Megh HC | Bank Officer holds a position of trust – an act of breach of authority, therefore, amounts to misconduct

Meghalaya High Court: A Division Bench of Ajay Kumar Mittal, C.J. and H.S. Thangkhiew, J. dismissed a writ appeal filed by a bank officer whereby he was held guilty of misconduct, holding the same to be devoid of any merit.

Appellant herein was accused of committing serious irregularities in payment of three high-value non-home fake cheques amounting to Rs 12,917,000 allegedly issued by the Deputy Inspector of School, Kanpur from an account maintained at Swaroopnagar, Kanpur Branch. The amount was credited by the appellant to the three newly opened saving bank accounts without ensuring the genuineness of the payee and without observing Bank’s extant laid down systems and procedures. The Appellant missed the absence of significant features like ‘bank’s logo in invisible ink’, ‘valid for Rs….’, etc. and did not ensure the use of fugitive ink test/ ultraviolet test for verifying the genuineness of the cheques. Also, he authorized the payment of such high-value cheques single-handedly without referring the same to second Passing Officer despite the bank’s extant instruction that cheques for payment of Rs 10 lakhs and above must be authorized by two officers. The disciplinary officer held all the charges against the appellant, to be proved. The learned Single Judge held that the appellant’s act of not entering the cheques into the high-value transaction register, and giving his authorization on the same, was misconduct on his part. Considering the gravity of the misconduct, the Single Judge did not nullify the punishment of compulsory retirement given by the disciplinary authority, aggrieved whereby the appellant filed this writ appeal. 

 The Court while hearing the case, relied on State Bank of India v. Bela Bagchi, (2005) 7 SCC 435 where, while observing on the discipline to be maintained in a bank and the duties of its employees, it was recorded by the Supreme Court that every employee of bank is required to take all possible steps to protect the interests of the bank and its customers. He must discharge his duties with utmost integrity, honesty, devotion and diligence and do nothing which is unbecoming of a Bank employee. It was further recorded that at the same time, acting beyond one’s authority was by itself a breach of discipline and was misconduct. The Court also relied on Disciplinary Authority-cum-Regional Manager v. Nikunja Bihari Patnaik, (1996) 9 SCC 69 whereby acting beyond one’s authority was held to be misconduct within the meaning of Regulation 24 of Central Bank of India Officers Employees (Discipline & Appeal) Regulations, 1976. It was further recorded by the Court that proof of any loss is not necessary.

Furthermore, the Division Bench of this Court opined that usually the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority must not be disturbed by the High Courts, except in appropriate cases and only for examining all the factors, including the nature of duties assigned having due regard to their sensitiveness and exactness expected of, and discipline required to be maintained, and the department in which the delinquent person concerned works. Thus, having gone through all the facts and the judgment rendered by the learned Single Judge, the Court, found no merit in the appeal, and henceforth dismissed it.[Gautam Dhar v. State Bank of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Megh 105, decided on 11-06-2019]

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