WHAT IS A CHARGE SHEET?
A Charge Sheet, also spelt as Chargesheet, is a written document address to the employee, who is being proceeded against departmentally. It contains the specific charges or allegations levelled against him.
IS SERVING CHARGE SHEET NECESSARY?
The requirement for issuing a Charge Sheet arises when there is a prima facie (i.e. based on initial impression) case of misconduct on the part of delinquent employee is made out in the opinion of Disciplinary Authority.
However, prima facie does not mean that the allegation is accepted to be true by the Disciplinary Authority. The charge is not yet established against him. It may happen that the allegation proves to be true at a later stage.
Thus, serving of a Charge Sheet is sine qua non i.e. absolutely necessary in a Disciplinary Action. Charge Sheet is must for every Domestic or Departmental enquiry to commence.
Serving of a Charge Sheet can be seen as a first step towards finding the truth of imputation (i.e. an accusation) of lapses.
WHO FRAMES A CHARGE SHEET?
In Disciplinary Action Cases, a Charge Sheet is framed by the Disciplinary Authority.
Normally, the Disciplinary Authority is –
- The Competent Authority with whom the power to terminate the Charged Employee is vested with.
- Or the Appointing Authority i.e. the authority who has the power to appoint the Charge Employee.
Generally, they are the same. However, an authority higher than the Appointing Authority or Competent Authority to terminate Charged Officer can also issue the Charge Sheet if they have been specifically designated for the said purpose. Such, an authority would then be called Disciplinary Authority.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF SERVING A CHARGE SHEET?
The purpose of a Charge Sheet is twofold. It gives effect to the following fundamental rules of the Natural Justice, viz.
- The employee who is being proceeded against should have the knowledge of all the facts that are sought to be used against him.
- No employee should be condemned without hearing.
WHAT OBJECTIVES A CHARGE SHEET SHOULD MEET?
A Charge Sheet serves the following objectives:
- It conveys the nature of the misconduct alleged against him.
- It gives an exact idea to the erring official about what misconduct has been alleged to be committed by him.
- It depicts the circumstances appearing against the Charged Employee.
- It gives a fair, adequate, and reasonable opportunity to the Charged Employee to submit his explanation in his defence called Statement of Defence.
WHAT ARE THE SALIENT FEATURES OF A CHARGE SHEET?
- The charges or allegations mentioned in a Charge Sheet should be specific and to the point.
- The charges should be complete – setting out all the relevant particulars.
- A Charge Sheet must not contain vague charges or ambiguous details.
- A Charge Sheet must contain the time or time period and place(s) of occurrence of lapses.
- A Charge Sheet must not be vague. Vagueness is a vital defect in the Charge Sheet. If Charge Sheet is vague i.e. not definite, it will impair the legal validity of the entire disciplinary process. To avoid vagueness it should be examined whether the Charge Sheet is capable of being understood by the Charged Employee so that he is able to submit his reply on the same.
WHAT CARE SHOULD BE TAKEN WHILE FRAMING A CHARGE SHEET?
- The Charge Sheet should contain the preamble wherein it is mentioned why there is a need to initiate Disciplinary Action.
- The Charge Sheet must contain the following details about the Erring Official:
- Employee Identification Number.
- Present Designation.
- Present place of posting.
- Designation at the time when lapses were committed.
- Place of posting at the time when lapses were committed.
- The basis of the allegations, for example, a complaint by a customer etc. must be mentioned in the Charge Sheet.
- The Charge Sheet should not give an impression that the management has already made up its mind to punish the Charged Employee.
- The Charge Sheet must contain a reference to the specific rules and regulations under which the omissions or commissions in question by the Charged Employee constitutes a misconduct.
- The Charge Sheet must mention the time limit granted to the Charged Employee to submit his statement of defence.
- The Charge Sheet should allow the Charged Employee to inspect the records and documents before submitting his statement of defence.
CAN A CHARGE SHEET BE AMENDED SUBSEQUENTLY AFTER ITS ISSUANCE?
Yes, a Charge Sheet can be modified or amended subsequently. Even a Charge Sheet can be withdrawn at a later stage and a fresh Charge Sheet can be issued in its place.
It is important to mention that minor mistake or amendment can be corrected subsequently by issuing a Corrigendum to the Charge Sheet. However, to add new lapses or allegations, either a Supplementary Charge Sheet or a new Charge Sheet replacing the old one must be issued.
CAN MORE THAN ONE CHARGE SHEET BE ISSUED ON AN EMPLOYEE
Yes, a Charged Employee can be served upon with any number of Charge Sheets at a given time. The Employee is free to proceed departmentally against an Employee in as many cases as desirable by the Employer.
The issuance of a new Charge Sheet does not mean that the earlier Charge Sheet is null and void unless earlier Charge Sheet is recalled or quashed by the Employer.
WHETHER A CHARGE SHEET CAN BE WITHDRAWN?
Yes, a Charge Sheet can be withdrawn at any time by the Disciplinary Authority. However, if the case is under Vigilance Category Central Vigilance Officer (CVO) must be consulted before withdrawal of a Charge Sheet. If the case is a CVC case, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) must be consulted beforehand.
CVO’s or CVC’s prior approval is must in Vigilance and CVC cases respectively.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF CHARGE SHEET?
There are two types of Charge Sheets:
- Charge Sheet under Major or Gross Penalty Proceedings
- Charge Sheet under Minor Penalty Proceedings
A Major Charge Sheet must contain following four annexures –
- Articles of Charge;
- Statement of Allegations in support of Articles of Charge;
- List of Documents relied upon; and
- List of Witnesses relied upon.
As far as possible the copies of the documents relied upon should be provided along with the Charge Sheet to the Charged Employee. However, wherever, it is not possible to furnish the copies of documents to the Charge Employee, the Disciplinary Authority must permit the Charged Employee to inspect the original documents within a time specified by the Disciplinary Authority.
In practice, even if the documents are provided, the Disciplinary Authority permits the Charged Official inspection of documents.
WHAT SHOULD BE THE LANGUAGE OF THE CHARGE SHEET?
As the Charge Sheet is served to make clear to the Charged Official his misconduct, the Charge Sheet must be written in a language which the Charged Employee is able to understand. It should be written in a plain and simple language.
Generally, the Charge Sheet is served in English or Hindi. However, it can also be served in a Vernacular language.
Consider, if a Charge Sheet has been served on an Employee and the Employee has represented that he is unable to understand the language of the Charge Sheet, a translated version of the Charge Sheet in the language understood by him should be provided to him to enable him to submit his defence statement.
GUIDELINES OF CENTRAL VIGILANCE COMMISSION (CVC) ON DRAFTING OF A CHARGE SHEET
If the Charge Sheet is drafted unskillfully, it would result in getting away of Charged Official with his misconduct. Courts of law never hesitate to quash defective Charge Sheets or Charge Sheets in which Charges are framed generally or vaguely. Thus, it is of utmost importance that the Charge Sheet is drafted skillfully and keeping all the points mentioned in this article in mind.
One of the most common flaw observed is that many a times Charge is included in ‘the Statement of Imputation of Lapses’ but not in ‘Articles of Charge’. It must be kept in mind that the ‘Statement of Imputation of Lapses’ is supporting or supplementary material to the ‘Articles of Charges’. Therefore, ‘Articles of Charge’ should be framed with utmost care. Each ‘Article of Charge’ must have separate ‘Statement(s) of Imputation of Lapse(s)’.
CHECKLIST FOR A CHARGE SHEET
- The preamble containing the need for Disciplinary Action is mentioned.
- Basis for the allegations is mentioned.
- It gives the complete details of the Erring Official.
- It gives the complete details of the lapse committed by him i.e. the charges are specific.
- It contains all the facts and figures.
- It mentions the place or places of occurrence of lapses.
- It gives time or timeline when these lapses were committed.
- Specific misconduct is mentioned in it.
- Each incident has a separate charge attributed to it. There should be no conflicts or contradictions among various incidents.
- Motive behind the lapse is mentioned.
- The language of the Charge Sheet is such that it may not infer that the Charged Employee is not already considered as guilty.
- Charges does not include any lapse which has already been punished i.e. there should not be double jeopardy.
- Relevant regulations (like Bipartite Settlement, Officer’s Regulations etc.) are mentioned.
- Suspicion should not be the only basis on which Charge Sheet is framed.
- List of Documents and Witnesses relied upon are attached where applicable.
- It is issued in a language which is understood by the Charged Employee.
- It has been specifically mentioned the time limit in which the Charged Official has to tender his reply.
- It must also permit the Charged Official to check relevant records.
- The Charge Sheet has been issued without unavoidable delay at the earliest possible instance as possible after the misconduct has come to the fore.
SERVICING A CHARGE SHEET
Any laxity or defect in servicing a Charge Sheet means that the Charge Sheet has not been served at all. Therefore, it is very important to understand how a Charge Sheet can be serviced or delivered.
As far as possible and practicable Charge Sheet should be served by hand to the Charged Official and his signatures with date of receipt is obtained on the photocopy of the Charge Sheet as a proof of having received the Charge Sheet.
The Disciplinary Authority may forward the Charge Sheet to the Branch Head or Office Incharge of the Branch or Office where the Charged Official is posted to deliver it by hand to the Charged Official under his receipt and signatures.
It may happen that the Charged Official refuses to accept the Charge Sheet. In that case, that fact that the Charged Official has refused to accept the Charge Sheet is to be recorded on the Charge Sheet and the same has to be witnesses by at least two witnesses. However, it should be kept in mind that the witnesses must be present at the time and place when the Charged Official has refused to accept the Charge Sheet and the same fact should also be recorded.
Delivery by Post:
Alternatively, where Direct Delivery is not possible (i.e. the employee is on leave, absent or absconding), Charge Sheet should be sent through Registered Post AD i.e. Registered Post with Acknowledgement Due or through Speed Post to the leave address or last recorded address.
The Charge Sheet is deemed to be delivered upon him in the following cases:
- If the Charged Official receives the envelope containing the Charge Sheet.
- If any family member receives the envelope on behalf of the Charged Official.
- If the Charged Official refuses to accept the Charge Sheet and the Postman has mentioned ‘Refused to Accept’ remark on the envelope returned back.
However, if the Postman has remarked ‘Address Not Found’ or ‘Left this Address’ the Charge Sheet is not deemed to be delivered. In such a case a notice to this effect must be displayed at the Notice Board and notice should be given in at least two leading newspapers, preferably one of them vernacular. Note: The envelope received back should be retained unopened in the file.
I hope you have understood the concept of a Charge Sheet in totality. However, if you do need any further clarification or have a question, write it in a comment. I shall answer at the earliest.