From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Security Force Court
Mains level : Paper 3- Tribunal for CAPF
There have been numerous cases of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officers overstaying leave. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to issue orders to the CRPF headquarters to “include the provisions of Security Force Court (SFC), for initiating disciplinary action against the delinquent officers.
Departmental enquiries Vs SFC
- The SFC is a purely judicial process where the guilt must be proved beyond reasonable doubt and the charged official is at liberty to engage a legal practitioner to defend him.
- Departmental enquiry is a quasi-judicial proceeding where the mere element of the preponderance of probability is enough to determine guilt.
- Though the Central Reserve Police Force Act of 1949 provides for conducting judicial trial by a Commandant in his capacity as a Magistrate, seldom is it exercised as it gets into the realm of the judicial process.
- Hence, the conduct of a departmental enquiry is the better option.
What leads to delay in departmental enquiries against gazetted officers?
- CRPF rules lay down the procedure for the conduct of departmental enquiries against non-gazetted ranks, and in normal circumstances, the departmental enquiries are completed within three to six months.
- But when gazetted officers are charge-sheeted, the time taken to order the enquiries is longer.
- Delay due to getting the views of other institutions: In the case of a gazetted officer, the other institutions like the Union Public Service Commission, the Central Vigilance Commission, the Department of Personnel and Training, and the MHA are also roped in for their views and legal opinion.
- Dealy due to postponement: When the delinquent officers appear before the inquiring authority presence of the presenting officer and the defence assistant of the charged official is also required.
- Even if one of them fails to appear for the hearing, the conduct of enquiry must be postponed.
- Procedural delay: Often, the enquiry is conducted ex parte (without the presence of the charged official), so the recorded statements and other documents must be sent to the charged official.
- Quite often, delays occur in providing certain prosecution documents to the charged official who may demand them for preparing his own defence.
- Postal delays further aggravate the matter.
- Since most officers are busy with operational matters, which gain priority over everything else.
- Appoint retired officers as inquiring authorities: The solution lies in appointing retired officers as inquiring authorities, who can afford to devote their time to the conduct of enquiries as is being done in most departments of the government.
- Tribunal for CAPF: With increasing cases being filed in the High Courts across the country in service matters, it is high time the government considered the setting up of tribunals for the CAPFs on the lines of the Armed Forces Tribunal for defence services.
- Retired officers of the rank of Inspectors General and Additional Directors General from the CAPFs could be part of these tribunals along with retired judges of High Courts.
Taking the steps suggested here would ensure the speedy delivery of justice and reduce the burden of the High Courts.