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PRAHALAD DAS GUPTA versus STATE OF U.P. & OTHERS

High Court of Judicature at Allahabad

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Prahalad Das Gupta v. State Of U.P. & Others - WRIT - A No. 23944 of 2002 [2006] RD-AH 18649 (3 November 2006)

 

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HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE OF ALLAHABAD

                                                                                                                                                                                                        Reserved

Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 23944 of 2002

Prahalad Das Gupta          ............ Petitioner

Versus

State of U.P. and Others     ..... Respondents

Hon'ble Sabhajeet Yadav, J.

By this petition the petitioner has challenged the order dated 22.5.2002 passed by respondent no.2 received to the petitioner on 24.5.2002 contained in Annexure 5 of the writ petition, whereby the petitioner has been reverted from the post of Accountant to the post of Assistant Accountant. His difference of salary except paid as subsistence allowance during the period of suspension has also been withheld by the aforesaid order.

It appears that initially the petitioner was appointed as Assistant Accountant in the Office of Divisional Lodging Manager, U.P. Forest Corporation on 30.07.1977. Thereafter he was promoted on the post of Accountant vide order dated 19.09.1979, since then he was working on the post of Accountant and while working as such in the Office of Regional Manager Southern Region, U.P. Forest Corporation, Alanganj, Allahabad, he was placed under suspension on 18.04.2001. Thereafter a charge sheet dated 26.06.2001 containing six charges of misconduct has been served upon the petitioner on 23.07.2001. The petitioner has submitted a reply to the aforesaid charge sheet on 07.08.2001 to the Inquiry Officer refuting the charges levelled in the charge sheet with request to exonerate him from the said charges. However, an inquiry was conducted by Inquiry Officer in which the petitioner has been given opportunity to cross-examine the witness desired by him and also permitted to adduce his defence evidence before the Inquiry Officer and after concluding the inquiry, the Inquiry Officer has submitted his inquiry report dated 26.03.2002 holding that charges levelled against the petitioner in respect of financial irregularities causing loss to the corporation in collusion with others are not found proved against him, rather other employee namely Assistant Accountant was responsible for the aforesaid irregularities, however, being a Superior Officer the petitioner was guilty of negligence and dereliction of discharge of his duties with utmost sincerity and devotion in superintendence of his sub-ordinate staff, thus according to him though the charges of serious misconduct could not be attributed to the petitioner, yet the petitioner was found guilty of dereliction of duties and negligent in supervising his sub-ordinate staff. Thereupon while agreeing with findings of inquiry officer the Disciplinary Authority has issued a show cause notice dated 30.03.2002 enclosing therewith the findings of inquiry report and petitioner was asked to submit his reply to the show cause within fifteen days from the date of receipt of show cause notice. In response to which the petitioner has submitted his reply to the Disciplinary Authority on 29.04.2002, whereby he has requested that the findings of Inquiry Officer to the extent that the charges levelled against the petitioner in the charge sheet found partially proved against him is wholly erroneous and based on misapprehension of true state of affairs instead thereof he was entitled to be exonerated from all the charges. But after going through the reply submitted by the petitioner against the findings of Inquiry Officer, the Disciplinary Authority has concurred with the findings of Inquiry Officer and held the petitioner guilty of charges having found partially proved against him and imposed major penalty of reduction in rank reverting him from the post of Accountant to the post of Assistant Accountant, inasmuch as withheld the difference of salary during the period of suspension except paid as subsistence allowance. Hence this petition.

At this juncture it is pertinent to point out that while entertaining the writ petition on 12th June 2002, this Court has granted interim order whereby the petitioner's reversion from the post of Accountant to the post of Assistant Accountant has been stayed. Against the aforesaid interim order the respondent Corporation has preferred Special Appeal No. 713 of 2002 which was dismissed by the Division Bench of this Court on 15.07.2002. Feeling aggrieved against which the respondents have preferred special leave petition before Hon'ble Apex Court which has been dismissed by the Apex Court vide order dated 05.12.2002 and learned counsel for the petitioner has informed the Court that in pursuance of interim order passed by this Court the petitioner has been ultimately permitted to continue on his post and as such he is working since then and he has also been paid salary on the post in question.

A detailed counter affidavit has been filed in the writ petition on behalf of the respondents in justification of impugned action taken against the petitioner. I have heard Sri T.P. Singh, learned senior counsel assisted by Sri Sidharth Singh, advocate for the petitioner and Sri V. K. Singh, learned senior counsel assisted by Sudhanshu Shekher, for the respondent nos. 1 to 4 and have gone through the record.

The thrust of the submission of learned counsel for the petitioner is that since the Inquiry Officer has exonerated the petitioner from the charges of financial irregularities and other serious charges of misconduct while holding the Assistant Accountant was responsible for the same has yet held the petitioner guilty of negligence in discharge of his duties and responsibilities attached to the post as a Supervising Officer. In such a factual backdrop of the case the punishment of major penalty of reduction in rank awarded to the petitioner is wholly arbitrary, irrational and disproportionate to the gravity of the charges found proved against the petitioner, therefore, liable to be struck down. Although learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondents has made serious attempt to justify the impugned action but the submission of learned counsel appearing on behalf of respondents appears to be misconceived.

From the perusal of findings of Inquiry Officer which is affirmed by the Disciplinary Authority it is clear that the serious charges of misconduct regarding financial irregularities and embezzlement levelled in the charge sheet could not be connected with the petitioner, rather the Inquiry Officer has found Assistant Accountant guilty of the aforesaid charges of financial irregularities and financial loss to the Corporation. However, the petitioner was held guilty of negligence only in discharge of his duties of superintendence as Accountant, in connection of functioning of Assistant Accountant who was subordinate to the petitioner. Thus, the charges were found partially proved against him. In such a situation learned counsel for the petitioner has submitted that this Court can interfere and pass appropriate orders where the quantum of punishment is wholly disproportionate to the gravity of the charges of delinquent employee and in order to shorten  the litigation in stead of remitting the matter to the Disciplinary Authority this Court itself can exercise its discretionary jurisdiction to pass appropriate order in this regard. In support of the his submission the learned counsel for the petitioner has placed reliance upon B.C. Chaturvedi Vs. Union of India A.I.R. 1996 S.C., 484 and another decision of Hon'ble Apex Court rendered in Deo Singh Vs. Punjab Tourism Development Corporation Limited and another A.I.R. 2003 S.C., 3712. Learned counsel for the petitioner at the strength of the assertions made in para 27 of the writ petition, has further submitted that Sri O.P. Gupta and Sri Prem Prakash Shukla, Assistant Accountants have been dismissed from the service who were found guilty of misconduct in connection of the same incident and this fact has not been denied in counter affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents, therefore, the submission of learned counsel for the petitioner appears to have some substance. Thus, in given facts and circumstances of the case and in view of settled legal position by the Hon'ble Apex Court, I am of the considered opinion that having regard to the gravity of the charges found proved against the petitioner the imposition of major penalty of reduction in rank by reverting him from the post of Accountant to the post of Assistant Accountant and withholding his difference of salary for the period of suspension except to subsistence allowance paid to him is highly disproportionate and shocking to the conscience of the Court. Therefore, I hold it to be irrational and arbitrary inasmuch as disproportionate to the gravity of charges found proved against the petitioner as such cannot be sustained and liable to be struck down, accordingly the impugned order dated 22.05.2002 contained in Annexure 5 of the writ petition is hereby quashed. Since the matter pertains to year 1990-94 and remitting the matter only on the question of quantum of punishment to the Disciplinary Authority would not serve any useful purpose, therefore, having regard to the distance of time already passed I am of the considered opinion that withholding of one annual increment of the petitioner would suffice the purpose and be appropriate punishment in given facts and circumstances of the case.

Thus, in view of the aforesaid discussions the respondents are directed to treat the petitioner to be continued in service on the post of Accountant by ignoring the punishment of reduction in rank awarded to him and further the respondents are directed to release the arrears of salary to the petitioner during the period of suspension by deducting the amount paid as subsistence allowance during the aforesaid period within two months and treat the petitioner continue in service on the post of Accountant with other consequential benefits of service attached to the said post.

In view of the foregoing observations and directions, the writ petition stands allowed to the extent indicated hereinbefore.

There shall be no order as to costs.

Parties shall bear their own costs.

Dt.03.11.2006

S.L/


Copyright

Reproduced in accordance with s52(q) of the Copyright Act 1957 (India) from judis.nic.in, indiacode.nic.in and other Indian High Court Websites

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