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The scope of JR cannot be extended to examination of reasonableness of decision of an authority: SC

The scope of judicial review cannot be extended to the examination of correctness or reasonableness of a decision of authority as a matter of fact. (Para 25)

Deputy General Manager (appellate authority) & Ors. V/s Ajai Kumar Srivastava

CIVIL APPEAL NO(s). OF 2021 (Arising out of SLP(C) No(s). 32067¬32068 of 2018)

5th January 2021.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court Justice L. Nageswara Rao, Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Ajay Rastogi by setting aside the impugned judgment of the High Court, have allowed the appeal filed against the judgment passed by the Division Bench of High court of Allahabad on 13th September 2018.

Brief facts of the case which are relevant for the purpose are that the Respondent while on duty, committed misconduct relating to misappropriation of money into his personal account for which he was placed under suspension in the first place by order dated 14th August 1995 and later the charge sheet dated 11th April 1996. A criminal case was also instituted against him for offences under Sections 420, 467, 468, 471 IPC read with Section 120-B IPC and Section 13(2) read with Section13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. An enquiry officer was thereafter appointed by the competent authority to hold the enquiry in terms of Bipartite Settlement applicable for award staff of Nationalized Bank. The enquiry officer after holding an enquiry in furnished his report of enquiry dated 22nd May 1999 to the disciplinary authority holding that Charge No.1 was not proved, at the same time, held the Charge Nos. 2 to 7 proved against him. In his report dated 22nd May 1999, it has been noticed by the enquiry officer that respondent delinquent stated in the course of enquiry that he neither wants to say anything about the prosecution documents nor he wants to ask any question to the presenting officer and did not produce any documentary evidence. The view of the Disciplinary Authority was to award the punishment of dismissal without notice and treating the period spent by Shri Srivastava as suspended as such and no payment of salary and allowances, except the subsistence allowance, already paid to him.

Learned counsel for the Appellants submits that: (i) That a fair opportunity of hearing was afforded to the respondent delinquent in the course of enquiry and it was never the case of the respondent that either the procedure prescribed under the disciplinary rules have not been followed or the enquiry was held by the authority who was not competent under law. There was no violation of the principles of natural justice. (ii) The respondent delinquent neither produced any document nor witness in self­defence. At the same time, he never requested to allow him to defend him by a representative of his choice. But when he realised that the prosecution had produced enough evidences as per enquiry proceedings which will prove his involvement in the conspiracy to defraud the bank, he started levelling the baseless allegations against the bank to delay the decision against him. (iii) That the order of dismissal based on the finding of Charge nos. 2-­7, which were proved by the enquiry officer and confirmed by the disciplinary/appellate authority holds the respondent delinquent guilty of grave delinquency in upholding the penalty of dismissal and interference in the order of penalty inflicted upon the respondent delinquent by the High Court was not justified and needs interference of this Court.

Learned counsel for the Respondent submitted the following: (i) The impugned judgment submits that the disciplinary authority reiterated the finding recorded by the enquiry officer in his report and failed to examine the record of enquiry independently and rejected the written objections raised by the respondent cursorily and inflicted penalty upon him of dismissal from service by passing a non-speaking order without due application of mind has been rightly interfered by the High Court in the impugned judgment. (ii) The enquiry officer has not found charge no. 1 proved and the disciplinary authority disagreed with the finding recorded by the enquiry officer in his report and should have served in the first place, a note of disagreement, calling for his explanation and only thereafter it was open for him to examine the record of enquiry independently in taking its decision in accordance with the law and the procedure which was adopted by the disciplinary authority in holding the respondent guilty in reference to Charge no. 1 was not only a procedural error but is a great prejudice being caused to the respondent and such defect could not have been cured by the post-decisional hearing, which has been rightly upheld by the High Court in the impugned judgment and needs no interference by this Court.

Referring to the judgment of the Court in State of Orissa and Others Vs. Bidyabhushan Mohapatra 1963 AIR 779, the Court has made the following observations;

“If the order of dismissal was based on the findings of charge no. 1 alone, it would have been possible for the Court to declare the order of dismissal illegal but on the finding of guilt being recorded by the Enquiry Officer in his report in reference to charges nos. 2-7 and confirmed by the disciplinary/appellate authority was not liable to be interfered and those findings established the guilt of grave delinquency which, in our view, was an apparent error being committed by the High Court while interfering with the order of penalty of dismissal inflicted upon the respondent employee.” (Para 36)

Applying the above legality in the facts of the present case, the Court observed the following:

“Before we conclude, we need to emphasize that in banking business absolute devotion, integrity and honesty is a sine qua non for every bank employee. It requires the employee to maintain good conduct and discipline and he deals with money of the depositors and the customers and if it is not observed, the confidence of the public/depositors would be impaired. It is for this additional reason, we are of the opinion that the High Court has committed an apparent error in setting aside the order of dismissal of the respondent dated 24th July, 1999 confirmed in departmental appeal by order dated 15th November, 1999.” (Para 43)

Based on the observations, the appeal was allowed, the judgment of the High Court was set aside, without any costs.

Risikesh Dhanaki



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