The Inspector of Panchayats and District Collector, Salem Versus S. Arichandran & Ors

The Inspector of Panchayats and District Collector, Salem Versus S. Arichandran & Ors Case

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले



REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6776 OF 2022
The Inspector of Panchayats and
District Collector, Salem ...Appellant(s)
Versus
S. Arichandran & Ors. ...Respondent(s)
J U D G M E N T
M.R. SHAH, J.
1. Feeling aggrieved and dissatisfied with the impugned judgment
and order passed by the High Court of Judicature at Madras dated
29.10.2021 in Writ Appeal No. 2735 of 2021 by which the Division Bench
of the High Court has dismissed the said appeal and has confirmed the
order passed by the learned Single Judge directing the appellant to
reinstate the respondent – original writ petitioner into service and pay
arrears payable to him, the District Collector, Salem District, Tamil Nadu
has preferred the present appeal.
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2. That a departmental inquiry was initiated against the respondent,
who was a Panchayat Assistant, for having committed the misconduct of
misappropriation of funds pertaining to Samuthram Panchayat in
connivance with the erstwhile President of the said Panchayat. By order
dated 25.09.2006, an order of punishment was passed against the
respondent – delinquent. The order of punishment was the subject
matter of Writ Petition No. 1710 of 2007 before the High Court.

2.1 By judgment and order dated 07.01.2009, the High Court allowed
the said Writ Petition by quashing the order of dismissal and remanded
the matter for fresh disposal observing that no inquiry whatsoever was
held as required under the law. That thereafter, on remand, the inquiry
was conducted after affording an opportunity to the delinquent to defend
his case. However, without giving a copy of the Inquiry Report to the
delinquent and without calling for his comments on the Inquiry Officer’s
Report, a fresh order dated 11.06.2009 came to be passed. The
delinquent – respondent filed a writ petition before the High Court by way
of Writ Petition No. 1152 of 2012.
2.2 The learned Single Judge allowed the said writ petition and
ordered reinstatement with back wages by observing that the order of
dismissal dated 11.06.2009 was in breach of principles of Natural Justice
as the copy of the Inquiry Report was not given to the delinquent and
without calling for his comments on the Inquiry Officer’s Report, the
order of dismissal was passed. The judgment and order passed by the
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learned Single Judge was the subject matter of appeal before the
Division Bench.
2.3 By the impugned judgment and order, the Division Bench of the
High Court has dismissed the said appeal and has confirmed the
judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge to reinstate the
respondent with full back wages. The impugned judgment and order
passed by the Division Bench of the High Court is the subject matter of
present appeal before this Court.
3. Shri Amit Anand Tiwari, learned AAG appearing on behalf of the
appellant has vehemently submitted that the respondent was charge
sheeted for a very serious offence of misappropriation of the amount
belonging to the Panchayat. It is submitted that if the Hon’ble High
Court found the order of punishment in breach of Natural Justice, in that
case, the matter ought to have been remanded to the Disciplinary
Authority to conduct the inquiry form the point that it stood vitiated.
Reliance is placed on the decisions of this Court in the case of
Chairman, Life Insurance Corporation of India and Ors. Vs. A.
Masilamani, (2013) 6 SCC 530 as well as in the case of State of Uttar
Pradesh and Ors. Vs. Rajit Singh, 2022 SCC Online SC 341.
3.1 Making above submissions and relying upon above decisions, it is
prayed to set aside the impugned judgments and orders passed by the
Division Bench as well as the learned Single Judge of the High Court
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and to remit the case to the Disciplinary Authority to conduct the inquiry
from the point that it stood vitiated.
4. Present appeal is vehemently opposed by Shri S. Nagamuthu,
learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of the respondent.
4.1 it is submitted by Shri S. Nagamuthu, learned Senior Advocate
appearing on behalf of the respondent that in the facts and
circumstances of the case, neither the learned Single Judge nor the
Division Bench have committed any error in setting aside the order of
dismissal and ordering reinstatement with full back wages.
4.2 It is submitted that when earlier the order of dismissal was passed,
the same was set aside by the learned Single Judge and the matter was
remitted back to the Disciplinary Authority to pass fresh order after
holding the inquiry and despite the same again the order of dismissal
came to be passed in breach of principles of Natural Justice. It is
submitted that therefore as rightly observed by the Division Bench, time
and again, the opportunities are not to be given to the Disciplinary
Authority to pass fresh orders. It is submitted that therefore, the Hon’ble
High Court has rightly not passed any order of remand to the Disciplinary
authority.
4.3 It is further submitted that in the present case, as such, there is no
loss caused to the Panchayat and the entire amount has been deposited
by the Panchayat President.
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4.4 It is further submitted that the respondent is suffering since 2006
and therefore, the impugned judgment and order passed by the High
Court may not be interfered with by this Court in exercise of powers
under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.
5. We have heard the learned counsel appearing on behalf of the
respective parties at length.
6. At the outset, it is required to be noted that the learned Single
Judge has set aside the order of dismissal passed by the Disciplinary
Authority on the ground that the same was in breach of principles of
Natural Justice, in as much as, the copy of the Inquiry Officer’s Report
was not furnished to the delinquent and his comments were not called
for on the Inquiry Officer’s Report. It is to be noted that the respondent –
delinquent was facing the departmental inquiry with respect to a very
serious charge of misappropriation. Therefore, the High Court ought to
have remitted the matter back to the Disciplinary Authority to conduct the
inquiry from the point that it stood vitiated.
6.1 At this stage, a recent decision of this Court in the case of Rajit
Singh (supra), in which this Court had considered its earlier decision in
the case of A. Masilamani (supra) is required to be referred to. In
paragraph 15, it is observed and held as under:-
“15. It appears from the order passed by the Tribunal that the
Tribunal also observed that the enquiry proceedings were against
the principles of natural justice in as much as the documents
mentioned in the charge sheet were not at all supplied to the
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delinquent officer. As per the settled proposition of law, in a case
where it is found that the enquiry is not conducted properly and/or
the same is in violation of the principles of natural justice, in that
case, the Court cannot reinstate the employee as such and the
matter is to be remanded to the Enquiry Officer/Disciplinary
Authority to proceed further with the enquiry from the stage of
violation of principles of natural justice is noticed and the enquiry
has to be proceeded further after furnishing the necessary
documents mentioned in the charge sheet, which are alleged to
have not been given to the delinquent officer in the instant case.
In the case of Chairman, Life Insurance Corporation of India v. A.
Masilamani, (2013) 6 SCC 530, which was also pressed into
service on behalf of the appellants before the High Court, it is
observed in paragraph 16 as under:—
“16. It is a settled legal proposition, that once the
court sets aside an order of punishment, on the
ground that the enquiry was not properly conducted,
the court cannot reinstate the employee. It must
remit the case concerned to the disciplinary authority
for it to conduct the enquiry from the point that it
stood vitiated, and conclude the same.
(Vide ECIL v. B. Karunakar [(1993) 4 SCC
727], Hiran Mayee Bhattacharyya v. S.M. School for
Girls [(2002) 10 SCC 293], U.P. State Spg. Co.
Ltd. v. R.S. Pandey [(2005) 8 SCC 264] and Union of
India v. Y.S. Sadhu [(2008) 12 SCC 30]).”
6.2 Applying the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions
to the facts of the case on hand and as the order of dismissal has been
set aside on the ground that the same was in breach of principles of
Natural Justice, the High Court ought to have remitted the case
concerned to the Disciplinary Authority to conduct the inquiry from the
point that it stood vitiated and to conclude the same after furnishing a
copy of the Inquiry Report to the delinquent and to give opportunity to
the delinquent to submit his comments on the Inquiry Officer’s Report.
7. In view of the above and for the reasons stated above, present
appeal succeeds in part. The impugned judgment(s) and order(s)
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passed by the Division Bench as well as learned Single Judge of the
High Court ordering reinstatement with back wages are hereby quashed
and set aside. The case concerned is remitted to the Disciplinary
Authority to conduct the inquiry from the point that it stood vitiated and to
conclude the same after furnishing a copy of the Inquiry Officer’s Report
and after giving an opportunity to the delinquent to submit his comments
on the Inquiry Officer’s Report. The aforesaid exercise be completed
within a period of six months from today. However, at the same time,
considering the fact that earlier also the dismissal order was set aside on
the ground that the same was found to be in breach of principles of
Natural Justice and the matter was remitted back and thereafter again
when the fresh order of dismissal has been passed, which is again found
to be in violation of principles of Natural Justice and again the matter is
to be remitted back, we allow the present appeal with costs to be paid by
the appellant to the respondent - delinquent quantified at Rs. 50,000/-,
which shall be paid to the respondent – delinquent within a period of six
weeks from today.
Present appeal is accordingly allowed to the aforesaid extent.
………………………………….J.
 [M.R. SHAH]
NEW DELHI; ………………………………….J.
SEPTEMBER 23, 2022. [KRISHNA MURARI]
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