Orissa High Court: In a civil writ petition filed by a Seed Production Officer and marketing manager (‘petitioner’), working at Odisha State Seed Corporation Limited, (‘the Corporation’), sought to quash the Show Cause Notice issued against him and direct the Corporation to release all the consequential terminal dues and service benefits. The Single Judge Bench of Sanjay Kumar Mishra*, J., allowed the petition and quashed the said Show Cause Notice. The Court also directed the authorities concerned to release the retirement dues of the petitioner along with payment of 10 percent interest on the amount of gratuity.
While working as Seed Production Officer and additional charge of Marketing Manager, the petitioner was placed under suspension in terms of the Orissa State Seeds Corporation Service (Classification Control and Appeal) Rules, 1994, shortly, (‘the Rules, 1994’) on the grounds of failure to discharge the duty regarding procurement of groundnut seeds, proper distribution of the same in various districts of the State during Rabi 2013-14 and improper management of inventory. He was also alleged of colluding with private suppliers, causing financial loss to the Corporation.
Accordingly, a charge sheet was issued on 28-06-2014 along with statement of imputations and the Articles of Charge. Later, on attaining the age of 58 years, the petitioner was superannuated from service with effect from 31-07-2014. Subsequently, an enquiry was conducted, and a communication was made on 24-06-2016 to the petitioner indicating therein that he was responsible for the lapses occurred in the seeds transaction and he was liable for the punishment as proposed and the suspension period was treated as such, and the increment was withheld with cumulative effect.
Aggrieved by the said communication, the petitioner had preferred the present writ petition and the Court gave an interim Order dated 21-07-2016, wherein it was ordered that the disciplinary proceeding initiated against the petitioner, may continue but the result thereof shall not be published without leave of the Court.
On perusal of the Rules, 1994, the Court said that it is ascertained that there is no such provision under the said Rules for continuance of the Departmental Proceeding, even after superannuation of an employee, even though Departmental Proceeding has been initiated against the delinquent employee before his superannuation. Further, the Court said that the law is well settled that unless and until there is a specific provision under the Service Rules for continuance of the Departmental Proceeding after superannuation of an employee/delinquent the same is not permissible, even though the Departmental Proceeding has been initiated prior to the superannuation of the delinquent employee.
The Court said that the Disciplinary Authority had acted contrary to Rules, 1994, while issuing the Show Cause Notice dated 24-06-2016. Instead of giving reasons for disagreeing with the findings of the Enquiry Officer, the Disciplinary Authority had brought two additional charges against the petitioner and before the petitioner could tender his explanation to the said additional charges, the Disciplinary Authority simultaneously proposed the punishment to be imposed on him. The Court also noted that the entire process of enquiry, starting from appointment of Enquiry Officer till the date of issuance of Show Cause Notice, were after the petitioner was superannuated on 31-07-2014.
Thus, the Court viewed that the impugned Show Cause Notice, being beyond the provisions under the Rules, 1994, bearing some additional charges, which were not in the Memorandum of Charges, was illegal, unjustified and unsustainable in the eye of law. Therefore, the said Show Cause Notice was set aside. The Court had also set aside the Memorandum of Charges against the petitioner.
The Court said that there was no legal barrier to release the petitioner’s retirement dues including the gratuity, as the petitioner was superannuated from 31-07-2014. The Court directed that the petitioner shall be paid his differential salary, i.e., the salary he would have been entitled to had he not been put under suspension, minus the suspension allowance already paid to him, from the date of his suspension till the date of retirement i.e., 31-07-2014, within the period of six weeks.
Further, the Court said that the last drawn salary of the petitioner as on 31-07-2014 must be calculated and fixed before making such payment. Accordingly, the calculation should be made as to entitlement of the petitioner towards gratuity and leave encashment within six weeks as directed. The Court also directed that in terms of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, the petitioner shall be paid 10 percent interest on the gratuity amount payable from the date of his superannuation, till the date of actual payment of the gratuity, based on the last drawn salary to be fixed by the authority concerned. The petitioner was also entitled for 6 percent interest on leave encashment from the date of his superannuation till the date of actual payment.
[Tapan Narayan Mohanty v. Odisha State Seed Corporation Limited, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 2404, Decided on: 11-05-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioner: Advocate A.K. Acharya;
For the Opposite Parties: Advocate S. Das.