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Cordelia Cruise Case: Delhi HC Affirms Sameer Wankhede's Right to Personal Hearing [Read Order]

By Rintu Mariam Biju      29 February, 2024 06:05 PM      0 Comments
Cordelia Cruise Case Delhi HC Affirms Sameer Wankhedes Right to Personal Hearing

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court has upheld the principle of fairness by affirming Wankhede's right to a personal hearing before any action is taken, ensuring a balanced approach to the administrative proceedings.

This nuanced Order provides a procedural reprieve for Wankhede while maintaining the integrity of the investigative process. 

The Court has set aside the Central Administrative Tribunal’s direction to pass a “reasoned and speaking order” before deciding to initiate action against Sameer Wankhede, the former Mumbai zone chief of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), in connection with the 2021 Cordelia Cruise drug bust case.

While doing so, the court partly allowed the Centre’s plea.

“However, the directions of the learned Tribunal requiring the respondent no. 1 and 5 to pass a reasoned and speaking order before taking a decision to initiate action against the applicant is wholly unsustainable and is required to be set aside. We are, therefore, inclined to agree with the learned counsel for the petitioner that such a requirement of passing a reasoned and speaking order before initiating any action against the applicant, would be contrary to the scheme of CCS (CCA) Rules itself.”

Also Read -  Cordelia cruise drugs case: Delhi Court issues notice to Police on Sameer Wankhede's plea against Gyaneswar Singh 

With this, Justices Rekha Palli and Rajnish Bhatnagar added that it did not find any infirmity in the Tribunal’s direction that Wankhede be granted an opportunity of personal hearing by respondent no. 1 and/or respondent no. 5 (Ministry of Finance and Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs respectively) before deciding to initiate any action against him.

“Having considered the submissions of learned counsel for the parties and perused the record, we are of the view that in the peculiar facts of the present case, where respondent no. 4 is alleged to have issued directions to the applicant while he was conducting investigation, there is no infirmity with the directions issued by the learned Tribunal insofar as it directs that he be granted an opportunity of personal hearing by respondent no. 1 and/or respondent no. 5 before deciding to initiate any action against him.”

Stating that the CAT’s order is wholly perverse, the petitioner submitted that the Tribunal has failed to appreciate that under the CCS (CCA) Rules. As per the Rules, there is no requirement of granting any opportunity of personal hearing to a delinquent employee before issuing a charge sheet to him. It was contended that the CAT failed to appreciate the difference between a preliminary enquiry like the SET in the present case and a regular departmental enquiry where all principles of natural justice will be duly followed.

These arguments were accepted by the High Court. 

Also Read - Cordelia Cruise drugs case: Won't arrest Sameer Wankhede till Feb 20, ED informs Bombay HC

However, the Court clarified that this order will not come in the way of Wankhede in challenging the CAT order if so advised.

On August 21, 2023, the CAT noted a Special Enquiry Team (SET), constituted by the NCB, was formed to look into the allegations in the manner in which Wankhede had conducted the raid/investigation into the Cordelia Cruise case.

In its order, the Tribunal had noted that SET was headed by Gyaneshwar Singh, who was the deputy director general, Northern Region (NCB), when the case was registered.

 

[Read Order]



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