Judicial Intervention in Disciplinary Proceedings When Criminal Trial is pending

Judicial Intervention in Disciplinary Proceedings

Judicial Intervention in Disciplinary Proceedings

What is the need of Judicial Intervention in Disciplinary Proceedings ?

Disciplinary proceedings serve as a linchpin in maintaining order and accountability across diverse sectors, ranging from employment to educational institutions.

However, when concerns arise regarding procedural fairness and the possibility of irreparable harm, the legal mechanism of obtaining a stay becomes paramount.

This article delves into the significance of obtaining a stay in disciplinary matters, with a focus on prominent Supreme Court judgments that have shaped and reinforced this essential legal recourse.

Violation of Principles of Natural Justice

At the core of disciplinary proceedings lies the adherence to the principles of natural justice.

The right to a fair hearing and an unbiased inquiry. The landmark case of A.K. Kraipak vs. Union of India (1969) established the fundamental importance of these principles in administrative decisions.

The Supreme Court affirmed that if there exists a prima facie case of a violation of natural justice, the judiciary has the authority to grant a stay on proceedings until a thorough examination is conducted.

This decision set a precedent, emphasizing the judiciary’s role in upholding fairness in disciplinary matters.

Judicial Stay in Disciplinary Proceedings

In the realm of employment, the Supreme Court has played a crucial role in shaping the jurisprudence surrounding stays in disciplinary proceedings.

In the case of CBI vs. Anil Sharma (2014), the Delhi High Court granted a stay on disciplinary proceedings against a CBI officer.

The court’s intervention was prompted by procedural irregularities and the recognition of the necessity of a fair inquiry.

This decision underscores the judiciary’s vigilance in ensuring due process, preventing potential miscarriages of justice, and setting a standard for the fair treatment of employees in disciplinary actions.

In Managing Director, ECIL, Hyderabad vs. B. Karunakar (1993) is another Supreme Court judgment that reiterates the significance of a fair and impartial inquiry in employment-related disciplinary matters.

The court held that serious irregularities in disciplinary proceedings give the affected party the right to approach the judiciary for a stay.

This decision reaffirms the judiciary’s role as a guardian of procedural fairness, ensuring that employees are not subjected to arbitrary or biased actions.

Moving beyond individual cases, the Supreme Court, in Union of India vs. Tulsiram Patel (1985), emphasized the need for expeditious disciplinary proceedings.

While not directly related to granting stays, this decision underscores the broader principle that disciplinary proceedings should be fair, prompt, and devoid of unnecessary delays.

It establishes that undue delays can cause harm and impact the affected party’s rights, reinforcing the idea that justice delayed is justice denied.

Supreme Court’s view on Stay on Disciplinary Proceedings

Hon’ble Apex Court in Delhi Cloth and General Mills Ltd. v. Kushal Bhan, AIR 1960 SC 806, observed that very often employers stay enquiries pending decision of criminal trials.

However, it cannot be said that the principles of natural justice require an employer to mandatorily wait for the decision of the criminal trial Court before taking action against an employee.

However, if the case was of grave nature and involved complicated questions of facts and law, it would be advisable for the employer to await decision of the trial Court, so that the defence of the employee in the criminal case is not prejudiced. Somewhat similar was the ratio in Tata Oil Mills Co. Ltd. v. Workmen, AIR 1965 SC 155.

Both the above decisions and in fact the entire case law on the point was reviewed in State of Rajasthan Versus B.K. Meena and others, (1996) 6 SCC 417, wherein it was observed that there is no legal bar for simultaneous holding of criminal trial and disciplinary proceedings.

Stay of disciplinary proceedings has to be measured with regard to facts of each case. No hard and fast rule can be enunciated in this regard. Prejudice to defence in the criminal case by continuation of disciplinary proceedings may be a good ground for.

In Karnataka SRTC Vs. M.G. Vittal Rao (2012) 1 SCC 442, the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Para 14 of the judgment reproduced the following principles :-

“(i) There is no legal bar for both the proceedings to go on simultaneously.

(ii)  The only valid ground for claiming that the disciplinary proceedings may be stayed would be to ensure that the defence of the employee in the criminal case may not be prejudiced. But even such grounds would be available only in cases involving complex questions of facts or law.

(iii)  Such defence ought not to be permitted to unnecessarily delay the departmental proceedings. The interest of the delinquent officer as well as the employer clearly lies in a prompt conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings.

(iv)  Departmental proceedings can go on simultaneously to the criminal trial, except where both the proceedings are based on the same set of facts and the evidence in both the proceedings is common.”


The power of the judiciary to grant a stay on disciplinary proceedings is a crucial mechanism to safeguard procedural fairness and prevent injustices.

The discussed Supreme Court judgments illustrate the apex court’s commitment to upholding natural justice and ensuring fair inquiries in various contexts, including employment and educational institutions.

While disciplinary proceedings are essential, the legal recourse of obtaining a stay acts as a necessary check, protecting individuals from potential harm and upholding the principles of justice and fairness as interpreted and reinforced by the highest court in the land.

Courts can also interfere in the Ex-Parte Inquiry where Inquiry Officer has not complied with the Article 311 of Constitution of India.  

Only Supreme Court Advocate in Delhi can help to anyone file appeal before Supreme Court at Delhi.