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Depot Manager A.P.S.R.T.C. Vs. V.Kenkateswarulu [1994] INSC 204 (30 March 1994)

Kuldip Singh (J) Kuldip Singh (J) Yogeshwar Dayal (J)

CITATION: 1995 AIR 258 1994 SCC Supl. (2) 191 JT 1994 (3) 199 1994 SCALE (2)417

ACT:

HEAD NOTE:

The Judgment of the Court was delivered by KULDIP SINGH, J.- Delay condoned.

2. Leave granted in all the special leave petitions.

3. The common question for consideration in these appeals is whether an employee of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (Corporation), who was kept under suspension pending investigation, inquiry or trial in a criminal prosecution, is entitled to salary for the period of suspension after the criminal proceedings are terminated in his favour? The High Court has answered the question in the affirmative and in favour of the respondents. These appeals by the Corporation are against the judgment of the High Court.

4.It is not necessary to go into the facts in each of these appeals as Mr Altaf Ahmed, Learned Additional Solicitor General, appearing for the Corporation has very fairly stated that irrespective of the final result in these appeals, the Corporation shall comply with the impugned judgments of the High Court and pay the salary etc. to the appellants for the suspension period as directed by the High Court. We propose to deal with the legal question based on the interpretation of the relevant regulations of the Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation Employees (Classification, Control and Appeal) Regulations, 1967 (the Regulations).

5.Regulation 18 of the Regulations gives power to the appointing authority to place an employee of the Corporation under suspension. Regulation 19 provides for the extension of the period of suspension. Under Regulation 20 an employee is entitled to the payment of subsistence allowance during the period of suspension and Regulation 21 provides for the pay, allowances and treatment 193 of service on reinstatement of the employee. Regulations 18, 20 and 21 to the extent they are relevant are reproduced hereunder:

"18. Suspension.- (1) The appointing authority or any authority to which it is subordinate or any other authority authorised by the Corporation in that behalf by a Resolution may, subject to such conditions and limitations, place an employee under suspension from Service:

(a)Pending investigation or enquiry into grave charges, where such suspension is necessary in the public interest:

(b) where any criminal offence is under investigation or trial;

Provided that where the order of suspension is made by an authority lower than the appointing authority, such authority, shall forthwith report to the appointing authority the circumstance, in which the order of suspension was made.

(2) * * (3) Deleted * * (4) * * (5) * * (6) * * (7) * *

19. The extension of the period of suspension.-*

20. Subsistence allowance during suspension.- (1) An employee under suspension be entitled during the 1st year thereof to a subsistence allowance not exceeding half of his salary on the date, preceding the date of his suspension.

(i) Provided that where the period of suspension exceeds six months, it shall be within the competence of the suspending authority to reduce the amount of subsistence allowance for any period, subsequent to the period of the first six months, by an amount not exceeding fifty per cent of the subsistence allowance so admissible, if, in the opinion of such authority, the prolongation of the suspension has been due to reasons directly attributable to the employee.

(ii) Provided further that the competent authority has discretion to retain the subsistence allowance at the same rate as allowed during the first six months period, if, in the opinion of the competent authority, the prolongation of suspension has been due to reasons not directly attributable to the employee.

(iii) Provided further that where the period of suspension exceeds one year, it shall be within the competence of the competent authority to enhance such proportion of subsistence allowance for any subsequent period, beyond the period of 1st one year, by an amount not exceeding 75% of salary so admissible, if in the opinion of the competent authority or the Managing Director, the prolongation of the suspension has been due to reasons not directly attributable to the employee.

N.B.- Salary for this purpose is the rate of salary payable to him immediately prior to the date of suspension and includes all other allowances payable such as Dearness Allowance, City (Compensatory) Allowance and House Rent Allowance. (2) Deleted.

194 (3) Deleted.

21. Pay, allowances and treatment of service on reinstatement.- (1) When an employee who has been dismissed, removed or suspended is reinstated, the authority competent to order the reinstatement shall consider and make a specific order as to (a) the pay and allowances which shall be paid to the employee for the period of his absence from duty; and (b) whether or not the said period shall be treated as a period spent on duty.

(2) (a) Where such competent authority holds that the employee has been fully exonerated or, in the case of suspension, that it was unjustifiable, the employee shall be granted the full pay and allowances to which he would have been entitled had he not been dismissed, removed or suspended, as the case may be.

(b) In all other cases, the employee shall be granted such proportion of such pay and allowances as such competent authority may direct:

Provided that the payment of allowances under this clause shall be subject to all other conditions subject to which such allowances are admissible.

(c) In a case falling under sub-clause (a), the period of absence from duty shall for all purposes be treated as a period spent on duty.

(d) In a case falling under sub-clause (b) the period of absence from duty shall not be treated as a period spent on duty unless such competent authority specifically directs that it shall be so treated for any specific purpose. It will be open to the competent authority to convert the period into one of leave due.

(3) Nothing contained in clauses (1) and (2) above shall apply in relation to the case of an employee falling under clause (3) of Regulation 20. If, on the termination of the criminal proceedings or his release from custody or the restoration of his licence, as the case may be, he is not either removed or dismissed from service, the period of absence may be treated

(a) if he is absolved of blame as leave due to him; and

(b) if otherwise, in accordance with the provisions of sub-clause (d) of clause (2)."

The original regulations as framed in the year 1967 were amended with effect from 12-9-1977. The Regulations 18, 20 and 21 reproduced above are the amended regulations.

6. The appointing authority or any other authority mentioned in Regulation 18 can place an employee under suspension who is facing investigation or trial on a criminal charge. The employee is entitled to the payment of subsistence allowance during the period of suspension under Regulation 20. Regulation 20(3) which denied subsistence allowance to an employee suspended under Regulation 18(1)(b) (during investigation/trial on a criminal charge) has since been deleted by the amendment. We agree with the High Court that with the deletion of Regulation 20(3) the classification made under Regulation 21(3) has become redundant. The High Court was, however, not justified in holding that on acquittal and reinstatement an employee becomes without any further scrutiny entitled to the payment of full salary for the period during which he 195 remained under suspension. Regulations 21 (1) and 21(2) are equally applicable to an employee who remained under suspension because of investigation/trial on a criminal charge. The competent authority is bound to examine each case in terms of Regulations 21(1) or (sic and) 21(2) and in case it comes to the conclusion that the employee concerned is not entitled to full salary for the period of suspension then the authority has to pass a reasoned order after affording an opportunity to the employee concerned. In other words it is open to the competent authority to withhold payment of full salary for the suspension period on justifiable grounds. The employee concerned has to be given a showcause notice in respect of the proposed action and his reply taken into consideration before passing the final order.

7.We set aside the impugned judgments of the High Court to the extent they go contrary to the interpretation placed by us on the Regulations. The appeals are allowed in the above terms. No costs.

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