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C.R.M. State Bank v. D.K. Singh - WRIT - C No. 8296 of 1986 [2007] RD-AH 11570 (10 July 2007)


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Judgement Reserved on 15.3.2007

Judgement Delivered on 10.7.2007


Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 8296 of 1986

The Chief Regional Manager State Bank of India Varanasi Versus D.K.Singh and another.

Hon'ble S.U.Khan J

Heard learned counsel for the parties.

This writ  petition is directed against the award dated 16.1.1986 given by Presiding Officer, Central Government Industrial Tribunal-Cum -Labour Court, Kanpur in Industrial Dispute case No. 54 of 1984. The matter which was referred to the labour court was as to whether the action of the management dismissing its employee/ Clerk D.K.Singh respondent No.1 in the writ petition with effect from 7.7.1983 was justified or not.

The allegation against the workman was that he changed the amount of a draft from Rs. 9.10/- to Rs.9010/-. The draft was issued on 14.6.1976 from the branch of the bank where the workman was working. In the draft, the date was also changed from 14.6.1976 to 10.7.1976. It is not denied by the workman that the date and the amount were changed in the draft. From the drawee bank, the party in whose favour the draft had been issued withdrew an amount of Rs.9010/- causing a loss of about Rs.9000/- to the bank. However, workman stated that the manipulation was done by someone else and not by him and that he had issued correct draft and after issuing the same he did not see or touch the same. The drawee branch gave the money of the draft without advice from the issuing branch. The workman was suspended on 29.10.1977. Thereafter he was reinstated on 25.11.1978. The management of the bank had also filed OS on 7.12.1977 against the party in whose favour draft was issued and who withdrew the amount of Rs.9010/-. In the enquiry charge sheet was given to the workman on 2.11.1979. Enquiry proceeding were concluded in two days i.e. 8 and 9th December 1981. Ultimately services of the respondent No.1 were terminated on 8.7.1982. In the civil suit the workman was subsequently added as party on 17.9.1982. Learned counsel for the workman argued that initially in the civil suit workman was cited as witness of the management. The suit has not yet been decided on merit. The order  of cessation of employment of the workman was passed under Para 521 (10) (c) of Sastry award.

Management also filed FIR in relation to the aforesaid incident.

Management also obtained opinion of the handwriting expert regarding alteration. The expert opined that alteration and original writing appeared to be of the same person. The main argument of learned counsel for the workman is that enquiry officer did not provide any opportunity to the workman for rebutting the report of the expert and it was evident from the fact that enquiry was initiated and concluded in two consecutive days.

In the termination order, it was mentioned that keeping in view the age of the workman and service record, his misconduct was condoned, and he was discharged simplicitor in terms of the aforesaid para of Sastry award.

Before the Labour Court management also took the plea of loss of confidence. The management filed affidavit of Sri R.N.Agarwal one of its officers. He stated that in view of the opinion of the handwriting expert, departmental proceeding was initiated against the workman. Labour Court has observed that the expert was not examined in the enquiry. The workman also stated before the Labour Court that in the enquiry he had requested for production of handwriting expert for cross examination and the said request was turned down by the enquiry officer. Workman further argued that bank obtained opinions of two handwriting  experts which were given on 10.10.1977 and 4.11.1979 and both were inconsistent with each other. Workman also stated that report of the handwriting expert was given to him during the enquiry. The labour court has quoted the operative portion of the termination order which is reproduced below:

"Although the charges against you are grave and warrant dismissal from service, you are hereby on account of age and past service discharged from bank service condoning your misconduct."

Labour court held that discharge order was not a discharge simplicitor but by way of punishment (last sentence of para 14 of the award).

In para 15 of the award, Labour Court held that petitioner was removed/ dismissed from service on the ground of misconduct and misconduct was not proved properly as full opportunity of hearing was not provided to the workman in the sense that he was not permitted to cross examine the handwriting expert whose opinion was the sole basis of punishment order. Labour court also held that no opportunity was provided to the workman to produce his handwriting expert. Thereafter in para 19 of the award labour court criticised report of the  handwriting expert also. In para 19, labour court held that workman was discharged from service as punishment after enquiry on the basis of charge and the finding that charge was proved was based on insufficient evidence. Labour court also held that charge sheet was not signed by the enquiry officer and it was an irregularity. Ultimately labour court directed reinstatement with full back wages.

Para 521 (10) (c) along with alied paragraphs of Sastry award has been considered by the Supreme Court in detail in the authority reported in State Bank of India Vs. Workman State Bank of India  AIR 1990 SC 2034. Supreme Court has held that the last sentence of the aforesaid paragraph to the effect that "discharge in such cases shall not be deemed to amount to disciplinary action" is slightly confusing and if in the opinion of the management misconduct was of gross type then discharge even if stated to be under the aforesaid paragraph would amount to disciplinary action. In view of the above authority of the Supreme Court no fault can be found with the order passed by the labour court. Labour court rightly held that failure to provide opportunity of cross examination of the expert to the workman vitiated the enquiry proceeding. Labour court further rightly held that workman was not provided proper opportunity to adduce the opinion of the handwriting expert and this also vitiated the proceedings.

The learned counsel for the petitioner management has argued that discharge order should not have been interfered with even if evidence was found to be insufficient to sustain the charge (these words has been used in para 521 (10) (c) of the Sastry award). In view of the aforesaid authority of the Supreme Court this argument can not be accepted.

Learned counsel for the petitioner has not been able to convince the court that proper opportunity of rebuttal in respect of opinion of the handwriting expert was provided to the workman. The discharge order was mainly rather solely based upon the report of the handwriting expert .

Accordingly, there is no merit in the writ petition, hence, it is dismissed.




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