ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has asked the government to ensure fast-tracking of any disciplinary action in future against a retired employee to its logical end within two years of his/her retirement.
This would help a retired employee to enjoy his/her retired life and the government to save unnecessary expense and time in pursing such matters, held Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah.
The directive came through a judgement announced on Wednesday which also dismissed a set of appeals by the Punjab government through conservator of forest, Faisalabad, against the June 18, 2020 verdict of the Punjab Service Tribunal, Lahore.
A Supreme Court bench consisting of Justices Manzoor Ahmad Malik, Sajjad Ali Shah and Mansoor Ali had taken up the appeals.
The substantial question of law of public importance in terms of Article 212(3) of the Constitution that arose in the petitions was whether the proviso to Section 21 of the Punjab Employees Efficiency, Discipline and Accountability Act, 2006 (Peeda) was directory or mandatory. The law requires that the departmental proceedings initiated against a retired employee should be finalised not later than two years of his retirement.
The controversy arose when Javed Iqbal while working as forest guard was departmentally proceeded against under Peeda by way of a show-cause notice on Dec 19, 2009, and was awarded a major penalty on Oct 23, 2012.
During the course of the disciplinary inquiry Mr Iqbal retired from service on April 15, 2010, but the departmental proceedings against him continued and were finalised more than two years after his retirement.
It was the duty of the court to unravel the real intention of the legislature, Justice Shah observed in his judgement, adding that the ultimate test was the intent of the legislature and not the language in which the intent was clothed.
The object and purpose of enacting the provision provided a strong and clear indicator for ascertaining such intent of the legislature, the judgement said, adding that the intention of the legislature must govern and this was to be ascertained not only from the phraseology of the provision but also by considering its nature, its object, and the consequences which would follow from construing it one way or the other.
This exercise entailed careful examination of the scheme of Peeda in order to discover its real purpose and object, said the judgement.
One of the important tests that must always be employed in order to determine whether a provision is mandatory or directory in character is to consider whether the non-compliance of a particular provision causes inconvenience or injustice and, if it does, the court would say that that provision must be complied with and that it is obligatory in its character.
The judgement said the purpose of Peeda was to enhance good governance in service matters and provide measures for improvement of efficiency, discipline and accountability of the employees.
Therefore the employee, who is a person in service, is the blue-eyed boy of Peeda, the central focus of which revolves around improving governance through improvement of efficiency, discipline and accountability of the serving employees.
A retired employee, however, fell outside the focus and theme of the Act except a limited category of retired employees, the judgement explained.
Thus the employee who had retired for over a year and no departmental action had been initiated against him fell outside the mischief of Peeda, the judgement emphasised.
Referring to the present case, the judgement said the departmental proceeding against the respondent was finalised two years after his retirement.
Thus the departmental proceedings had no legal consequence and the subsequent departmental orders were void and had no legal effect, the judgement said.
Consequently, the court declined leave to appeal and dismissed the petition.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2020