Umesh Kumar Pahwa vs Board of Directors Uttarakhand Gramin Bank

Umesh Kumar Pahwa vs Board of Directors Uttarakhand  Gramin Bank - Supreme Court Case 2022 - 

[REPORTABLE]
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NOS.796­799 OF 2022
Umesh Kumar Pahwa .. Appellant
Versus
The Board of Directors Uttarakhand 
Gramin Bank & Ors.     .. Respondents
J U D G M E N T
M. R. Shah, J.
1. Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
common judgment and order dated 17.07.2018 passed by the
High Court of Uttarakhand at Nainital in Writ Petition (S/B)
No.4 of 2013 and Writ Petition (S/B) No.267 of 2013 as well as
the order passed in the review applications dismissing the
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same vide common order dated 08.01.2020, the employee ­ the
original writ petitioner has preferred the present appeals.
2. That the appellant herein was serving as a Branch Officer
at Pratap Pur Branch of the Respondent – Bank.  He has put
in 28 years’ of service.   While he was serving at Pratap Pur
Branch   during   the   period   27.06.2008   to   21.11.2008,   a
complaint was made against the appellant by one borrower of
the Bank namely Karamjeet Singh on 17.09.2008 alleging that
the appellant had sanctioned the limit of loan of Rs.1,50,000/­
which   was   later   on   reduced   to   Rs.75,000/­.     Four   other
persons also made the complaint against the appellant.   On
receiving the complaint against the appellant ­ the Chairman
of the Bank transferred him to another branch of the Bank,
during   pendency   of   the   inquiry   pertaining   to   aforesaid
complaints.  A show cause notice was issued to the appellant
seeking his explanation.   The appellant replied to the said
show cause notice stating therein that the allegations in the
complaint   are   baseless,   frivolous   and   fabricated.     He   also
made allegations of malice and bias against the Chairman of
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the Bank.  The disciplinary proceedings were initiated against
the appellant.  A charge­sheet was issued to him and following
charges were framed:
“1. He did not discharge his duties with integrity
and honesty and took such actions and committed
such omissions which showed lack of probity and
integrity on his part. 
2.   He   committed   serious   violations   of   duty   and
breach of trust reposed in him by the Bank and
misused his official position. 
3. In the performance of his official duties and in
exercise   of   powers   conferred   on   him,   he
unauthorizedly   exceeded   his   authority   /   powers
and   did   not   report   the   same   for   /   or   obtained
approval / confirmation from higher authorities for
such excessive actions. 
4. He flouted instructions of the higher authorities.
5. He adopted such steps and took such actions as
were derogatory, prejudicial and detrimental to the
interest of the bank. 
6.   He   misrepresented   and   suppressed   material
facts from higher authorities. 
7. He knowingly and willfully violated Bank’s rules
and established procedures for his personal gains. 
8. Due to his acts, bank is likely to suffer financial
losses. 
9. He committed such acts which tarnished the
image of the Bank. 
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10. He did acts unbecoming of an officer of the
Bank”
2.1 That the Bank decided to initiate an inquiry for a major
punishment.  The appellant participated in the departmental
inquiry.     The   complainant,   Karamjeet   Singh   was   also
examined during the inquiry.   The inquiry officer held the
charges No.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10 as 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   after   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
Appellant   Authority   dismissed   the   appeal   vide   order   dated
20.12.2011.   Feeling aggrieved against the order of removal
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from service, the appellant preferred the present writ petition
before the High Court being Writ Petition (S/B) No.4 of 2013.
2.2 During the pendency of Writ Petition (S/B) No.4 of 2013
the appellant also preferred another Writ Petition No.267 of
2013 seeking 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 w.e.f. 30.03.2005.   Both
the   writ   petitions   were   heard   together.     By   the   impugned
judgment   and   order   the   High   Court   has   dismissed   Writ
Petition (S/B) No.4 of 2013 confirming the order of removal
from service of the appellant.   As the order of removal had
been confirmed, the High Court without further entering into
the   merits   of   the   case   also   dismissed   Writ   Petition   (S/B)
No.267 of 2013 which was for seeking promotion from Scale II
to Scale III officer from the date when those juniors to the
appellant were promoted i.e. w.e.f. 30.03.2005.
Feeling   aggrieved   and   dissatisfied   with   the   impugned
common judgment and order passed in Writ Petition (S/B)
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No.267   of   2013   as   well   as   W.P.   (S/B.)   No.4   of   2013,   the
employee delinquent has preferred the present appeals.
3. We have heard the learned counsel for the respective
parties at length.  
3.1 Having   considered   the   impugned   judgment   and   order
passed by the High Court and even the findings recorded by
the Inquiry officer it appears that the High Court has observed
that the appellant demanded a bribe from Karamjeet Singh
solely on the basis of his cross­examination.   However, it is
required to be noted that he had a reason to speak against the
appellant as his loan amount was reduced from Rs.1,50,000/­
to Rs.75,000/­ by the appellant.  It is the case on behalf of the
appellant  that considering the material  and his capacity a
decision   was   taken   to   reduce   the   loan   amount   from
Rs.1,50,000/­ to Rs.75,000/­ which was taken in the interest
of   the   bank.     There   are   allegations   of   bias   against   the
Chairman right from the very beginning.  Even at one point of
time the Chairman was charge­sheeted for the offences under
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Sections 323, 354, 504, 506 IPC on the complaint filed by the
wife of the appellant and on the basis of complaint filed by a
woman   delegate.     It   is   true   that   subsequent   thereto   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.
3.2 Even looking to the charges proved in the departmental
proceedings we find that as such, there is no financial loss
caused to the Bank and on the contrary a decision was taken
by   the   appellant   to   reduce   the   loan   amount   from
Rs.1,50,000/­ to Rs.75,000/­ in the case of Karamjeet Singh
­the complainant, 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, in the facts and circumstances of the
case, we are of the opinion that the punishment of removal for
the charges proved and the misconduct established, is too
harsh and disproportionate.   However, considering the fact
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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 that of removal of service to
that of compulsory retirement.
4. So far as the submission on behalf of the appellant that
the   appellant   has   not   conducted   any   misconduct   and   the
finding recorded by the inquiry officer on the charges proved
are   perverse   is   concerned,   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.
5. Now in so far as the dismissal of Writ Petition (S/B)
No.267 of 2013 is concerned, at the outset it is required to be
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noted that the High Court has not dealt with and considered
the   same   on   merits   independently.     The   High   Court   has
dismissed the said 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.  However, it is
required to be noted that the appellant claimed the promotion
from Scale II to Scale III from the date when his juniors came
to be promoted w.e.f. 30.03.2005.  From the material available
on record, it appears that in the earlier round of litigation
being 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  1999­2000  to
2003­2004.  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.
6. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above the
impugned  Judgment   and  Order  passed  by  the  High  Court
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passed in Writ Petition (S/B) No.4 of 2013 is hereby modified
to   the   extent   substituting   the   punishment   from   that   of
removal of service to that of compulsory retirement.
 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.
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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.                                  
………………………………….J.
                              [M.R. SHAH]
NEW DELHI;          ..……………………………….J.
FEBRUARY 11, 2022                         [B.V. NAGARATHNA]

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