Gowda Edn. Trust & ANR Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors  INSC 699 (16
Sinha & P.P. Naolekar
W I TH
CIVIL APPEAL NOS.2555-2557 OF2003 S.B. SINHA, J :
Venkappa Gowda, Respondent No.3 herein, was at all material times a lecturer in
Kuvempu Mahavidyalaya, the Appellant No.2 herein.
institution is under the management of the Appellant No.1.
private institutions in the State of Karnataka are governed by the Karnataka
Private Educational Institutions (Discipline and Control) Act, 1975, (for
short, ' the Act').
Respondent No.3 herein was subjected to a disciplinary proceeding on an
allegation that he had assaulted the Principal of Appellant No.2 with a 'chappal'.
He was found guilty of the said charge and dismissed from service. An appeal
was preferred by him before the Educational Appellate Tribunal (for short, 'the
Tribunal') in terms of Section 8 of the said Act. The said Tribunal is
constituted in terms of Section 10 thereof.
proceeding before the said Tribunal by a legal fiction is treated to be a
judicial proceeding. It is not in dispute that the Appellant No.2 received
grant-in-aid from the State of Karnataka in terms of the Grant-in-Aid Code framed
by the Karnataka Collegiate Education Department. Before the Tribunal, the
State of Karnataka as also the Director of Collegiate Education were impleaded
as parties. A preliminary issue was framed as to whether the departmental
proceedings held against the Respondent No.3 was in consonance with the
provisions of Rule 14(2) of CCS (CCA) Rules. While deciding the preliminary
issue, it was held that the departmental proceeding was invalid in law. The
Appellants, therefore, adduced evidences before the Tribunal to prove the
charges against Respondent No.3. The Tribunal having regard to the pleading of
the parties formulated the following questions for its determination :
Whether the respondents 1 and 2 have proved by acceptable evidence that
allegation that the appellant had absented from duty unauthorisedly and as to
whether his conduct was unbecoming of lecturer ?
Whether the evidence establishes that the appellant had misbehaved on 18.1.87
and as to whether he had indulged in physical assault upon the Principal?
3. If so,
whether the punishment of dismissal imposed upon the appellant is justified in
this case and if not what punishment he deserves?" Upon consideration of
the evidence adduced before it, the Tribunal held that the first charge had not
been satisfactorily proved by cogent and acceptable evidence. As regard the
second charge, it was found :
1 has himself stated that he did not permit appellant to sign the attendance
register in the morning of 18.9.87. It led to verbal altercation and then
turned to heated argument. According to R.W. 1 appellant abused him in the
vulgar language as :
magane, Mudi goobe, Neenyaru nnann Jekijethus) RW. 1 pushed him. This
particular part of his evidence is sought to be corroborated to evidence of C.S
Dhanpal. Dhanpal has stated he was present in the chamber of Principal when
appellant arrived. He also says that the Principal refused to permit appellant
to sign the attendance register. Dhanpal further stated that R.W.
appellant he will not permit him to sign even morning registers if he does not
sign afternoon registers.
hearing such talk Vankappagowda replied "It is not a proper conduct of
Principal" and rushed towards him.
Principal took away the register from Venkappagowda At that juncture
Venkappagowda caught hold of his collar. Simultaneously Principal R.W.
Venkappagowda down which resulted in his fall. After falling down Venkappagowda
got up and hit the Principal with a chappal." It was held :
am only appreciating facts placed before me, it is but necessary that the facts
so projected should be considered collectively and not in isolation. Each fact
spoken by the witnesses has woven a web clearly indicating that all was not
well between the Principal and the appellant and therefore, incident on 18.9.87
took a violent turn. The evidence has to be weighed according to the norms of
reasonable probabilities, but not in trade mans scale. While doing this
exercise I have formed an opinion that the incident would not have occurred had
the Principal employed restrained upon his words and action.
even the act of the appellant in using chapels to assault the Principal cannot
under any circumstances be justified. Both persons involved are teachers what
is taught should be practiced. If what their action show is any indication an
impression is gathered that the Principal and the appellant have acted in
undesirable manner and unbecoming of academitials to say the least teachers,
their acts are demeaning the profession they have adopted" Despite holding
that although it could not be said that the Respondent No.3 acted in
retaliation to the action of the Principal, but such conduct was not
justifiable, he opined that the assault by the Respondent No.3 on the Principal
was proved. However, he awarded punishment of withholding of three increments
only in plea of the order of dismissal passed by the Appellants.
further held :
appellant shall be taken back to service and will be entitled to all pecuniary
benefits like salary and allowances retrospectively from the date of dismissal
minus and subject to withholding of three increments.
respondent 1 and 2 are held liable to make payment of amount due to the
appellant. I also hold respondents 3 and 4 vicariously liable to discharge the
claim of the appellant.
the Management, the State of Karnataka also the Respondent No.3 preferred
separate writ petitions before the Karnataka High Court.
Court in its judgment came to the following findings :
the action of the petitioner in assaulting the Principal with chappal stands
proved by the evidence of R.Ws. 1 to 5, whatever may be the provocation for
such a conduct, the said conduct of the Petitioner cannot be justified under
any circumstances. Therefore the Tribunal was fully justified in holding that
the misconduct alleged against the Petitioner stands proved partly." The
High Court noticed that the punishment imposed by the Tribunal could not be
given effect to as Respondent No.3 in the meantime reached the age of
superannuation within three months from the date of the order and, thus, held
that the Appellants should be directed to pay back wages to the extent 60%
only. It was further held that though the primary liability to make such
payment is that of the Management, when Management could claim the same by way
of advance grant or by way of reimbursement from the Government, its liability
to pay the said amount cannot be disputed.
Management as also the State are, thus, in appeal before us.
Hegde and Mr. S.R. Hegde, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
Appellants in their respective appeals, would submit that as a finding of fact
was arrived at both by the Tribunal as also the High Court that the Respondents
committed a misconduct, which is grave in nature, there was absolutely no
justification in directing payment of 60% back wages after setting aside the
order of punishment of dismissal imposed by the Management.
Bhatt, the learned counsel appearing on behalf of Respondent No.3, on the other
hand, would contend that a finding of fact has been arrived at by the Tribunal
which has been affirmed by the High Court that it was the Principal who
provoked Respondent No.3. It is not in dispute, Mr. Bhat, submitted that the
Principal was also at fault but curiously enough he was not proceeded against.
Both the Respondent No.3 and the Principal of the College having been found
guilty, it was argued, it was obligatory on the part of the Management to
initiate a departmental proceeding also against the Principal. The Management
of the Institution being guilty of being selectively vindictive, Mr. Bhat
urged, it is a fit case where this Court should not exercise its discretionary
jurisdiction under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.
further submitted that the question should also be considered from the angle
that charge no. 1 framed against the Respondent No.3 was not proved Our
attention was also drawn to the fact that the Management had sought for time
for complying with the order of the High Court which having been granted, the
Appellants are estopped and precluded from maintaining this appeal.
It is now
well-settled that by seeking extension of time to comply with the order of the
High Court by itself does not preclude a party aggrieved to question the
correctness or otherwise of the order of the High Court as thereby a party to a
lis does not waive his right to file an appeal before this Court.
Respondent No.3 is a teacher. He was charge-sheeted for commission of a serious
offence. He was found guilty by the Tribunal.
Tribunal as also the High Court, as noticed hereinbefore, have arrived at a
concurrent finding of fact that despite grave provocation, the Respondent No.3
cannot be absolved of the charges levelled against him. It may be true that no
departmental disciplinary proceeding was initiated against the Principal of the
Institution, but the same by itself would not be a relevant fact for imposing a
minor punishment upon the Respondent. It may further be true that the Respondent
No.3 committed the offence under a grave provocation, but as noticed
hereinbefore, the Tribunal as also the High Court categorically held that the
charges against him were established.
Tribunal's jurisdiction is akin to one under Section 11A of the Industrial
Disputes Act. While exercising such discretionary jurisdiction, no doubt it is
open to the Tribunal to substitute one punishment by another; but it is also
trite that the Tribunal exercises a limited jurisdiction in this behalf.
jurisdiction to interfere with the quantum of punishment could be exercised
only when, inter alia, it is found to be grossly disproportionate.
Court repeatedly has laid down the law that such interference at the hands of
the Tribunal should be inter alia on arriving at a finding that no reasonable
person could inflict such punishment The Tribunal may furthermore exercises its
jurisdiction when relevant facts are not taken into consideration by the
Management which would have direct bearing on the question of quantum of
a superior at a workplace amounts to an act of gross indiscipline. The
Respondent is a teacher. Even under grave provocation a teacher is not expected
to abuse the head of the institution in a filthy language and assault him with
a chappal. Punishment of dismissal from services, therefore, cannot be said to
be wholly disproportionate so as shock one's conscience.
when dismissed from services, is put to a great hardship but that would not
mean that a grave misconduct should go unpunished.
the doctrine of proportionality may be applicable in such matters, but a
punishment of dismissal from service for such a misconduct cannot be said to be
unheard of. Maintenance of discipline of an institution is equally important.
Keeping the aforementioned principles in view, we may hereinafter notice a few
recent decisions of this Court.
Management of Krishnakali Tea Estate v. Akhil Bharatiya Chah Mazdoor Sangh and
Anr. [JT 2004 (7) SC 333 = (2004) 8 SCC 200], this Court held :
leaves us to consider whether the punishment of dismissal awarded to the
workmen concerned dehors the allegation of extortion is disproportionate to the
misconduct proved against them. From the evidence proved, we find the workmen
concerned entered the Estate armed with deadly weapons with a view to gherao
the manager and others, in that process they caused damage to the property of
the Estate and wrongfully confined the manager and others from 8.30 p.m. on
12th of October to 3 a.m. on the next day. These charges, in our opinion, are
grave enough to attract the punishment of dismissal even without the aid of the
allegation of extortion. The fact that the management entered into settlement
with some of the workmen who were also found guilty of the charge would not, in
any manner, reduce the gravity of the misconduct in regard to the workmen
concerned in this appeal because these workmen did not agree with the
settlement to which others agreed, instead chose to question the punishment."
Yet again in Muriadih Colliery v. Bihar Colliery Kamgar Union [(2005) 3 SCC 331
= JT 2005 (2) SC 444], the law has been laid down in the following terms :
is well-established principle in law that in a given circumstance it is open to
the Industrial Tribunal acting under Section 11-A of the Industrial
Disputes Act, 1947 has the jurisdiction to interfere with the punishment awarded in
the domestic inquiry for good and valid reasons. If the Tribunal decides to
interfere with such punishment it should bear in mind the principle of
proportionality between the gravity of the offence and the stringency of the
punishment. In the instant case it is the finding of the Tribunal which is not
disturbed by the writ courts that the two workmen involved in this appeal along
with the others formed themselves into an unlawful assembly, armed with deadly
weapons, went to the office of the General Manager and assaulted him and his
colleagues causing them injuries. The injuries suffered by the General Manager
were caused by lathi on the head.
that the victim did not die is not a mitigating circumstance to reduce the
sentence of dismissal." [See also Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd. v. N.N.
Narawade etc. JT 2005 (2) SC 583].
Ramana v. A.P. SRTC and Others [(2005) 7 SCC 338], relying upon a large number
of decisions, this Court opined :
common thread running through in all these decisions is that the court should
not interfere with the administrator's decision unless it was illogical or
suffers from procedural impropriety or was shocking to the conscience of the
court, in the sense that it was in defiance of logic or moral standards. In
view of what has been stated in Wednesbury case the court would not go into the
correctness of the choice made by the administrator open to him and the court
should not substitute its decision for that of the administrator. The scope of
judicial review is limited to the deficiency in decision-making process and not
To put it
differently unless the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority or the
Appellate Authority shocks the conscience of the court/Tribunal, there is no
scope for interference. Further to shorten litigations it may, in exceptional
and rare cases, impose appropriate punishment by recording cogent reasons in
support thereof. In a normal course if the punishment imposed is shockingly
disproportionate it would be appropriate to direct the disciplinary authority
or the Appellate Authority to reconsider the penalty imposed." In Bharat
Forge Co. Ltd. v. Uttam Manohar Nakate [(2005) 2 SCC 489], it was held :
it is trite, the Labour Court or the Industrial Tribunal, as the case may be,
in terms of the provisions of the Act, must act within the four corners
thereof. The Industrial Courts would not sit in appeal over the decision of the
employer unless there exists a statutory provision in this behalf. Although its
jurisdiction is wide but the same must be applied in terms of the provisions of
the statute and no other.
punishment is harsh, albeit a lesser punishment may be imposed, but such an
order cannot be passed on an irrational or extraneous factor and certainly not
on a compassionate ground.
Regional Manager, Rajasthan SRTC v. Sohan Lal it has been held that it is not
the normal jurisdiction of the superior courts to interfere with the quantum of
sentence unless it is wholly disproportionate to the misconduct proved. Such is
not the case herein. In the facts and circumstances of the case and having
regard to the past conduct of the respondent as also his conduct during the
domestic enquiry proceedings, we cannot say that the quantum of punishment
imposed upon the respondent was wholly disproportionate to his act of
misconduct or otherwise arbitrary." In M.P. Electricity Board v. Jagdish
Chandra Sharma [(2005) 3 SCC 401], this Court held :
the case on hand, the employee has been found guilty of hitting and injuring
his superior officer at the workplace, obviously in the presence of other
clearly amounted to breach of discipline in the organisation. Discipline at the
workplace in an organisation like the employer herein, is the sine qua non for
the efficient working of the organisation. When an employee breaches such
discipline and the employer terminates his services, it is not open to a Labour
Court or an Industrial Tribunal to take the view that the punishment awarded is
shockingly disproportionate to the charge proved. We have already referred to
the views of this Court. To quote Jack Chan, "discipline is a form of
civilly responsible behaviour which helps maintain social order and contributes
to the preservation, if not advancement, of collective interests of society at
this idea is more relevant in considering the working of an organisation like
the employer herein or an industrial undertaking. Obedience to authority in a
workplace is not slavery. It is not violative of one's natural rights. It is
essential for the prosperity of the organisation as well as that of its
employees. When in such a situation, a punishment of termination is awarded for
hitting and injuring a superior officer supervising the work of the employee,
with no extenuating circumstance established, it cannot be said to be not
justified. It cannot certainly be termed unduly harsh or disproportionate. The
Labour Court and the High Court in this case totally misdirected themselves
while exercising their jurisdiction. The Industrial Court made the correct
approach and came to the right conclusion." In Divisional Controller, KSRTC
(NWKRTC) v. A.T. Mane [(2005) 3 SCC 254], this Court held :
the above it is clear that once a domestic tribunal based on evidence comes to
a particular conclusion, normally it is not open to the Appellate Tribunals and
courts to substitute their subjective opinion in the place of the one arrived
at by the domestic tribunal.
present case, there is evidence of the inspector who checked the bus which
establishes the misconduct of the respondent. The domestic tribunal accepted
that evidence and found the respondent guilty. But the courts below misdirected
themselves in insisting on the evidence of the ticketless passengers to reject
the said finding which, in our opinion, as held by this Court in the case of
Rattan Singh is not a condition precedent. We may herein note that the judgment
of this Court in Rattan Singh has since been followed by this Court in Devendra
SRT." It was further held :
to the question of quantum of punishment, one should bear in mind the fact that
it is not the amount of money misappropriated that becomes a primary factor for
awarding punishment; on the contrary, it is the loss of confidence which is the
primary factor to be taken into consideration. In our opinion, when a person is
found guilty of misappropriating the corporation's funds, there is nothing
wrong in the corporation losing confidence or faith in such a person and
awarding a punishment of dismissal." In Municipal Board of Pratabgarh and
Another v. Mahendra Singh Chawla and Others [(1982) 3 SCC 331], whereupon
reliance has been placed by Mr. Bhat, the employee concerned, an Overseer,
having accepted a paltry amount of Rs. 200/- was convicted and sentenced under
Section 161 161 IPC. Upon taking into consideration various circumstances
including the fact that he was advanced in age, this Court modified the
sentence of dismissal from withholding of back wages from 31.08.1965 till the
date of reinstatement. No law had been laid down therein.
It is no
doubt true, as has been contended by Mr. Bhat , in some cases, this Court may
not exercise its discretionary jurisdiction under Article 136 of the
Constitution of India, although it may be lawful to do so;
circumstances mentioned by Mr. Bhat for not exercising the said jurisdiction do
not appeal to us to accept the said contention.
in an educational institution should not be tolerated. Only because the
Principal of the Institution had not been proceeded against, the same by itself
cannot be a ground for not exercising the discretionary jurisdiction by us. It
may or may not be that the Management was selectively vindictive but no
Management can ignore a serious lapse on the part of a teacher whose conduct
should be an example to the pupils.
Court has come a long way from its earlier view points. The recent trend in the
decisions of this Court seek to strike a balance between the earlier approach
of the industrial relation wherein only the interest of the workmen was sought
to be protected with the avowed object of fast industrial growth of the
country. In several decisions of this Court it has been noticed that how
discipline at the workplaces/ industrial undertaking received a setback. In
view of the change in economic policy of the country, it may not now be proper
to allow the employees to break the discipline with impunity. Our country is
governed by rule of law. All actions, therefore, must be taken in accordance
with law. Law declared by this Court in terms of Article 141 of the
Constitution of India, as noticed in the decisions noticed supra, categorically
demonstrates that the Tribunal would not normally interfere with the quantum of
punishment imposed by the employers unless an appropriate case is made out
therefor. The Tribunal being inferior to that of this court was bound to follow
the decisions of this Court which are applicable to the fact of the present
case in question. The Tribunal can neither ignore the ratio laid down by this
Court nor refuse to follow the same.
Dwarikesh Sugar Industries Ltd. v. Prem Heavy Engineering Works (P) Ltd. And
Another [(1997) 6 SCC 450], it was held :
a position, in law, is well settled as a result of judicial pronouncement of
this Court, it would amount to judicial impropriety to say the least, for the
subordinate courts including the High Courts to ignore the settled decisions
and then to pass a judicial order which is clearly contrary to the settled
legal position. Such judicial adventurism cannot be permitted and we strongly
deprecate the tendency of the subordinate courts in not applying the settled
principles and in passing whimsical orders which necessarily has the effect of
granting wrongful and unwarranted relief to one of the parties. It is time that
this tendency stops." [See also Ajay Kumar Bhuyan and Ors. etc. v. State
of Orissa and Ors. etc. (2003) 1 SCC 707].
in M/s D. Navinchandra and Co., Bombay v. Union of India and Ors. [(1987) 3 SCC
66], Mukharji, J (as His Lordship then was) speaking for a three-Judge Bench of
this Court stated the law in the following terms :
legal positions laid down by the court would be binding on all concerned even
though some of them have not been made parties nor were served nor any notice
of such proceedings given." For the reasons aforementioned, the impugned
judgments cannot be sustained, which are set aside accordingly. The appeals are
in the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to