director PGIMER, and Governing Body PGIMER have the authority of issuing charge sheet and initiating regular departmental enquiry in such cases, also they have taken note of the conclusion drawn by the Sexual Harassment Committee and also the other committee headed by HOD, Cytology who recommended that the complaints made against the petitioner are found true and it is recommended that a proper inquiry be conducted.

The tribunal, after hearing the arguments, held that it is evident that the petitioner has been held responsible in two cases wherein preliminary enquiry was held by the concerned authorities. Subsequently, the charge sheets issued now have the approval of the governing body of the institute.

“…the applicant has been seeking quashing and setting aside of the inquiry proceedings which are yet to begin. He should instead attend the enquiry and put forward his pleadings and grievances etc., if any, during the course of the inquiry and, thereafter, during the conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings. It is obvious that by these litigations, the applicant has been deliberately delaying the process of disciplinary proceedings. The actions taken by respondents in our opinion do not suffer from any illegality or infirmity…”, stated the tribunal order, while dismissing the plea of the Professor.