(Prayer: This Writ Petition is filed under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India praying to quash the order dated 30.3.2012 (Annexure-P) and the order dated 26.3.2014 passed in Appeal No. HV/EandA/5/2012 (Annexure-Q) passed by the respondents as the same are illegal, Arbitrary, in violation of principles of natural justice and etc.
This Writ Petition coming on for preliminary hearing in B Group this day, the Court made the following:)
1. The petitioner has challenged the punishment order dated 30.3.2012, passed by the Prl. District Judge and Disciplinary Authority, Mandya, whereby the petitioner has been compulsorily retired from service, with immediate effect, and a sum of Rs. 3,20,861/- is directed to be recovered from him. The petitioner has also challenged the order dated 26.3.2014, passed by the Registrar (Vigilance), as the Appellate Authority, whereby the Appeal filed by the petitioner has been dismissed, and the punishment order dated 30.3.2012 has been confirmed.
2. Briefly the facts of the case are that on 11.8.1988, the petitioner was appointed as a First Division Assistant. During the tenure of his service, he had worked in different Courts. Between 1.4.2003 to 8.6.2007, the petitioner was working as a Sheristedar in the Court of Prl. Civil Judge (Jr.Dn.,) Maddur. On 15.11.2007, a special audit team had conducted an investigation, and submitted its report. According to the report, there were certain suspicious irregularities, and misappropriation of revenue received; the said misappropriation may have been committed by the petitioner, and by one Mr. Dasappa. On the basis of the Audit report, on 3.1.2008, the Prl. Civil Judge (Jr. Dn.) and JMFC, Maddur, issued a notice to the petitioner with regard to the alleged misappropriation of the amount. Immediately on 16.1.2008, the petitioner submitted his reply to the said notice.
3. On 26.12.2007, the petitioner was also issued a notice with regard to having received the charge allowance between the periods from 1.12.2002 to 31.3.2005.
4. On 28.3.2008, the petitioner was also issued a third show cause notice with regard to the amount of Rs. 500/- received by him as a cost imposed by the learned Addl.Civil Judge (Jr.Dn.,) and JMFC, Maddur, in Misc. Petition No.6/2002, by order dated 27.5.2005. The petitioner submitted his replies to the said notices.
5. However, the since respondent No.2, the District and Sessions Judge, Maddur, was not satisfied by the reply submitted by the petitioner, on 27.3.2008 the petitioner was served with Articles of Charges; it was proposed to hold a departmental enquiry not only against the petitioner, but also against Mr. Dasappa as well. Immediately, the petitioner submitted his explanation to the charges leveled against him.
6. After completing the departmental enquiry, respondent No.2 submitted his Enquiry Report. The Enquiry Officer held the petitioner guilty of the charges leveled against him. Therefore, on 24.5.2010, a second show cause notice was issued to the petitioner. On 14.6.2010, the petitioner replied to the second show cause notice. However, by order dated 30.3.2012, the petitioner was imposed with the punishment of compulsory retirement, and the amount, aforementioned, was directed to be recovered from him.
7. Since the petitioner was aggrieved by the punishment order dated 30.3.2012, he filed a departmental appeal before the Appellate Authority. However, by order dated 26.3.2014, the learned Appellate Authority has dismissed the petitioner s appeal. Hence, this petition before this Court.
8. Mr. P.N. Nanja Reddy, the learned counsel for the petitioner, has vehemently contended that the punishment imposed upon the petitioner is shockingly disproportionate to the alleged misconduct committed by the petitioner. Since there was only a supervisory negligence which was alleged against the petitioner, the petitioner should not have been compulsorily retired. Instead, the punishment should have been not more than withholding of two increments for one year without cumulative effect. In order to buttress the said plea, the learned counsel has relied upon the case of S.R.Tewari v. Union of India and Another, (2013) 6 SCC 602.
9. On the other hand, Mr. E.S. Indiresh, the learned counsel for the State, has pleaded that according to the evidence produced before the Enquiry Officer, PW-1 in his examination-in-chief had clearly stated that the petitioner was holding the charge of the Accounts Branch at the pertinent time. Even the Presiding Officer, PW-4, had testified to the same effect. The petitioner has not challenged this position even in his cross-examination. Since there was sufficient evidence that a large amount of money was misappropriated, the respondents were justified in imposing the punishment of compulsory retirement. According to the learned counsel, considering the large amount of misappropriation made by the petitioner, and by Mr. Dasappa, in fact, it was a fit case for the dismissal of the petitioner from service. However, keeping in mind that the petitioner had worked for the respondents since 1988, keeping in mind that he had an ailing mother and growing children, who were dependent upon the petitioner, the respondents thought it fit to merely compulsorily retire the petitioner from service, instead of dismissing him from the service. The punishment of compulsory retirement was imposed keeping in mind that the petitioner may still be entitled to his retiral benefits, whereas if he had been dismissed from service, he would have nothing to fall back upon economically. Thus, according to the learned counsel for the respondents, the punishment is a reasonable one, and does not qualify as a shockingly disproportionate punishment.
Lastly, the learned counsel submits that since the petitioner was an employee, and was working for the judiciary, a misplaced sympathy by this Court may send a wrong signal to the other employees. Therefore, the impugned order does not deserve to be disturbed by this Court.
10. A bare perusal of the order dated 3.1.2008, and Articles of Charges framed against the petitioner clearly reveal that there are not only charges of supervisory negligence against the petitioner, but there are also charges of the amount received by the petitioner which have not been deposited by the petitioner with the Government. Therefore, the first contention raised by the learned counsel that the petitioner has been punished only for the supervisory negligence is clearly unacceptable.
11. Since the petitioner was working as a Sheristedar, and that, too, in the account section, he was legally bound to ensure that those who are working under him are discharging their duties strictly in accordance with law. However, despite the responsibility imposed upon the petitioner, the petitioner permitted Mr. Dasappa to misappropriate an amount of Rs. 6,74,607/-, and to falsify the records. Therefore, the petitioner failed to discharge his responsibility.
12. A bare perusal of the orders passed by the Disciplinary Authority, and by the Appellate Authority, clearly reveals that despite the misconduct committed by the petitioner, but considering the fact that the petitioner has family responsibility which need to be discharged by him, neither the Disciplinary Authority, nor the Appellate Authority have caused the economic death knell of the petitioner. Considering the fact that strict discipline has to be maintained within the judiciary, considering the fact that the petitioner has committed grave misconduct, still the Disciplinary Authority, and the Appellate Authority were generous enough to safeguard the interest of the petitioner. Thus, a reasonable punishment order of compulsory retirement was passed against the petitioner. Therefore, the punishment order cannot be said to be shockingly disproportionate to the alleged misconduct.
13. In case discipline is not maintained within the judiciary, and in case the impugned orders are interfered by this Court, it may motivate other employees to take to the wrong path, and to commit misconduct with the hope that this Court would show sufficient sympathy for its employees and would reduce the punishment from compulsory retirement to a minor one. However, such a hope should not be held out, by this Court, to the employees who are working in the judiciary in the State of Karnataka.
For the reasons stated above, this Court does not find any merit in the present Writ Petition. It is, hereby, dismissed.