Disciplinary Action Against Public Servants: Administrative Law Notes

Disciplinary Action Against Public Servants: Administrative Law Notes- Prolawctor

Disciplinary Action Against Public Servants: A distinction needs to be drawn between disciplinary action of civil or criminal procedure. The former deals with the fault committed in office violating, the internal regulations or rules of the administration while the latter is concerned with the violation of law to be dealt with by civil and criminal courts. The following matters are covered in the Conduct Rules. More strictness is observed in those services where more discretion is involved:

  1. Maintenance of correct behaviour official superiors,
  2. Loyalty to the State.
  3. Regulation of political activities to ensure neutrality of the personnel,
  4. Enforcement of a certain code of ethics in the official, private and domestic life.
  5. Protection of the integrity of the officials by placing restrictions on investments, borrowings, engaged in trade or business, acquisition or disposal of movable and immovable valuable property, acceptance of gifts and presents, and
  6. Restriction on more than one marriage.

The following are the various causes of disciplinary proceedings.

  1. Acts Amounting to Crimes
    1. a) Embezzlement
    2. b) Falsification of accounts not amounting to misappropriation of money
    3. c) Fraudulent claims (e.g. T.A.)
    4. d) Forgery of documents
    5. e) Theft of Government property
    6. f) Defrauding Government
    7. g) Bribery
    8. h) Corruption
    9. i) Possession of disproportionate assets
    10. j) Offences against other laws applicable to Government Servants.
  2. 2) Conduct Amounting to Misdemeanor
    1. a) Disobedience of orders
    2. b) Insubordination
    3. c) Misbehaviour
      1. i) with superior officers
      2. ii) with colleagues
      3. iii) with subordinates
      4. iv) with members of public
    4. d) Misconduct
      1. i) violation of conduct rules
      2. ii) violation of standing orders
      3. iii) intrigues and conspiracy
      4. iv) insolvency


Disciplinary action may be informal or formal. Informal disciplinary action may mean assignment to a less desirable work, closer supervision, loss or withholding of privileges, failure of consultations in relevant matters, rejection of proposals or recommendation. It may includes curtailing of his/her authority and diminishing his/her responsibility The reason for taking informal disciplinary action may be that offences are too slight, or too subtle, or too difficult to prove, to warrant direct and formal action.

Formal disciplinary action follows where the offence is serious and can be legally established. In such cases the penalties that are imposed on a member of the service are;

  1. Minor Penalties
    • Censure
    • Withholding of promotions
    • Recovery from pay of the whole or part of any loss caused to Government or to a company, association or body of individuals. And
    • Withholding of increments of pay.
  2. Major Penalties
    • a) Reduction to a lower stage in the time scale of pay for a specified period.
    • b) Reduction to a lower time scale of pay, grade or post, and
    • c) Compulsory retirement.

In very serious cases of offence, even judicial proceedings against the offender may also be launched.


Usually following provisions are made either in the Constitution or in the statute to check the misuse of power to take disciplinary actions :

  • No employee shall be demoted or dismissed by an officer below in rank to one who had appointed him/her.
  • No employee shall be punished except for a cause, specified in some statute or departmental regulation.
  • No employee shall be punished unless he / she has been given reasonable opportunity to defend his/ her case.
  • The employee shall be informed of the charges laid against him / her.
  • Where a board of Inquiry is appointed, it shall consist of not less than two senior officers, provided that at least one member of such board shall be an officer of the service to which the employee belongs.
  • f) After the inquiry against an employee has been completed and after the punishing authority has arrived at any provisional conclusion in regard to the penalty to be imposed, if the penalty proposed is dismissal, removal, reduction in rank or compulsory retirement, the employee charged shall be supplied with a copy of the report of inquiry and be given a further opportunity to show cause why the proposed penalty should not be imposed on him / her.


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