Case BriefsHigh Courts

Jharkhand High Court: Dr S.N. Pathak, J. dismissed the instant writ petition being devoid of merit.

The brief facts of the case are that the petitioner was appointed as an Assistant Teacher by the State Government in 1994 on qualifying BPSC exam for the same post. After a long service, he was given the charge of Headmaster in Upgraded Middle School, Khudgadda in Bokaro where he was performing his duties honestly and diligently. However, on 07.06.2010 an inspection was held in the petitioner’s school by the Block Development Officer, Gomiya on the basis of complain made by Gomiya Block President of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha on grounds of irregularity in civil work, irregularity in Mid-Day-Meal Scheme, and non-providing of the equipments of sports and instruments of music to the students under ‘Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan’, consequent to which DSE, Bokaro passed an order of suspension. However, the DSE, Bokaro, revoked suspension order and passed punishment order. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner filed a Service Appeal before the Divisional Commissioner, North Chhotanagpur Division, Hazaribag , but the same was dismissed. Hence, the instant writ petition.

The counsel for the petitioner, Bhawesh Kumar placed reliance on Supreme Court’s decision in, M.V. Bijlani v. Union of India, (2006) 5 SCC 88 and submitted that the act of the respondents was beyond their jurisdiction and politically motivated as no opportunity of hearing was given to the petitioner, neither any explanation nor any show cause notice was issued to him, which amounts to violation of principles of natural justice. He further submitted that construction of building is under taken by the school committee constituted for this purpose under supervision of an engineer and there is no misappropriation by the petitioner.

The counsel for the respondents, Brij Bihari Sinha opposed and submitted that in response to charges, petitioner filed a show cause, which was not found satisfactory and a detailed enquiry was held and the petitioner was found guilty of the charges. Considering the enquiry report and other relevant facts, the DEO passed the order of minor punishment and as such, there is no illegality in the impugned order.

The Court relying on the judgment State of Bihar v. Phulpari Kumari held that the petitioner has been found guilty due to lack of evidence proving otherwise as there was no procedural laches in the proceedings rather a full-fledged enquiry was conducted following the provisions of natural justice and an ample opportunity was given to the petitioner. It was further observed that interference with orders passed pursuant to departmental enquiry can only be in case of ‘no evidence’; sufficiency of evidence not being within realm of judicial review.[Vinod Kumar Prasad v. State of Jharkhand,  2020 SCC OnLine Jhar 278, decided on 06-03-2020]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Uttaranchal High Court: A Division Bench of Ramesh Ranganathan, C.J. and N.S. Dhanik, J. contemplated a writ petition filed in pursuant to the order passed by Court in 2019, which directed the Project Director to prepare a set of instructions, in consultation with the concerned officials, for effective implementation of the Mid-day Meal Scheme, directed each school to strictly adhere thereto, and  periodical inspections to be caused by a separate inspection staff with a view to satisfy himself that the funds earmarked for this Scheme were not misappropriated, an affidavit was filed by the Project Director enclosing thereto the Government Order in this regard.

The petitioner i.e. the Project Director in the affidavit stated that, immediately after the Government Order was issued, the Secretary and School Education had issued directions to all District Magistrates of Uttarakhand for implementation of the said guidelines.

Siddharth Sah, learned counsel for the petitioner contended that, Principals of the said schools where lapse were noticed and implementation of Scheme was ineffective, were let off with a mere adverse entry. The counsel was satisfied with the guidelines issued by State, but highlighted certain loopholes as well in the practical approach.

The Court observed considerable force in the submissions of the petitioner and noted that undue leniency was shown to those who failed to discharge the duties entrusted to them, of effective implementation of the Scheme, which may well embolden others to be negligent or to misutilize funds earmarked for the Scheme. The Court advised to take more stringent disciplinary actions against the concerned Principals and officers. It directed the first respondent to consider giving wide publicity to the guidelines now framed for effective implementation of the Scheme, so that all stakeholders are made aware of the duties which those, in charge of the Scheme, were required to discharge.

The Court further held, “in the exercise of its jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, this Court would, ordinarily, not sit in judgment over the decision of the competent authority in imposing punishment. We see no reason, therefore, to now direct the authorities to impose a more stringent punishment on the Principal concerned.”[Somendra Kumar v. State of Uttarakhand, 2019 SCC OnLine Utt 359, decided on 14-05-2019]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Patna High Court: The Bench of Madhuresh Prasad, J. allowed a petition challenging order directing withdrawal of pay increments, holding that enquiry into the matter was done without considering relevant materials.

Petitioner, while working as in-charge officer of mid-day meal scheme in Khagaria, was proceeded against under charge memo alleging that he had recommended one Non-Government Organization (NGO) – ‘Maya Labour Seva Sansthan’ – for executing mid-day meal in an urban and semi-urban area of Khagaria ignoring the norms in vogue.

Petitioner’s case before the Enquiry Officer was that alleged charges were unsustainable in view of the fact that prior to his recommendation, the District Superintendent of Education, Khagaria had already issued an order granting responsibility of mid-day meal in favour of the said NGO. Thus, in view of the earlier order of District Superintendent of Education, he could not have been held responsible for granting the work of mid-day meal. However, the disciplinary authority did not consider his plea, and ordered the withdrawal of five increments of petitioner’s pay with cumulative effect. The Appellate Authority affirmed this order. Aggrieved thereby, the instant petition was filed.

The Court noted that the alleged recommendation of the petitioner had not even been produced in the enquiry. The Enquiry Officer had not considered any evidence in support of the charge whatsoever, and had not even looked into the communication allegedly issued by the District Superintendent of Education. Thus, it was opined that the petitioner had been punished without even examining any evidence in support of the charges.

In view of the above, it was held that report of the Enquiry Officer was clearly unsustainable. Further, the impugned order of Disciplinary Authority and Appellate Authority was also held to be unsustainable and thus quashed.[Sanjay Kumar v. State of Bihar, 2019 SCC OnLine Pat 236, Order dated 22-02-2019]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 3-Judge Bench comprising of Madan B. Lokur, Deepak Gupta and Hemant Gupta, JJ. pronounced an order while imposing costs on various States with the primary concern regarding “Mid-Day Meal” Scheme.

The present order specifies the allegations submitted by the petitioner, stating that the food-grains have been disappearing and not reaching the schools and thereby the benefit of Mid-Day Meal Scheme is being denied to children.

For the above-stated allegation, the Court with disappointment stated that States have been asked to render assistance and to upload all the data so that necessary corrective steps can be taken from time to time and even after various orders in that regard, no co-operation has been seen from the States.

Further, the Bench stated that, on 26-10-2018, it was submitted by the States of Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Andhra Pradesh, and Odisha that they would comply with the requirements of the Mid-Day Meal Scheme, but the Court stated that a month has passed and there has been absolutely no progress by the States, which leaves no option other than imposing costs of Rs 1,00,000 and a direction being given to deposit the amount with Supreme Court Legal Services Committee.

The Court lastly, stated that NCT of Delhi had no representative on the last day of the hearing, and for the present hearing the appearance of the representative serves no purpose as no information is available, therefore, the costs of Rs 2,00,000 are imposed.

The present matter has been asked to be listed after 4 weeks. [Antarrashtriya Manav Adhikaar Nigraani Parishad v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2677, Order dated 04-12-2018]