Pat HC | Handing over responsibility to branch incharge during his own absence would not absolve Branch Manager of his liability

Patna High Court: Madhuresh Prasad, J. disposed of the application by giving him an opportunity to approach the Board of Directors in order to get his punishment reviewed. 

The petitioner was a Branch Manager of the respondent Bank which alleged that he did not observe the norms regarding maintenance, safety, upkeep and security of documents including banker’s cheque book in the Branch. 

The petitioner being on leave from 15.12.2001 to 27.12.2001, had handed over charge of the branch to another officer. He returned on 27.12.2001and on 29.12.2001 it was revealed that the banker’s cheque for an amount of Rs. 2.5 lakh was encashed at the State Bank of India. The cheque was drawn from the petitioner’s branch since he had not observed the rules for safe maintenance and upkeep of valuable documents including banker’s cheque, such withdrawal had been made. 

The petitioner’s case was that the transaction has been done during the petitioner’s period of leave and he had handed over the keys of almirah in the branch wherein all the documents including the banker’s cheque book was kept to the Incharge. 

Mr. Prashant Vedasen, appearing on behalf of the Bank, submitted that substantially the charge was for non-observance of adequate precaution in the matter of maintenance of safety and upkeep of the valuable documents in the bank. From a bare perusal of the statement of imputation, enclosed along with the charge memo, it would be evident that the petitioner did not ensure that there was a system of duel charge/custody of the valuable documents including banker’s cheque book in his branch. There was no system of accounting at the end of every day as to how many leaf from the banker’s cheque was used or remained unused. Even after his joining on 27.12.2001, the petitioner did not verify whether the banker’s cheque, which was encashed on 18.12.2001, was issued from the cheque book or not. The fraudulent withdrawal came to light on 29.12.2001. Even passbooks were not being updated on a daily basis and the banking transactions were being entered in a pseudo passbook. These allegations/ imputations were not denied by the petitioner.

The Court held that handing over his responsibilities to the branch in-charge in his absence would not absolve the petitioner of the observance of norms and requisite caution by at least updating of the banker’s cheque book account every day. Whether the petitioner could be attributed to the issuance of the cheque was an issue that had not been conclusively established by the authorities as the Forensic Science Laboratory had submitted a report that the petitioner’s signature on the cheque book was forged. Therefore, at best the petitioner’s lack of adequate care in the matter of maintenance and safety of the documents was an issue in the instant proceeding.

In view of the above-noted facts, the writ application was disposed of with the directions that the petitioner was permitted one opportunity to raise the issue of quantum of punishment before the Appellate Authority i.e. Board of Directors of Dakshin Bihar Gramin Bank. Since the petitioner had not raised this issue, liberty was granted, but with a stipulation that if the authorities were of the view that more lenient view could have been taken in the matter, the effect of the same would be prospective and will not give rise to claim for any arrears by the petitioner, since he had not raised this issue earlier. [Vinay Kumar v. Madhya Bihar Gramin Bank, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 1708, decided on 20-09-2019]

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