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HC Not required to reappreciate the Evidence and/or interfere with finding of enquiry officer -A.226

HIGH COURT IS NOT REQUIRED TO REAPPRECIATE THE EVIDENCE AND/OR INTERFERE WITH THE FINDINGS OF THE INQUIRY OFFICER, IN LIMITED JURISDICTION UNDER ARTICLE 226 OF CONSTITUTION OF INDIA: SC


Cause Title: Umesh Kumar Pahwa v. The Board of Directors Uttarakhand Gramin Bank and Others

Case Number: Civil Appeal Nos. 796-799/2022

Judgment Date: 11/02/2022

Quorum: Justice M.R. Shah and Justice B.V. Nagarathna

Author: Pragash B, Advocate, Madurai Bench of Madras High Court



Background of the Case

The appellant was serving as a Branch Officer at Pratap Pur Branch of the Respondent Bank. The appellant was having 28 years of service. When he was serving at Pratap Pur Branch from 27.06.2008 to 21.11.2008, a complaint was made against the appellant by one borrower namely Karamjeet Singh on 17.09.2008 alleging that the appellant has sanctioned the limit of loan of Rs. 1,50,000/- which was later reduced to Rs. 75,000/-. Four other persons also made complaints against the appellant and in consequence, the Chairman of the Bank transferred him to another branch of the Bank. A show cause notice was issued to the appellant seeking his explanation to which the appellant replied that the allegations in the complaint are baseless, frivolous and fabricated. The appellant also made allegations of malice and bias against the Chairman of the Bank and disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the appellant and a charge-sheet was issued to him.

The Bank initiated an inquiry for a major punishment and the appellant participated in the departmental inquiry in which the complainant Karamjeet Singh was also examined. The inquiry officer held that the charges made against the appellant in the charge-sheet are proved. On receipt of the inquiry report, the appellant submitted his reply and contended that the findings of the Inquiry Officer are perverse to the material placed on record and against the principle of natural justice. He also made allegations of bias against the Chairman of the Bank. Thereafter considering the inquiry report and giving opportunity to the appellant, the disciplinary authority/ Chairman of the Bank passed an order of removal of the appellant from service. The appellant preferred an appeal before the Appellate Authority and the Appellate Authority dismissed the appeal vide order dated 20.12.2011. Feeling aggrieved by the order, the appellant preferred the present writ petition before the High Court being Writ Petition (S/B) No. 4 of 2013.

During the pendency of the above writ petition, the appellant also preferred another Writ Petition No. 267 of 2013 praying for a writ of mandamus commanding the Bank to grant promotion from Scale II to Scale III from the date when those junior to him were promoted with effect from 30.03.2005. Both the writ petitions were heard together and through the impugned judgment and order, the High Court has dismissed Writ Petition (S/B) No. 4 of 2013 and consequently without entering into the merits of the case, the High Court also dismissed Writ Petition (S/B) No. 267 of 2013. Now the appeals lie before the Honourable Supreme Court of India.

Observations and Findings of the Court

Appeal against Writ Petition (S/B) No. 4 of 2013

The Honourable Apex Court of India noted that based on the Inquiry report and the impugned judgment and order it appears that the appellant has demanded a bribe from Karamjeet Singh. Whereas, the appellant contended that the considering the material and his capacity, the decision to reduce the loan amount from Rs. 1,50,000 to Rs. 75,000 was taken in the interest of the bank. On the other hand, the allegations of bias against the Chairman is right from the beginning which is seen when the wife of the appellant has filed a complaint on the Chairman under Sections 323, 354, 504 and 506 of IPC and it is true that the criminal proceedings were quashed by the High Court. Be that it may, there were specific allegations of bias against the Chairman and the Bank right from the initiation of the departmental proceedings made by the appellant.

Even looking to the charges proved in the departmental proceedings, there is no financial loss caused to the Bank and on the contrary a decision to reduce the loan amount which can be said to be the decision in the bank’s interest. Moreover, the fact that the appellant had worked for 28 years and during those 28 years there are no allegations against him and in the facts and circumstances of the case, we are of the opinion that the punishment of removal for charges proved and the misconduct established, is too harsh and disproportionate.

The Honourable Supreme Court of India held

“……However, considering the fact that it can be said to be a case of loss of confidence in the employee by the Bank, we deem it just and proper to substitute the punishment from the removal of service to that of compulsory retirement. (Para 3.2)

………, the High Court is justified in holding that in the limited jurisdiction available to the High Court in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, the High Court is not required to reappreciate the evidence and/or interfere with the findings recorded by the inquiry officer accepted by the disciplinary authority. However, as observed hereinabove the order of removal of service can be said to be disproportionate to the charges and misconduct held to be proved.” (Para 4)

In view of the above and for the reasons stated above the impugned Judgment and Order passed by the High Court passed in Writ Petition (S/B) No. 4 of 2013 is hereby modified to the extend substituting the punishment from that of removal of service to that of compulsory retirement. (Para 6)

Appeal against Writ Petition (S/B) No. 267 of 2013

With respect to this case, the High Court has not dealt with and considered the merits of the case independently. The High Court has dismissed the writ petition for promotion primarily on the ground that once he is removed from service there is no question of considering his case for promotion. In Writ Petition (S/B) No. 65 of 2012, the High Court had directed the Bank to consider his case for promotion considering his ACR for the Financial Years 1999-2000 to 2003-2004. The said exercise was required to be done by the Bank. Therefore, so far as the Writ Petition (S/B) No. 267 of 2013 is concerned, the same is required to be remanded to the High Court to decide the same afresh in accordance with law and on its own merits.

The appellant shall be entitled to all the benefits which may be available to him by converting the punishment from that of removal of service to that of compulsory retirement. So far as the impugned judgment and order of the High Court in Writ Petition (S/B) No. 267 of 2013 is concerned, in view of the above and for the reason stated above and as the High Court has not decided the said writ petition on merits, we set aside the impugned judgment and order as well as the order dated 08.01.2020 dismissing the said Writ Petition (S/B) No. 267 of 2013 and remand the matter to the High Court to decide the same afresh in accordance with law and on its own merits. (Para 6)

Present appeals are accordingly allowed to the aforesaid extent. However, in the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.


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