Kumar Singhal Vs. Regional Manager Punjab National Bank  INSC 592 (10
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6423 OF
2010 (Arising out of SLP (C) NO. 4216 OF 2008) SUSHIL KUMAR SINGHAL
...Appellant Versus THE REGIONAL MANAGER, PUNJAB NATIONAL BANK ...Respondent
Dr. B. S.
This appeal has been preferred against the Judgment and Order
dated 10.09.2007 passed by High Court of Punjab & Haryana in Civil Writ
Petition 14014 of 2007, by which the High Court had dismissed the writ petition
for quashing the award dated 3rd January, 2007, passed by the Central
Government Industrial Tribunal-cum-Labour Court-II at Chandigarh (hereinafter
called as, "Tribunal"), by which the Tribunal had upheld the
dismissal of the appellant from service on the ground of conviction of the
appellant in criminal case involving moral turpitude.
Facts and circumstances giving rise to the present case are that
the appellant was appointed as a Peon in the respondent-Bank, Kaithal Branch,
on 01.12.1971 and stood confirmed on the said post vide order dated 28.12.1977.
The appellant was handed over cash of Rs.5000/-, to deposit the same as dues
for the Telephone Bill in the Post Office.
it was not deposited by the appellant, therefore, the bank lodged FIR No. 171
under Section 409 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 (hereinafter called
"lPC") against the appellant, on 27.04.1982, in Police Station, City
Kaithal. Appellant was tried for the said offence. After conclusion of trial,
the appellant was convicted by the competent Criminal Court vide Judgment and
Order dated 28.01.1988. The respondent-Bank issued a Show Cause Notice dated
01.03.1988 to the appellant, proposing dismissal from service and asked the
appellant to show cause within a period of seven days. The appellant submitted
the reply dated 08.03.1988. However, the 2 respondent-Bank dismissed the
appellant from service vide order dated 09.03.1988.
Being aggrieved, the appellant raised an industrial dispute under
Disputes Act, 1947 and the matter was referred to the
Tribunal. In the meanwhile, the appeal filed by the appellant against the order
of conviction was decided by the appellate Court vide judgment and order dated
29.5.1989. The appellate Court maintained the conviction, but granted him the
benefit of probation under The Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 (hereinafter
called as, "Act 1958) and released the appellant on probation. The
Tribunal made the award dated 03.01.2007, rejecting the claim of the appellant
and holding his dismissal from service to be justified and in accordance with
Being aggrieved, the appellant challenged the said award of the
Tribunal by filing the writ petition No. 14014 of 2007, before the High Court.
His petition also stood dismissed vide impugned Judgment and order dated
10.09.2007. Hence, this appeal.
Sh. Pradeep Gupta, learned counsel appearing for the appellant,
has submitted that once the appellant had been granted the benefit of the Act,
1958, the respondent-Bank ought to have considered his case for reinstatement,
as the benefit granted by the appellate Court under the provisions of Act,
1958, had taken away "disqualification" by virtue of Section 12 of
the Act, 1958. The appeal deserves to be allowed and the Judgment and Order of
the High Court as well as the Award of the Tribunal are liable to be set aside.
Per contra, Sh. Rajesh Kumar, learned counsel appearing for the
respondent-Bank, has vehemently opposed the appeal contending that grant of
benefit under the Act, 1958 takes away only the punishment (sentence) and not
the factum of conviction, therefore, in case, an employee of the Bank stands
convicted in an offence involving moral turpitude, it is permissible for the
respondent-Bank to remove him from service. Appeal lacks merit and is liable to
We have considered the rival submissions made by the learned
counsel for the parties and perused the record. The facts of the case are not
in dispute. The Trial Court has 4 convicted the appellant under Section 409 IPC
after recording the finding of fact that the appellant had not deposited the
telephone bill in spite of receiving a sum of Rs. 5000/- for that purpose on
26.04.1982 and he deposited the said amount with the Bank on 27.07.1982 vide
voucher (Exhibit PH).
had also taken away the Bicycle of the Bank. The appellate Court maintained the
conviction, however, it granted the appellant the benefit of probation under
the Act, 1958.
The sole question involved in this case is whether the benefit
granted to the appellant under the provisions of Act, 1958 makes him entitled
to reinstatement in service.
involved herein is no more res integra.
(Suppl.) SCC 17, this Court held:- "As the appellant has been released on
probation, this may not affect his service career in view of Section 12 of the
Probation of offenders Act."
The said judgment in Aitha Chander Rao (Supra) was 5 School
Education, (1998) 2 SCC 383, observing that due to the peculiar circumstances
of the case, the benefit of the provisions of 1958 Act had been given to him
and as in that case there had been no discussion on the words
"disqualification, if any attaching to a conviction of an offence under
such law", the said judgment cannot be treated as a binding precedent.
This Court interpreted the provisions of Section 12 of the 1958, Act and held
as under :- "In our view, Section 12 of the probation of offenders Act
would apply only in respect of a disqualification that goes with a conviction
under law which provides for the offence and its punishment. That is the plain
meaning of the words "disqualification, if any, attaching to a conviction
of an offence under such law"
Where the law that provides for an offence and its punishment also stipulates a
disqualification, a person convicted of the offence but released on probation
does not by reason of Section 12, suffers the disqualification. It cannot be
held that by reason of Section 12, a conviction for an offence should not be taken
into account for the purposes of dismissal of the person convicted from
In Divisional Personnel Officer, Southern Railway & observed
that the conviction of an accused, or the finding of the Court that he is
guilty, does not stand washed away because that is the sine-qua-non for the
order of release on probation. The order of release on probation is merely in
substitution of the sentence to be imposed by the Court. Thus, the factum of
guilt on the criminal charge is not swept away merely by passing the order
under the Act, 1958.
Court had held that if a person stands convicted and is given the benefit of
the provisions of the 1958, Act, he can be removed from service only on the
ground that he stood convicted. But by virtue of the provisions of Section 12
of the 1958, Act, his removal cannot be a "disqualification" for the
purposes provided in other Statutes such as the Representation of the People
Act, 1950. The same view has 7 Punjab & Anr., (1996) 7 SCC 748; and
Additional Deputy (1997) 11 SCC 571.
this Court has held that the order of dismissal from service, consequent upon a
conviction, is not a disqualification within the meaning of Section 12 of the
1958, Act. The court held as under :- "There are Statutes which provide
that the persons, who are convicted for certain offences, shall incur certain
disqualification; for example, Chapter III of the Representation of Peoples
Act, 1951 entitles 'disqualification' for Membership of Parliament and State
Legislatures, and Chapter IV entitles 'disqualification' for voting, contains
the provisions which disqualify persons convicted of certain charges from being
the Members of Legislatures or from voting at election to the legislature. That
is the sense in which the word 'disqualification' is used in Section 12 of the
Probation of Offenders Act.......Therefore, it is not possible to accept the
reasoning of the High Court that Section 12 of the 1958 Act takes away the
effect of conviction for the purpose of service also."
Court has held that the High Court, while deciding a criminal case and giving
the benefit of the U.P. First Offenders Probation Act, 1958, or similar
enactment, has no competence to issue any direction that the accused shall not
suffer any civil consequences. The Court has held as under:
also fail to understand, how the High Court, while deciding a criminal case,
can direct that the accused must be deemed to have been in continuous service
without break, and, therefore, he should be paid his full pay and dearness
allowance during the period of his suspension. This direction and observation
is wholly without jurisdiction...."
some part of the Judgment in T.R. Chellappan (supra) was overruled
by the Constitution Bench of this Court. But the observations cited
hereinbefore were not overruled.
Sajivan & Anr., (2007) 9 SCC 86, this Court explained that the Judgment in
Aitha Chander Rao (supra) did not lay down any law as no reason has been
assigned in support of 9 the order. Thus, the same remained merely an order
purported to have been passed under Article 142 of the Constitution of India.
This Court allowed the disciplinary authority to initiate the disciplinary
proceedings in accordance with law and pass an appropriate order, in spite of
the fact that in the said case, the court, after recording the conviction, had
granted benefits of the provisions of the Act, 1958 to the employee.
view of the above, the law on the issue can be summarized to the effect that
the conviction of an employee in an offence permits the disciplinary authority
to initiate disciplinary proceedings against the employee or to take
appropriate steps for his dismissal/removal only on the basis of his
conviction. The word `Disqualification' contained in Section 12 of the Act,
1958 refers to a disqualification provided in other Statutes, as explained by
this Court in the above referred cases, and the employee cannot claim a right
to continue in service merely on the ground that he had been given the benefit
of probation under the Act, 1958.
18. Sh. Gupta,
learned counsel for the appellant has placed very heavy reliance on the
Judgment of this Court in Shankar Dass (supra) and submitted that this Court
has held otherwise in that case. We have gone through the entire judgment and
found that there is a complete fallacy in the submissions made by Sh. Gupta in
this regard. In fact, in that case, this Court came to the conclusion that in
spite of the fact that the benefit of the provisions of Act, 1958 had been
granted by the Criminal Court, disciplinary proceedings could be initiated
against the employee. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case
involved therein, the Court asked the Management to reconsider the issue of
quantum of punishment. This Court had taken note of the observations made by the
Criminal Court while granting the benefit of the Act, 1958, which are as under
:- "Misfortune dogged the accused for about a year......and it seems that
it was under the force of adverse circumstances that he held back the money in
Dass is a middle-aged man and it is obvious that it was under compelling
circumstances that he could not deposit the money in question in time. He is
not a previous convict."
Court also took further note of his other problems as under :- "The
appellant was a victim of adverse circumstances; his son died in February,
1962, which was followed by another misfortune; his wife fell down from an
upper storey and was seriously injured; it was then the turn of his daughter
who fell seriously ill and that illness lasted for eight months."
aforesaid facts and circumstances, this Court asked the Management to consider
whether some other lesser punishment commensurate to the misconduct could be
awarded. In fact the punishment of dismissal was found to be disproportionate
to the delinquency committed by the appellant therein. Had this Court intended
to say that once benefit of the Act, 1958 is extended to a delinquent, his
conviction also stands washed off, the court could have directed the Management
to re-instate the employee rather than asking to impose a lesser punishment.
Thus, the submission so advanced by Shri Gupta is preposterous.
Court reconsidered the said case i.e. Shankar Dass (1986) Supp. SCC 566, and
held that the provisions of Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India
conferred the power on the Government to dismiss a person on the ground of
conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge. It is thus, clear
that it was open to the respondent-Bank to initiate the disciplinary
proceedings and impose the punishment in view of the provisions of The Banking
Regulation Act, 1949 (hereinafter called as, "Act 1949").
Section 10(1)(b)(i) of the Act, 1949, reads as under :- "No banking
company - (a) .......
employ or continue the employment of any person - (i) who is, or at any time
has been, adjudicated insolvent, or has suspended payment or has compounded
with his creditors, or who is, or has been, convicted by a criminal court of an
offence involving moral turpitude."
supplied) The aforesaid provision makes it clear that the Management is under
an obligation to discontinue the services 13 of an employee who is or has been
convicted by a Criminal Court for an offence involving moral turpitude.
Turpitude means [Per Black's Law Dictionary (8th Edn.,2004)] :- "Conduct
that is contrary to justice, honesty, or morality. In the area of legal ethics,
offenses involving moral turpitude such as fraud or breach of trust. Also
termed moral depravity.
turpitude means, in general, shameful wickedness- so extreme a departure from
ordinary standards of honest, good morals, justice, or ethics as to be shocking
to the moral sense of the community. It has also been defined as an act of
baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which one
person owes to another, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and
customary rule of right and duty between people."
this Court has observed as under:- "`Moral turpitude' is an expression
which is used in legal as also societal parlance to describe conduct which is
inherently base, vile, depraved or having any connection showing
aforesaid judgment in Pawan Kumar (supra) has been considered by this Court
again in Allahabad Bank & Collector, AIR 1959 All. 71, wherein it has been
held as under:- "The expression `moral turpitude' is not defined anywhere.
But it means anything done contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good
morals. It implies depravity and wickedness of character or disposition of the
person charged with the particular conduct. Every false statement made by a
person may not be moral turpitude, but it would be so if it discloses vileness
or depravity in the doing of any private and social duty which a person owes to
his fellow men or to the society in general. If therefore the individual
charged with a certain conduct owes a duty, either to another individual or to
the society in general, to act in a specific manner or not to so act and he still
acts contrary to it and does so knowingly, his conduct must be held to be due
to vileness and depravity. It will be contrary to accepted customary rule and
duty between man and man."
view of the above, it is evident that moral turpitude means anything contrary
to honesty, modesty or good morals.
vileness and depravity. In fact, the conviction of a 15 person in a crime
involving moral turpitude impeaches his credibility as he has been found to
have indulged in shameful, wicked, and base activities.
Undoubtedly, the embezzlement of Rs.5000/- by the appellant, for which he had
been convicted, was an offence involving moral turpitude. The Statutory
provisions of the Act, 1949, provide that the Management shall not permit any
person convicted for an offence involving moral turpitude to continue in
after placing reliance on large number of its earlier judgments held as under
:- "No Court has competence to issue a direction contrary to law nor the
Court can direct an authority to act in contravention of the statutory
courts are meant to enforce the rule of law and not to pass the orders or
directions which are contrary to what has been injuncted by law."
such a fact-situation, it is not permissible for this Court to issue any
direction as had been issued in the case of Shankar Dass (supra).
view of the above, we reach the conclusion that once a Criminal Court grants a
delinquent employee the benefit of Act, 1958, its order does not have any
bearing so far as the service of such employee is concerned. The word
"disqualification" in Section 12 of the Act, 1958 provides that such
a person shall not stand disqualified for the purposes of other Acts like the
Representation of the People Act, 1950 etc.
conviction in a criminal case is one part of the case and release on probation
is another. Therefore, grant of benefit of the provisions of Act, 1958, only
enables the delinquent not to undergo the sentence on showing his good conduct
during the period of probation. In case, after being released, the delinquent
commits another offence, benefit of Act, 1958 gets terminated and the
delinquent can be made liable to undergo the sentence. Therefore, in case of an
employee who stands convicted for an offence involving moral turpitude, it is
his misconduct that leads to his dismissal.
Undoubtedly, the appellant was convicted by the Criminal Court for having
committed the offence under Section 409 IPC and was awarded two years'
sentence. The 17 appellate court granted him the benefit of Act, 1958. The
Tribunal rejected his claim for re-instatement and other benefits taking note
of the fact that appellant was given an opportunity by the Management to show
cause as to why he should not be dismissed from service. The appellant
submitted his reply to the said show cause notice. The Management passed the
order of dismissal in view of the provisions of the Act, 1949. The Tribunal
also took into consideration the contents of the Bi-Partite Settlement
applicable in the case and rejected the appellant's claim. The High Court
considered appellant's grievance elaborately as is evident from the impugned
judgment. We could not persuade ourselves, in the aforesaid fact-situation,
that any other view could also be possible.
view of the above, we find no force in the appeal and it is accordingly
dismissed. No order as to costs.
..................................J. (P. SATHASIVAM)