Bank of India Vs. Vishwa Mohan  INSC 212 (7 April 1998)
V. Manohar, S.P. Kurdukar, D.P. Wadhwa S.P. Kurdukar,J
first appellant is a nationalized bank incorporated under the Banking companies
(Acquisition and Transfer of undertakings) Act, 1970, (for short `the Act').
The service conditions of its officers/employees are governed by Regulations
framed under the powers delegated under Section 19 of the Act. The disciplinary
proceedings for various acts of branch by its officers/employees are regulated
by Union Bank of India Officers Employees (Discipline and
Appeal) Regulations, 1976, (for short ` the Regulations')
respondent was initially recruited in the service of the Bank as a Clerk.
Incidentally, it may be stated that in 1974, an inquiry was conducted in regard
to certain acts of misconduct and irregularities committed by him and upon such
findings by the Inquiry Officer, he was dismissed from service, but, however,
on his representations, he was reinstated on humanitarian grounds in 1982
pursuant to the order passed by the Managing Director.
reinstatement, the respondent came within the zone of consideration for
promotion. He accordingly participated in the promotion process held in 1982-83
and was empanelled in 1984 for promotion. He came to be promoted as an officer
in the year 1988 on his turn in the panel. Sometime in 1989, certain
irregularities committed by him prior to the promotion and thereafter came to
the notice of the bank authorities and thereafter he came to be suspended under
the Regulations and was paid only the subsistence allowance as admissible under
the Regulations. The respondent filed Writ Petition No. 3789 of 1990 and it
appears that the High Court by its order dated 9th February, 1990 stayed the operation of the orders passed by the bank
authorities. We are told that the Writ Petition is still pending.
Disciplinary Authority on being prima facie satisfied that the alleged
misconduct of the respondent needs to be inquired into under the Regulations,
instituted departmental inquiry. The four charge sheets dated 17th February
1989, 25th August 1989, 16th December 1989 and 13th February, 1990 came to be
served on the respondent for his alleged acts of bribery, embezzlement, misappropriation
and other acts of unbecoming of a bank officer. After service of the charge
sheets and the statement of allegations in respect thereof, an Inquiry Officer
came to be appointed.
the inquiry proceedings, the respondent attended on few dates and thereafter
the inquiry proceeded ex parte.
Inquiry Authority after analysing the evidence led before it found the
respondent guilty of charges which were levelled against him and accordingly
submitted it's report dated 8th December, 1990 to the disciplinary Authority.
Disciplinary Authority after considering the report by its order dated 7th January, 1991 warded the punishment of dismissal
of the respondent from the service. This order was unsuccessfully challenged in
the Writ Petition and the same was dismissed on 21st March, 1991 on the ground that the respondent had not availed the
alternate remedy of appeal as provided under Regulation 17. the respondent
thereafter preferred an appeal under Regulation 17 to the Appellate Authority
which after considering it on merits dismissed the same vide it's order dated
30th may 1991. The respondent aggrieved b the orders passed by the Disciplinary
Authority and the Appellate Authority filed a Civil Misc. Writ Petition No.
23286 of 1991 in the High Court.
High Court after hearing the parties and on perusal of their pleadings vide its
Judgment and order dated 30th April, 1996 allowed the writ petition nd set
aside the orders dated 7th January, 1991 and 30th May, 1991 passed by the
Disciplinary Authority and the Appellate Authority respectively and directed
the Disciplinary Authority to serve a copy of the inquiry report on the
respondent, who if so chooses, may file a representation against the inquiry
report. The Disciplinary Authority thereafter will consider the report and the
representation and will pass the order in accordance with law. The High Court
further directed that the respondent be reinstated to the post which he held at
the time of dismissal forthwith to enable the Disciplinary authority to
conclude the inquiry afresh in the light of the observations made in the
judgment. It is this order passed by the High Court which is the subject matter
of challenge in this appeal.
may briefly indicate the reasons which weighed with the High Court to set aside
the order of dismissal dated 7th January, 1991
and 30th may, 1991 passed by the Disciplinary Authority and the Appellate
Authority respectively. The High Court assumed that the copy of the inquiry
report was never furnished to the respondent at any stage and therefore, the
respondent was greatly prejudiced due to non receipt of the copy of the inquiry
report. Factually, this is incorrect.
appears that the copy of the report was not furnished to the respondent until
the Disciplinary Authority passed the order of dismissal on 7th January, 1991. But, however, the said copy
appears to have been served on the respondent when he filed the statutory
representation/appeal under the Regulations before the Appellate Authority.
perusal of appeal and the writ petition memos, it is quite clear that the
respondent had challenged the inquiry report/findings on merits. In fact, he
annexed the copy of the report/findings as Annexure XVI to the said petition.
In paragraph 62, he had assailed the findings of the Inquiry Authority and
sought to project that he is totally innocent and none of the charges could be
sustained on the material produced before the Inquiry Authority. It is thus
clear that the respondent did have an opportunity to assail the findings of the
Inquiry Authority in the statutory appeal as well as in the writ petition. In
the light of this factual position, the question that arises for our
consideration is whether the High Court had correctly applied the ratio of the
judgment of this Court in Managing Director, ECIL. SCC 727. The High Court has
reproduced para 31 of this judgment in extenso but while applying the ratio, in
our considered view, it has committed an error. What weight with the High Court
can be best summarised in its own words as under :- "Whereas the first
charge-sheet relates to the period when he was a clerk in the bank, subsequent
three charge sheets relate to the period when he was promoted to the cadre of
officers. The contention of the his promotion to the cadre of officers means
that he had satisfactory record before the date of promotion. It is submitted
that the promotion implies a good and satisfactory past record.
the petitioner puts in satisfactory service in the past, it is contended that
he will not be promoted to the care to care of officers and if that is so, no
charge of the period when he was a clerk in the bank , could be made the basis
of disciplinary proceedings by the respondents. It is contended that if the
inquiry report had been served on the petitioner, then he would have
highlighted this aspect in his representation to the Disciplinary Authority;
and in that event the Disciplinary Authority would not have been influenced by
the grave charges as stated in the first charge sheet." While dealing with
these contentions, the High Court observed:- "It is not shown in what
circumstances the charges under the first charge sheet have been considered .
All these questions deserved to be considered. If the disciplinary authority
comes to the conclusion that the charges stated in the first charge sheet,
cannot be the basis of the proceedings, then the question would be whether the
charges as stated in the subsequent three charge sheets warrant the same
punishment which is awarded on the charges of all the four charge sheets."
The High Court then went on to observe :- "We have carefully gone through
all the charges. In the first charge sheet relating to the period when the
petitioner was a clerk, charges of bribe, misuse of house loan and other
serious financial irregularities have been stated which are stated by the
disciplinary authority in his order. The charges of such serious nature are not
stated in other charge sheets. It is, therefore, difficult to say as to what
extent the disciplinary authority was authority was influenced by the charges
which stand proved under the first charge sheet. The question for consideration
is whether the disciplinary authority would have awarded the punishment of
dismissal if the first charge sheet were not there, There is no material to
indicate that the disciplinary authority would have reached the same conclusion
in the matter of punishment even only the subsequent three charge sheets were
there. On these facts, the submission of the petitioner that the is greatly
prejudiced from non- supply of the copy of the inquiry report is not without
force. The position would have been different had the disciplinary authority
imposed the same punishment without taking into consideration the first charge
sheet. On the facts and circumstances of the case, it is difficult to apply the
principle of severeability, because the charges are so inextricably mixed up.
We are, therefore, of the view that non-supply of the copy of the inquiry
report as contended by the petitioner, seriously prejudiced him."
are totally in disagreement with the above quoted reasoning of the High Court.
The distinction sought to be drawn by the High Court that the first charge
sheet served on the respondent related to the period when he was a clerk
whereas other three charge sheets related to the period when he was promoted as
a bank officer. In the present case, we are required to see the findings of the
Inquiry Authority, the order of the Disciplinary Authority as well as the order
of the Appellate Authority since the High Court felt that the charges levelled
against the respondent after he was promoted as an officer were not of serious
nature. A bare look at these charges would unmistakably indicate that they
relate to the misconduct of a serious nature. The High Court also committed an
error when it assumed that when the respondent was promoted as a bank officer,
he must be having a good report otherwise he would not have been promoted.
finding is totally unsustainable because the various acts of misconduct came to
the knowledge of the bank in the year 1989 and thereafter the first charge
sheet was issued on 17th
February, 1989. The
respondent was promoted as a bank officer some time in the year 1988. At that
time, no such adverse material relating to the misconduct of the respondent was
noticed by the bank on which his promotion could have been withheld. We are
again unable to accept the reasoning of the High Court that in the facts and
circumstances of the case "it is difficult to apply the principle of
severability as the charges are so inextricably mixed up." If one reads
the four charge sheets, they all relate to the serious misconduct which include
taking bribe, failure to protect interest of banks, failure to perform duties
with utmost devotion diligence, integrity and honesty, acting in a manner
unbecoming of a bank officer etc. In our considered view, on the facts of this
case, this principle has no application but assuming that it applies yet the
High Court has erred in holding that the principle of severability cannot be
applied in the present case. The finding in this behalf is unsustainable. As
stated earlier, the appellant had in his possession the inquiry report/findings
when he filed the statutory appeal as well as the writ petition in the High
Court. The High Court was required to apply its judicial mind to all the
circumstances and then form its opinion whether non-furnishing of the report
would have made any difference to the result in the case and thereupon pass an
appropriate order. In paragraph 13, this Court in Managing Director, ECIL, Hyderabad and others (supra) has very rightly
Court/Tribunal should not mechanically set aside the order of punishment on the
ground that the report was not furnished as is regrettably being done at
courts should avoid resorting to short cuts." In our considered view, the
High Court has failed to apply its judicial mind to the facts and circumstances
of the present case and erroneously concluded that non supply of the inquiry report/findings
has caused prejudice to the respondent.
Mrs. Rani Chhabra, Learned Counsel appearing for the respondent supported the
view taken by the High Court and urged that the respondent was denied a
reasonably opportunity as he was not allowed to avail the services of the legal
expert and consequently the Inquiry Authority proceeded ex-parte. She further
urged that the allegations of misconduct levelled against the respondent could
not be said to be so serious which would warrant the punishment of dismissal.
After hearing the rival contentions, we are of the firm view that all the four
charge sheets which were inquired into relate to serious misconduct. The
respondent was unable to demonstrate before us how prejudice was caused to him
due to non supply of the Inquiry Authority's report/findings in the present
case. It needs to be emphasised that in the banking business absolute devotion,
diligence, integrity and honesty needs to be preserved by every bank employee
and in particular the bank officer. If this is not observed, the confidence of
the public/depositors would be impaired. It is for this reason, we are of the
opinion that the High Court had committed an error while setting aside the
order of dismissal of the respondent on the ground of prejudice on account of
non furnishing of the inquiry report/findings to him.
For the foregoing reasons, we allow the appeal, set aside the order dated 30,
1996 passed by the High Court in Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 23286 of 1991
and confirm the order of dismissal dated 7th January, 1991 and 30th May, 1991 passed by the Disciplinary Authority and the Appellate
Authority respectively. The respondent to pay the cost of the appellant.