An Enquiry Officer is an agent of the Disciplinary Authority on a fact finding mission. He is more or less like a judge or what may be called, “Quasi Judicial Tribunal”. He is expected to conduct the enquiry in an impartial, unbiased, fair way with open mind. He should not take the role of the Presenting Officer or Defence Representative. He need not follow  rules  or  procedures  of  Courts or  apply  the  provisions  of Evidence Act or any other law. If the delinquent employee objects to the  enquiry  officer  conducting  the  enquiry  on  the ground  that  the enquiry officer has a prejudice or bias against him, the enquiry officer should refer the matter to the disciplinary authority, before conducting the enquiry.

The  enquiry  officer  should  elicit  information  on  all  material  points. Wherein an enquiry, a witness gives evidence on material points to corroborate  the  testimony  of  complainant  about  his  hearing  the conversation between the complainant and the delinquent worker, it is essential  that  the  distance  between  the  witness  and  the  place  of occurrence is also ascertained to find out if the witness could have really heard it. Even if this point is not brought out by the respective parties at the enquiry, the enquiry officer will have to bring out this point.

The Enquiry Officer should be considerate but at the same time firm. He should not cross-examine and put leading questions. The questions asked by him should not give an impression that he is acting in a partial  manner.  He is  entitled  to  ask  for  any  clarification  on  the evidence tendered but this should be done in a way that any inference of  partiality  is  not  revealed.  He should  not  normally  ask  questions resembling cross-examination.

Where the question of victimisation is alleged by the delinquent for his being a member of the minority/unrecognized union that the case was foisted against him at the instance of the majority / recognised union, the enquiry officer should not brush aside the suggestion by saying that he is not interested in union politics, but should bestow efforts to find out the necessity for such plea being allowed and take a decision.

If the employee against whom the enquiry is held misbehaves with the enquiry officer or with the witnesses or with any other person present during the enquiry or does any act hindering the smooth conduct of the enquiry  such fact  shall  be  recorded  by  the  enquiry  officer.  If  the employee against whom the enquiry is held leaves the enquiry during the conduct of the proceedings without the permission of the enquiry officer,  the  enquiry  officer may  at  his  discretion,  proceed  with  the enquiry without the employee being present after recording such fact.

Functions of Enquiry Officer:

An Enquiry Officer should complete the enquiry and submit his findings to the Disciplinary Authority as expeditiously as possible. To this end he should:

(a) Advise the date of the first hearing to the employee. He may also advise about the list of documents and witnesses to be relied upon by  the prosecution  and  forward  copies  of  the  documents  which would be received by him from the Presenting Officer.

(b) Following are the persons allowed in an enquiry proceeding:

i.  Delinquent employee
ii. Presenting Officer
iii.Defence Representative if any
iv. Only one witness, at a time who is being examined

(c) Ensure  that  the  employee  is  present  during  all  sittings  of  the enquiry. Without his presence, enquiry should not be conducted.

(d) At the enquiry, ensure identity of the employee and ascertain basic details about him, such as name, age, etc.

(e) Ask  the  employee  whether  he  has  received  the  charge  sheet quoting the charge sheet number and date.

(f)  Read out the charges one by one and ask him whether he admits the charge. If the employee pleads guilty for a charge proceed to the next charge. 

If he does not plead guilty to the charges, ask him if he is going to be represented by any defence representative. If so,   obtain   letter   from   the employee   appointing   defence representative.

(g) Ensure that the defence representative is no one other than a representative of a registered union, or with the permission of the Disciplinary Authority, a lawyer. The defence representative need not necessarily be a representative of the recognised union. If the employee wishes to engage a lawyer, the matter should be referred  to  the  Disciplinary  Authority  and further  proceedings should be held only on receipt of his advices.

(h) Advise the Presenting Officer to present his case and then to start examination-in-chief of his witnesses.    Immediately    after examination-in-chief of each witness is over, allow the witness to be cross-examined by the Defence Representative and to be re-examined by the Presenting Officer after the cross-examination is over.

(i)  Then ask the Defence Representative to conduct examination-in-chief of the defence witnesses also and then follow a similar procedure as above.

(j)  After each witness has been disposed of obtain the signatures of all present, in the recorded note book on each page. The witness should also sign before he leaves the room.

(k) After all the witnesses of the prosecution and defence have been examined on the last day of the sitting; the Presenting Officer may be advised to present his summing up followed by the Defence Representative. If they so desire, they may be allowed to submit written brief. In that case, advise Presenting Officer to submit one copy of his brief to the defence Representative.

(l)  Advise the Defence Representative that on receipt of Presenting Officer’s brief, he should submit his brief.

(m) On receipt of Defence Representative’s brief, prepare the findings and submit it to the Disciplinary Authority.

Enquiry Findings:

The Enquiry Officer should narrate briefly the statement made and the evidence laid before him both in support of and against the charge. He should analyse each charge as to whether it is proved or not. The findings should not suggest any punishment. They should be supported by cogent reasons to be set out clearly in the report. The Charge Sheet, Explanation, and Record of Enquiry and the findings of the Enquiry Officer will have to be submitted to the Disciplinary Authority, for  decision.  The  decision  and  punishment,  if  any,  shall  be communicated  in  writing  to  the  employee  concerned  as  early  as possible.

The Enquiry Officer should also note:

(a) To conduct the enquiry on an on-going basis and not postpone it on flimsy grounds.

(b) To fix the date of the next hearing at the time of postponement and advise  all  concerned,  in  case  postponement  is  granted  under compelling circumstances.

(c) To  ensure  that,  if  postponements  are  granted  the  next  sitting commences at the earliest.

(d) To route all communications addressed to employees / officials, calling  them  to  attend  the  enquiry  as  Witness / Defence Representative / Presenting  Officer  etc.,  through  the  BranchManagers / Department Heads only.

(e) To advise the Branch Manager / Departmental Heads at the end of each sitting, by means of a letter mentioning the dates on which the enquiry was conducted to enable them to grant on-duty leave etc., to  the  concerned employees /  officials.  This  letter  should  be handed over to each of the employees / officials, who had attended the proceedings as Defence Representative / Presenting Officer / Witness etc., with instructions to deliver it to their Branch Managers / Dept. Heads concerned.Where   the   delinquent employee   does   not   have   a   Defence Representative and would still like himself and his witness examined, the Enquiry Officer should formulate the questions in the Examination-in-Chief  and  re-examination  on  behalf  of  the employee,  the  cross-examination being conducted by the Presenting Officer.

Other Salient Points:

Ex-Parte:  While  reasonable  opportunity  should  be  provided  to  the employee to defend himself, willful delay of the proceedings on his part on   flimsy   grounds   such   as   the   non-availability   of   Defence Representative  etc.,  should  not  be  allowed.  Where  the  enquiry  is conducted ex-parte, the Presenting Officer will present his case by introducing the witnesses and documents in the usual manner.

There will, however, be no cross-examination, since the defence is not present. The Enquiry Officer should also record all such proceedings as detailed above and proceed on merits of the case.

Examination-In-Chief:  An  examination-in-chief  is  one  in  which  the prosecution / defence asks questions of his own witness to bring out the facts of the case from that witness, which will help him prove his case. In the examination-in-chief, the party introducing the witness i.e., prosecution or the defence should ascertain identity of the witness by asking a few questions relating thereto. The witness need not answer under oath. The prosecution / defence then proceeds to get answers by asking questions to establish the points, as may be required by it, through that witness.

Cross-Examination: After the examination-in-chief of each witness by prosecution / defence is over, the other side is permitted to cross-examine the witness to bring out any hollowness in his statements in the examination-in-chief. Questions to re-establish the averment of the witness and / or leading questions can, therefore, be asked during the cross-examination.  This  does not  mean  that  questions  which  are offensive or irrelevant can be permitted.

Re-Examination: For the purposes of obtaining clarification on some of the points which emerged during cross-examination, the side which introduced the witness is allowed to re-examine the witness after the cross-examination is over.

Defence Representative And His Role: The charge sheeted employee has a right to have him defended by a representative of a registered trade union of Bank Employees. He  can also be  represented by a Lawyer  with  the  prior approval  of  the  Disciplinary  Authority.  The Enquiry  Officer  should  note that  he  has  no  powers  to  permit  the delinquent employee to be represented by a Lawyer.

If  a  request  therefore  is  received,  it  should  be  referred  to  the Disciplinary Authority for his approval. It should also be noted that there can be only one representative for each employee. The role of the Defence Representative is to disprove the charges leveled against the delinquent employee in the charge sheet. To this end, he will also produce documents and witnesses well in advance and cross-examine prosecution  witnesses.  He will  also  submit  a  brief  to  the  Enquiry Officer, after going through the prosecution brief.

Awarding of Punishment by Disciplinary Authority: On receipt of the proceedings and findings of the Enquiry Officer, the Disciplinary Authority should forward a copy of the findings of the Enquiry Officer to the delinquent employee and advise him to submit his comments on the findings of the Enquiry Officer within a specific period of time. On receipt  delinquent employee’s  comments  or  after  expiry  of  specific period of time given to delinquent employee to submit his comments, the Disciplinary Authority should come to his own conclusion by going through  all  the  papers  and applying  his  mind  dispassionately.  He should  also  record  his  views  on the  Enquiry  Officer’s  findings  in respect of each charge separately.


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