Jhar HC | [Service Law] In a case past two decade, Court observes procedural irregularity at the behest of Disciplinary authority; issues direction for consequential benefits

Jharkhand High Court

Jharkhand High Court: Deepak Roshan, J., while allowing the present writ application, said, “This court is having no hesitation to hold that there is a procedural irregularity in passing the impugned order of punishment. As such, the impugned order of punishment and all subsequent orders deserve to be quashed and set aside.”

Background

The facts of the instant writ application are briefly mentioned hereunder;

  1. That while the petitioner was posted as Manager at Jamshedpur Branch of the respondent Bank, a memorandum of charge was issued on 19-07-1999 and delivered to him on 30-07-1999 whereby, it was proposed to hold a departmental enquiry against him with regard to imputation of misconduct.
  2. Thereafter, in terms of the aforesaid charge-sheet, departmental enquiry has been conducted in which the petitioner filed a detailed written brief denying all allegations leveled against him.
  3. Thereafter, the Inquiry officer submitted his enquiry report on 18-02-2002, which was delivered to the petitioner on 28-02-2002.
  4. Pursuant to that, petitioner filed a detailed reply against the finding of the Inquiry Officer and finally the order for removal from service was passed against the petitioner by the Disciplinary authority.
  5. Being aggrieved, the petitioner filed an appeal on 16-01-2003, which was also dismissed vide order dated 02-01-2004.
  6. Thereafter, the petitioner filed a writ application; W.P.(S) No. 444 of 2005 before the present Court and the said writ application was disposed of by order dated 1st March, 2012, whereby the petitioner was directed to prefer a review application and the reviewing authority was directed to consider the case of the petitioner.
  7. Pursuant to the aforesaid order of this court, the petitioner filed a review application which was also dismissed.

 Contentions

Krishna Murari, Counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the impugned order of punishment, as well as the appellate and review order, are bad in law, inasmuch as, the issue raised by the petitioner, right from the stage of enquiry proceedings, has not been considered by either of the authorities. He further referred to Rule 6(5) and 6(10) of the Central Bank of India Officer Employees (Conduct) Regulations, 1976 and contended that it is a mandatory requirement that the Inquiry Authority, where the Officer/Employee does not admit all or any of the article of charge, furnish to such officer a list of documents and list of witnesses along with the article of charge. However, in the instant case, the mandatory requirement as enshrined in the aforesaid Regulation has not been complied with. It was further submitted that the stand taken by the petitioner, wherein it has been specifically stated that the “list of witnesses proposed and the documents relied upon by the Bank were never supplied to the petitioner and the witnesses were produced on a particular date without the knowledge of the petitioner, thus, depriving him of the opportunity to prepare himself for the cross-examination of the witnesses as per rule,” has been replied evasively by the respondent Bank. In this regard, the Counsel emphasized on Order VIII Rule 4 and 5 of the Code of Civil Procedure which clearly says that denial must be specific and not evasive, and further placed reliance on State of U.P. v. Saroj Kumar Sinha, (2010) 2 SCC 772 and G.V. Aswathanarayana v. Central Bank of India, (2004) 1 LLJ 36.

P.A.S. Pati, Counsel for the respondent Bank, supports the impugned order, however, could not demonstrate that the mandatory requirement as envisaged in Rule 6(5) and 6(10) of the Regulation was complied with. He cannot dispute the averment made in the counter affidavit while replying to the categorical statement made in the writ application, however, he reiterated that principle of natural justice has been complied with.

 Observations

Court reproduced the allegation as well as the reply made by the respondent bank and further reproduced the language of Order VIII Rule 4 and 5(1) of the CPC, 1908.

Rule 4. Evasive denial – Where a defendant denies an allegation of fact in the plaint, he must not do so evasively, but answer the point of substance. Thus, if it is alleged that he received a certain sum of money, it shall not be sufficient to deny that he received that particular amount, but he must deny that he received that sum or any part thereof, or else set out how much he received. And if an allegation is made with diverse circumstances, it shall not be sufficient to deny it along with those circumstances.

Rule 5. Specific denial – (1) Every allegation of fact in the plaint, if not denied specifically or by necessary implication, or stated to be not admitted in the pleading of the defendant, shall be taken to be admitted except as against a person under disability: Provided that the Court may in its discretion require any fact so admitted to be proved otherwise than by such admission.”

It went on to conclude, “After going through the specific provision under Code of Civil Procedure and in the background of the statement given in the counter affidavit it can be easily inferred that the statement made in Paragraph 38 of the writ application regarding non-supply of documents and list of witnesses, are not denied specifically by the respondents.

 Decision

Allowing the present writ application, the Court held, “Normally, in such type of cases, the matter should have been remitted back to the competent authority to start the proceeding from the stage of the irregularity commenced, by following principles of natural justice. However, in the instant case, the petitioner has already retired on 31-03-2010 and at present he is about 74 years. Further, the case relates to the year 1999 and calling the management witness now will be a futile exercise, as such, no fruitful purpose would be served to remit the case back to the Disciplinary authority for compliance of mandatory requirements of the Regulation. Consequently, the Impugned Order and all subsequent orders are hereby quashed and set aside. The Respondents are directed to give consequential benefits to the petitioner.”[Rama Shankar v. Central Bank of India, 2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 1039, decided on 15-12-2020]


Sakshi Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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