S.P. Bharucha J.
1. The petitioner was employed by the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the 1st respondent, as an Assistant Engineer at Calcutta. On 30th October, 1970 he was promoted to the pose of Assistant Executive Engineer at Bombay. On 15th February, 1977 he was served with a charge sheet which alleged that he had recommended 2 interim bills dated 17th June and 20th July, 1974 and a final bill dated 30th September, 1974 of the L.I.C.'s contractors, M/s. National Painting Works, for the work of cleaning doors and windows 'without actually verifying whether the work had been done or not which has resulted in payments being made to the contractors for work not done by them'. The petitioner denied the charges. The Managing Director of the L.I.C., as the disciplinary authority, appointed one S. Balachandran, enquiry officer to enquire into the charges. The enquiry was held and the enquiry officer submitted his report. On 3rd July, 1980 the disciplinary authority passed an order which recited that 'after considering the said report it has become necessary and expedient to set aside the enquiry report and to hold a de-nova enquiry into the aforesaid charge-sheet dated 15-2-1977'. The disciplinary authority appointed one V.C. Shah to be the enquiry officer at the second enquiry. On 7th July, 1980 the petitioner wrote to the disciplinary authority and submitted that the second enquiry would be illegal and violative of the principles of justice and fair play. The first enquiry was a complete enquiry and, having regard to whet was evidenced by the order, it had established that he was innocent. He asked for a copy of the enquiry report. On 17th July, 1980 the Chief Personnel Officer of the L.I.C. informed the petitioner that the order dated 3rd July, 1980 had been validly and properly issued and the question of supplying the enquiry report did not arise. On 24th July, 1980 the petitioner was issued with a second charge-sheet which repeated the charges made in the first charge-sheet, with only this exception that is set out the monetary loss alleged to have been incurred by the L.I.C.
2. This petition, filed on 30th July, 1980, impugns the validity of the order of 3rd July, 1980.
3. Mr. Shetye, learned Counsel for the petitioner, submitted that by issuing a charge-sheet on 15th July, 1977 in respect of events which had occurred in 1974, the L.I.C. had violated the principles of natural justice. He submitted, secondly, that charge sheets could not be issued one after the other in respect of the same charge until the delinquent was found guilty thereon. Thirdly, he submitted that the disciplinary authority had no power to set aside the findings and report of the enquiry officer. Lastly, it was submitted that the petitioner was entitled to a copy of the enquiry report and it would show that the petitioner was exonerated.
4. Mr. Pagnis, learned Counsel for the respondents, drew my attention to the affidavit made on behalf of the respondents in reply to the petition. The affidavit states that 'since it was observed by the disciplinary authority that important and material evidence was not produced in the said enquiry as being not available at the time of enquiry, it was felt necessary and expedient to set aside the enquiry proceedings and the reports submitted by the said enquiry officer'. The affidavit says that the petitioner was found guilty by the enquiry officer 'in part' of the misconduct mentioned in the charge-sheet and that while it was open to the disciplinary authority to proceed further in the matter against the petitioner, 'the disciplinary authority in the interest of justice and fair play decided to set aside the said report and findings of the said enquiry officer and order a fresh enquiry against the petitioner.........and thereby afforded him yet another opportunity to defend his impugned actions.'
5. The affidavit gives the impression that it was out of consideration for the petitioner that the disciplinary authority acted as it did. Having seen a copy of the enquiry report, which Mr. Pagnis kindly made available to me, I am satisfied that the only consideration which weighed with the disciplinary authority was to see that the petitioner was found to be wholly guilt of the charge against him. The enquiry report finds, 'Although the charge to the extent that Shri Joshi had not verified whether the work had been done before recommending the bill for payment is valid, the further charge that this resulted in payment being done to the contractors for work not done by them is not proved'. By purporting to set aside this finding and report the disciplinary authority was giving himself a second opportunity to establish the monetary loss which had been occasioned to the L.I.C., which evidence was not adduced at the first enquiry, for whatever reason and to establish at the second try the latter part of the charge also.
6. Once the enquiry officer has arrived at a finding and made his report it is open to the disciplinary authority to accept it or to come to a finding upon the record other than that of the enquiry officer. It is not open to him to scrap the findings and the report and to subject the delinquent to the hazard and travail of a second enquiry. To do so appears to me to be contrary to the principles of natural justice and to fair play.
7. Mr. Pagnis sought to rely upon Regulation 39 of the L.I.C. (Staff) Regulations, 1960, as empowering the disciplinary authority to set aside the findings and report of an enquiry officer and to direct a fresh enquiry. Upon reading it with me, he fairly admitted that it did not expressly so empower the disciplinary authority. In his submission, because there was no bar, the setting aside of the findings and report of the first enquiry, and the constitution of the second enquiry was permissible. The setting aside of the findings and report of the first enquiry and the constitution of a second enquiry appears to me, as I have said, wholly contrary to the principles of natural justice and fair play, and no power to so act can be assumed to vest in the disciplinary authority.
8. Having regard to these conclusions, it is not necessary to deal with the first and the last submission of Mr. Shetye.
9. The order of the disciplinary authority dated 3rd July, 1980 and all action taken by the respondents pursuant thereon, including the charge-sheet dated 24th July, 1980, are quashed and set aside.