GENERAL MANAGER(OPERATION­1)/ APPELLATE AUTHORITY, UCO BANK VS KRISHNA KUMAR BHARDWAJ

GENERAL MANAGER(OPERATION­1)/ APPELLATE AUTHORITY, UCO BANK VS KRISHNA KUMAR BHARDWAJ

NON­REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
     CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).   1458     OF   2022
         (Arising out of SLP(Civil) No(s). 13615 of 2021)
GENERAL MANAGER(OPERATION­1)/
APPELLATE AUTHORITY,
UCO BANK & ORS. ….APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
KRISHNA KUMAR BHARDWAJ ….RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
Rastogi, J.
1. Leave granted.
2. The instant appeal is directed against the judgment and order
dated 19th February, 2021 passed by the Division Bench of the High
Court of Allahabad setting aside the disciplinary proceedings and
consequential punishment inflicted upon the respondent initiated
pursuant to the charge­sheet dated 15th May, 1993.
1
3. The respondent while working as an officiating Manager and
posted   at   Taharpur,   Bhabisa,   Muzaffarnagar,   committed   gross
irregularities   in   discharge   of   his   duties   and   for   the   alleged
misconduct, he was served with the charge­sheet along with the
articles of charges/statement of allegations dated 15th  May, 1993
under Regulation 6 of the UCO Bank Officers Employees’(Conduct)
Regulations, 1976(hereinafter being referred to as the “Regulations
1976”).     The   articles   of  charges  followed   with  the   statement   of
allegations served upon the respondent delinquent dated 15th May,
1993 are reproduced hereunder:­
“Head Office
10, B.T.M. Sarani,
Brabourne Road,
Calcutta­700001
UCO
Bank
              Phone: Office       246432      
                                         246365,
                                         248947
                                         233997
               Fax ­0522­245432 
               Gram: "AGM UCO" 
               STD CODE : 0522 
               Zonal Office 23, Vidhan Sabha Marg, 
               Lucknow­226 001 (U.P.)
                                                     
ARTICLES OF CHARGES
Mr. K.K. Bhardwaj, PFM No.23213, while functioning as Manager of Taharpur Bhabisa
branch had indulged in several acts of omission and commission for which he is
hereby charged as under:­
  1)     He had opened two S.B. account Nos. 3646 and 3647 on 24.12.91 without
obtaining proper introduction and completion of necessary formalities. He thus
failed   to   discharge   his   duties   with   utmost   honesty,   integrity,   diligence   and
devotion. This was violation of Regulation (3) of UCO Bank Officers Employees'
(Conduct) Regulations, 1976. 
2
2)   While depositing huge amount of Bank's cash in the currency chest branch at
Meerut, he did  not follow the procedure  laid down  in the Bank's  Manual of
Instructions  (Cash)  and  also   deviated   from  the  past   practice   followed  by  the
branch for such cash remittances. He thus failed to discharge his duties with
utmost honesty, integrity, diligence and devotion. This was violation of Regulation
(3) of UCO Bank Officers Employees' (Conduct) Regulations, 1976. 
3)   By opening the two accounts without getting proper introduction, allowing huge
transactions therein, issuing false certificates he facilitated unscrupulous persons
to derive pecuniary benefits under Govt. amnesty schemes to which they were not
entitled. He thus, failed to discharge his duties with utmost honesty, integrity,
diligence and devotion. This was violation of Regulation (3) of UCO Bank Officers
Employees' (Conduct) Regulations, 1976. 
4)   Shri Bhardwaj remained absent from his duties for a period of several months
without proper sanction of leave, as per Bank's rules. He thus failed to discharge
his   duties   with   utmost   honesty,   integrity,   diligence   and   devotion.   This   was
violation   of   Regulation   (3)   of   UCO   Bank   Officers   Employees'   (Conduct)
Regulations, 1976. 
Sd/­ 
  Zonal Manager 
                    (Disciplinary Authority)”
10, B.T.M. Sarani,
Brabourne Road,
Calcutta­700001
UCO
Bank
               Phone: Office     246432      
                                        246365,
                                        248947
                                        233997
                Fax ­0522­245432 
                Gram: "AGM UCO" 
                STD CODE : 0522 
            Zonal Office 23, Vidhan Sabha Marg,
                Lucknow­226 001 (U.P.)
STATEMENT OF ALLEGATIONS
Mr.   K.K.   Bhardwaj   (PFM   No.23213)   was   earlier  posted   as   Manager  of   Taharpur
Bhabisa branch. During his tenure as Manager of the said branch, he had indulged
in various acts of omission and commission. The details of such acts are given below:­
1) While working as Manager of the Taharpur Bhabisa branch, he had opened two
S.B. accounts bearing Nos. 3646 and 3647, on 24.12.91 in the names of Shri Ashok
Kumar Sharma and Shri Narender Goel as stated in the relative account opening
forms, without proper introduction. However, the names of the account holders were
written as Ashok Sharma and Narender Kumar Goel in the ledger. For opening these
two accounts, Mr. Bhardwaj had for unknown reasons, obtained more than .one set
of account opening  forms against each of the two accounts. The accounts were
3
apparently   introduced   by   one   Mr.   Yameen   and   one   Mr.   Akshay   Kumar   whose
signatures were not verified. Mr. Bhardwaj did not make discreet enquiries about the
identity of the persons before opening the accounts. The accounts were opened and
huge transactions were allowed to be conducted through the accounts. Later, it was
revealed that the names of the account holders were fictitious. On 14.1.92, one of the
two account holders known to the Bank's staff as Narender Kumar Goel called on the
branch; asked for the Manager and asserted that Rs. 15 lacs given by him to the
Manager for depositing with the Meerut currency chest branch of the Bank, has not
been deposited by him. 
2) While depositing cash in the currency chest at Meerut on 24.12.91, amounting to
Rs. 24 lac and Rs. 20 lac on 1.192, Mr. Bhardwaj did not follow the procedure laid
down in the Bank's Manual of Instructions (Cash) and also deviated from the practice
followed by the branch to remit cash through a clerk/peon and armed guard of
Kandhla branch. The transactions relating to the two accounts mentioned in para­1
above, were personally handled by Mr. Bhardwaj right from the stage of receiving the
cash from the account holders to the stage of depositing the cash in the currency
chest at Meerut.
3)   The   Income   Tax   Department   had   sent   a   letter   to   Taharpur   Bhabisa   branch
enclosing therewith photo copies of three certificates, all dated 4.1.92, favouring Mr.
Pawan Vir Singh, Mrs. Sarjit Kaur and Mrs. Jyoti Sachdeva which were issued by
Taharpur bhabisa branch under signatures of Mr. K.K. Bhrdwaj, Manager. In the
certificates the accounts were stated to be NRE accounts which was not correct, as
there were no such NRE accounts at the branch.
The Directorate of Investigation, New Delhi had conducted search u/s 132 of IT
Act, of SB A/c No. 3646 and 3647 in the names of Shri Ashok Kumar Sharma and
Shri Narender Goel respectively with UCO Bank, Taharpur Bhabisa. It was found that
there was a balance of Rs. 95,500 /­ in the account of Shri Narender Kumar Goel and
Rs.3,17,000/­ in the account of Shri Ashok Kumar Sharma. The total amount of
Rs.4,12,500/­ in these accounts was subsequently seized vide Panchnama dated
8.4.1992. 
The   ledger   of   the   Bank   shows   that   Shri   Narender   Goel   had   deposited
Rs.21,00,000/­ on Dec. 24, 1991 and Shri Ashok Kumar Sharma had deposited
Rs.7,00,000 /­ on 4.1. 92 and Rs. 20,00,000/­ on 24.12.91 in the Bank. The money
was withdrawn from these accounts by getting DDs issued in favour of various
persons. During an enquiry by the Directorate of Investigation, it was found that the
Demand drafts were issued in the names of persons who were residents of Delhi and
these   drafts   were   allegedly   claimed   to   have   been   made   from   the   Non­Resident
(External) accounts. The persons who had received these drafts claimed exemption
under the amnesty scheme which was in force upto 31.3.1992 under which any
draft/ gift received from Non Resident External accounts had immunity from Income
Tax.
In spite of best efforts, the Directorate of Investigation could not trace the
persons in whose names the accounts were these. The letters sent to them on the
address available in Bank's record came back with the remark that those persons did
not exist. Also nothing could be made out from the account opening forms regarding
genuineness of the persons. The Income Tax Department, therefore, reached the
4
conclusion that the accounts were opened in the fictitious names by branch manager
Mr.K.K. Bhardwaj and that the money so deposited was the undisclosed money of the
branch Manager. Accordingly, notice under Rule 112 A read with Section 132(s) of IT
Act was issued by Income Tax Authorities. The reply to the notice was not found
satisfactory   by   them   and   the   Asstt.   Commissioner   of   Income   Tax   accordingly
estimated the undisclosed income as Rs. 48,20,000/­. The amount of tax calculated
on   the   income   was   Rs.   26,70,800/­   and   interest   payable   on   the   tax   was   Rs.
2,97,731/­. Therefore, the total amount required to satisfy the liability came to Rs.
29,68,531/ ­. The Asstt. Commissioner accordingly issued orders to retain the seized
amount i.e. Rs. 4,12,500/­ as the tax liability was much higher. 
Shri K.K. Bhardwaj was responsible for opening the two SB accounts in fictitious
names   in   an   irregular   manner,   allowing   huge   transactions   therein,   issue   of
certificates regarding the accounts and all consequences thereof. 
4. Shri K.K. Bhardwaj remained absent from duties w.e.f. 9 .1. 92 for a period of
several months without proper sanction of leave, as per Bank's Rules. 
Sd/­
 Zonal Manager 
(Disciplinary Authority)”
4. After the inquiry was conducted in terms of the procedure
prescribed   under   the   scheme   of   Regulations   1976,   the   inquiry
officer finally held the respondent guilty for charge nos. 1,2 and 3
and charge no. 4 was not found to be proved.   The disciplinary
authority,   after   affording   opportunity   of   hearing   and   after   due
compliance   of   the   principles   of   natural   justice,   confirmed   the
finding   recorded   by   the   inquiry   officer   in   his   report   dated   30th
September,   1995   held   the   respondent   delinquent   guilty   and
imposed punishment vide Order dated 12th August, 1996.  
5. The extract of order of the disciplinary authority dated 12th
August,1996 is as under:­
5
“Now, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by UCO Bank Officer
Employees   (Discipline   &   Appeal)   Regulation   1976,   I   hereby   award   the
following penalties upon Shri KK Bhardwaj in terms of Regulation­4 of the
said regulation :­ 
1. Charge No. 1  ­Proved :   Reduction to lowest stage 
       in the present time scale.
2. Charge No. 2  ­Proved :  Reduction to lowest stage in 
      the  present  time scale, i.e. 
      the Basic pay be reduced to 
      Rs.2100/­ (in the old Scale) 
     3. Charge No. 3     ­Proved:   If any claim is raised against 
      the Bank by the Income Tax 
       Deptt. it be recovered  from 
       the retiral benefits of Mr. 
       Bhardwaj, as admissible    
       to him, as per Bank's rules. 
          4.     Charge No. 4 .. Not proved” 
6. On   appeal   being   preferred,   the   appellate   authority   while
upholding the guilt in reference to charge nos. 1,2 and 3 modified
the  punishment by an  Order dated 14th  November, 1998.   The
relevant part is as under:­
“Charge No. 1 ... Proved ..  The Basic  pay of Shri  Bhardwaj 
be   reduced   by   13   stages
from             Rs.3660/­ to Rs.
2100   (Old   Scale,   revised
Rs.4250/­)   plus   increments   for
passing CAFIB (if any allowed) in
the tire scale of pay for a period
of 2 years w.e.f. 12.8.96. He will
earn   increments   of   pay   during
the period of reduction and that
on the expiry of this period, the
reduction will have the effect of
6
postponing his future increments
of pay.
Charge No. 2 ... ­do    ­doCharge No. 3   ­do­  ­doCharge No. 4 .. Not proved                  ... Exonerated. 
All the punishments will have a concurrent effect.”
7. The order dated 14th November, 1998 inflicting penalty came
to be challenged by the respondent delinquent in a writ petition
under   Articles   226/227   of   the   Constitution   before   the   learned
Single Judge of the High Court of Allahabad.
8. The learned Single Judge and also the Division Bench have
proceeded on the premises as if the appellate authority by its Order
dated   14th  November,   1998   held   the   respondent   guilty   only   in
reference to charge no. 1 and that is the reason for which the
punishment   was   modified   and   for   charge   nos.   2   and   3,   the
respondent employee was exonerated.
9. The admitted fact is that the finding of guilt in reference to
charge nos. 1,2 and 3 which was proved by the inquiry officer as
indicated in the report of inquiry was confirmed by the disciplinary
authority and also by the appellate authority and as a matter of
7
fact, the appellate authority while upholding the guilt in reference
to charge nos. 1, 2 and 3 took a lenient view and modified the
punishment vide its Order dated 14th  November, 1998.   The High
Court had proceeded further and recorded a finding that charge no.
1   was   completely   vague   and   better   particulars   were   completely
missing and after holding that charge no.1 was not specific and
clear   the   respondent   was   deprived   to   reply,   set   aside   the
disciplinary proceedings and the order of penalty by its judgment
and order dated 19th February, 2021 which is a subject matter of
challenge in appeal before us.
10. Learned counsel for the appellants submits that the learned
Single Judge and also the Division Bench of the High Court have
proceeded on an assumption that the appellate authority has not
only modified the punishment but has exonerated the respondent
employee from charge nos. 2 and 3 which is factually incorrect and
the record clearly manifests that charge nos. 1,2 and 3 which were
proved by the inquiry officer, after holding inquiry in terms of the
procedure prescribed under the scheme of Regulations 1976, was
confirmed   by   the   disciplinary/appellate   authority   and   thus,   the
8
premise on which the Division Bench has proceeded in passing the
order impugned is not sustainable.
11. Learned counsel further submits that the finding which has
been recorded by the Division Bench in the impugned judgment
that charge no. 1 was vague and does not disclose the material
particulars and that is the reason prejudice has been caused to the
delinquent employee in submitting reply and to present his defence
before the inquiry officer is also factually not substantiated from the
record for the reason that the article of charge no. 1 is specific and
explicit and the delinquent employee had participated in the course
of inquiry at all stages and it was never the case of the respondent
that charge no. 1 was vague or it lacked material particulars or in
the absence of details being furnished to him, fair opportunity of
hearing has been denied or the principles of natural justice have
been violated.  In the given circumstances, the interference made by
the High Court in the impugned judgment deserves to be interfered
by this Court.
12. Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, has
not   disputed   the   factual   matrix   which   has   been   recorded   in
9
reference to charge nos. 1,2 and 3 proved by the inquiry officer and
confirmed   by   the   disciplinary/appellate   authority   but   further
submits that even from the record of inquiry, the finding which has
been   recorded   by   the   disciplinary/appellate   authority   and
confirmed   at   all   stages   still   the   punishment,   in   the   given
circumstances, which has been inflicted upon him even if examined
from the record of inquiry, is not supported by the material on
record and consequently the punishment inflicted upon him has
been rightly set aside by the High Court.
13. Admittedly, the High Court has proceeded on the premise that
charge no. 1 is proved and the respondent delinquent has been
exonerated in reference to charge nos. 2 & 3 which is factually
incorrect and not supported by the material on record.  The option
available with this Court is either to remit the matter back to the
High Court to examine the record of inquiry and decide the matter
afresh in accordance with law or to decide it on merits.
14. Learned counsel for the respondent at this stage, submits that
the   disciplinary   inquiry   is   of   the   year   1993   and   the   matter   if
remitted back to the High Court may cause great prejudice to him
10
and made a humble request to decide the matter on merits since
remitting the matter back at this belated stage may not be in the
interest of the employee.
15. We have heard learned counsel for the parties on merits and
with their assistance perused the material available on record.
16. From the record of inquiry, it clearly manifests that the inquiry
officer, after holding inquiry as per the procedure prescribed under
Regulations,   1976   held   charge   nos.   1,2   and   3   proved   and   the
disciplinary as well as appellate authority has confirmed the finding
of guilt of all the three charges.  At the same time, punishment was
inflicted by the disciplinary authority after upholding finding of guilt
recorded by the inquiry officer but the appellate authority, while
upholding the finding of guilt, took a lenient view and modified the
punishment by its order dated 14th November, 1998.
17. So   far   as   the   scope   of   judicial   review   in   the   matters   of
disciplinary   inquiry   is   concerned,   it   has   been   settled   that   the
constitutional courts while exercising their power of judicial review
under Articles 226 or 227 of the Constitution would not assume the
role of the appellate authority where jurisdiction is circumscribed
11
by limits of correcting errors of law or procedural errors leading to
manifest injustice or violation of principles of natural justice. At the
same   time,   the   power   of   judicial   review   is   not   analogous   to
adjudication of the case on merits as an appellate authority.
18. It was never the case of the respondent delinquent even before
the High Court that the departmental inquiry was not conducted in
accordance with the procedure prescribed under the Regulations,
1976 or there was violation of any provision of Regulations, 1976 or
fair opportunity of hearing was not afforded to him in the course of
inquiry or there was violation of the principles of natural justice.
19. We   have   gone   through   the   record   of   inquiry   with   the
assistance   of   learned   counsel   and,   in   our   considered   view,   the
finding which has been recorded by the inquiry officer in reference
to charge nos. 1,2 and 3 is duly supported with the material on
record and after revisiting the record of inquiry, has been confirmed
by the disciplinary/appellate authority.   At the same time, while
upholding   the   guilt   of   the   respondent   delinquent,   the   appellate
authority took a lenient view and modified the punishment by an
Order dated 14th November, 1998.
12
20. So far as the finding which has been recorded by the High
Court in reference to charge no. 1 being vague and unclear, which
has   deprived   the   respondent   delinquent   in   submitting   reply   is
concerned, it is factually incorrect.  The article of charge no. 1 is
clear and specific and leaves no ambiguity in understanding the
delinquent in submitting his response.  Even it was never the case
of the respondent that because of charge no. 1 being vague or
unclear, he was unable to submit reply to participate in the course
of inquiry.
21. In our considered view, the premises on which the High Court
has proceeded even in reference to charge no. 1 is unsustainable
and deserves to be set aside. 
22. Consequently,   the   appeal   succeeds   and   is   allowed.     The
judgment   of   the   Division   Bench   dated   19th  February,   2021   is
accordingly set aside.  No costs.
23. Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.
…………………….J.
(AJAY RASTOGI)
13
………………………J.
(ABHAY S. OKA)
NEW DELHI
FEBRUARY 18, 2022
14

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

संविधान की प्रमुख विशेषताओं का उल्लेख | Characteristics of the Constitution of India

100 Questions on Indian Constitution for UPSC 2020 Pre Exam

भारतीय संविधान से संबंधित 100 महत्वपूर्ण प्रश्न उतर