Under Industrial law, there is no form prescribed for a charge sheet hence it becomes more important to draft it more carefully with precision and clarify. There are large number of cases wherein the departmental/domestic enquires have been vitiated for want of valid charge-sheet since it forms the basis of the disciplinary proceedings. The framing of a charge sheet being the first necessity for disciplinary action. It must be precise, specific and must set out all the necessary particulars. No labour enactment provides the formats or even essential ingredients of a charge-sheet. Ordinarily, a charge sheet would indicate the proposed punishment but there is not hard and fast rule about it.
What is Charge Sheet?
A charge-sheet is a written statement of specific allegations addressed to tell the delinquent what he is supposed or alleged to have done which is not acceptable as per the code of conduct. The object being to give the employee the exact idea of the misconduct committed by him so that he may submit his explanation in his defence.
In addition to the above, the charge-sheet should also take care to mention the particulars of time, place of occurrence and the manner in which the incident alleged to have taken place so as to remove vagueness and make the charge definite by mentioning these essential factors.
Note:- One of the fundamental rules of natural justice is that the person affected should have full and true disclosure of the facts sought to be used against him. He must know the nature of the misconduct alleged against him and must be acquainted with it in the first instance, it means that the charge-sheet is the sine qua non of the domestic enquiry.
The heart of the matter is that no disciplinary action can be initiated against the employee or a workman unless he is first served with a charge sheet containing all the charges and their essential particulars.
The basic requirement of drafting a charge sheet is that it should give to the employee a fair idea of the which he is to face. If a particular act is misconduct when committed on the premises of the establishment, then the place is a part of the charge itself. So while drafting a charge-sheet, the attempt should be to ensure that the charge mentioned in the charge-sheet is specific as well as complete in all essential constituents.
The principles of natural justice require that the person charged should know precisely the nature of the offence so that he may be able to explain what he has to say about it and prove innocence in the matter. Vague allegations should be avoided while drafting a charge-sheet.
Four Important Essential Ingredients of a Charge Sheet
A charge-sheet being root of the disciplinary action, when vague, will vitiate the whole proceedings hence the penalty imposed on delinquent will be quashed.
A delinquent employee must be provided with the copies of the documents as relied upon by the Disciplinary Authority and the burden, to show that non-supply of documents required by the delinquent did not cause any prejudice to him, lies upon the Disciplinary Authority.
The object of a charge-sheet is that the delinquent must know what he is charged with and have the adequate opportunity to meet the charges and to defend himself by giving a proper explanation.
Failure to enclose the list of witnesses along with the charge memo will violate the Conduct Regulations, hence the entire disciplinary proceedings will be vitiated when it is so stipulated.
Points to Remember While Drafting a Charge-Sheet
- The charge-sheet must be specific and must set-out all the necessary particulars. It will serve no purpose at all to presume that the employee is fully informed of the charges because of any previous proceedings against him.
- It is imperative to hold a regular enquiry before terminating the services of a workman. The enquiry itself must be preceded by serving on the workman concerned, a regular charge-sheet devoid of any vagueness. Any warnings that might have been given to a workman previously or form time to time or that his attention had been drawn to any fault, lapses on his part previously can , by no means, take the place of a regular enquiry.
- Vague accusation, which the workman could not possibly follow, should not be made in the charge-sheet.
- The charge-sheet must accurately and precisely state whether the act of commission or omission constituting misconduct is in violation of any standing order or not. The test is whether the charge conveys to the employee concerned, the exact nature of misconduct in a way that would enable him to mete the charge.
- Where, for instance, the charge is for unauthorized collection of subscription on the work premises, the purpose for which such a subscription was collected need not be stated. But the time, date and place i.e. when and where the collection was made must be clearly mentioned.
- When under the standing orders or service rules, an act such as absence without leave, late attendance, negligence or disobedience is misconduct, when it is committed habitually then in such a case the word, habitual forms an essential constituent of the charge and must be expressly mentioned in the charge-sheet.
- Similarly, if the standing orders or service rules provide that damage to property or disobedience or insubordination must be willful then the willfulness is an essential part of the charge and must be stated in the charge-sheet.
- If theft or dishonesty is a misconduct only if it is committed in connection with the employer’s business or property, then this must be so stated in the charge-sheet in all its details.
- If the charge-sheet is for arrogant conduct towards a superior, then it must be so stated in the charge-sheet giving the occasion on which the misconduct was committed and in respect of which particulars of the superior.
- When an employee is charged for habitually disobeying the instructions, then each set of disobedience on his part must be separately mentioned in details in the charge-sheet.
- The time and date of the incident should be mentioned in the charge-sheet in order to avoid vagueness and to enable the employee to make defence of alibi.
- When an employee is charged for using objectionable and offending language, then the actual words used must be stated in the charge-sheet. In one case the facts were that the dismissal of the workman, a car driver, was set aside and reinstatement was awarded. The Industrial Tribunal observed the exact words or at best a substantial reproduction of the same must be held material in order to come to a conclusion as to whether the words used are insulting or abusive or not, particularly in view of the fact that a much greater laxity of language is permitted now a days.
- While verbiage is to be avoided, use of any abbreviations such as etc. must be equally shunned. Phrases such as an other document is vague and ineffective and so, only reference should be made to a specific thing or a particular person.
- It is important to remember that the language of a charge-sheet , while being precise, must not give the impression that the employer has taken the question of the employee’s guilt as a foregone conclusion.
- The delinquent employee be furnished with the documents and reports as referred to in the charge-sheet otherwise his termination will be quashed.
- As far as practicable, the language of a charge-sheet must be simple and be one that is commonly understood or in common usage.
- When the previous record of the employee is relied upon, then sufficient particulars of the previous bad record should be specified in the charge-sheet.
- When the charge to be leveled is that an employee altered the relevant entries in the record with some ulterior motive then, in such a case, the workman should be informed as to what precisely was the motive being attributed to him for so doing because unless this is done, the charge-sheet would suffer from the disqualification of vagueness.
- Mere cataloguing for recital of charges without the requisite details, a charge-sheet is open to question of its validly and is an exercise in futility.
- Make use of the term ‘about’ in relation to the date and time of a particular incident of misconduct.
- A valid charge-sheet must be in precise terms as there is no room for using loose or vague term which fails to convey, in the correct sense, a charge brought against an employee.
- In the case of a theft, it is most necessary to mention full particulars of the goods or articles stolen.
- Full particulars, with regard to the date and time of the incident including the place of occurrence , must be indicated.
- The charge-sheet should also not be issued with a bias and closed mind as may show drawing up of a positive conclusion against delinquent and requiring him to dispel the same.
- Workman charged for having instigated strike, subsequently executing document of good behaviour, cannot be punished in absence of any evidence of his going back on such assurance.
- Another yet equally important point to be noted, while drawing up a charge-sheet is that a workman charged for tampering and falsification of weighment sheets cannot be punished for having found guilty of carelessness and negligence.
- If particulars of misconduct are not incorporated in the charge-sheet, then it will not be considered charge-sheet and the entire enquiry will become farce in which the principles of natural justice were not complied with. In such case the dismissal order is liable to be quashed.
- It is the duty of the employer to indicate to a delinquent employee served with the charge-sheet not only the precise nature of charges, but also the documents, if any, upon which the charges are based.
- In the absence of Regulations, an employee cannot be charge-sheeted under that.
- The charge-sheet must be signed by the competent authority.
- A charge-sheet , issued after long delay of misconduct , will vitiate the enquiry.
Draft of a Charge Sheet
It is reported against you that on …….(Date) at ……….(time) you…………..(mention clearly the act or acts misconduct alleged).
The acts, as alleged above to have been committed by you, amount to misconduct, which, if proved, would warrant serious disciplinary action against you.
Accordingly , you are hereby required to show cause with in ……….days of the receipt hereof as to why you should not be dismissed or otherwise punished.
If you fail to submit you explanation as required, it will be presumed that you admit the charges and have no explanation to offer and the matter will be disposed of without any further reference to you.
Since the charges, leveled against you, are of grave and serious nature, you are hereby suspended pending further proceedings and final orders in the matter.
The receipt of this letter should be acknowledged.