1. This revision petition arises from the order dated 30-6-1978 made in Misc. Appeal No. 42 of 1978 by the Court of the Principal Civil Judge, Shimoga, affirming the order dated 3-6-1978 passed on interlocutory Applications Nos. 1 & II in OS. No. 113 of 1978 by the Court of the Principal Munsiff, Shimoga.
2. The revision petitioners are plaintiffs and the respondents are defendants in OS No. 113 of 1978 on the file of the Court of the Principal Munsiff, Shimoga. The plaintiffs are the employees in the company of defendant-1. There is a criminal case pending trial against the plaintiffs in CC. No. 1 of 1978 on the file of the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shimoga, in respect of charges framed against them having been accused of offences of theft in a building. Pending trial of the said charges of theft by the Magistrate Court, defendant No. 1 having appointed defendant No. 2 to hold a parallel Departmental Enquiry under the Standing Orders of defendant 1 - company against the plaintiffs in respect of the very same charges, Departmental Enquiry is initiated by defendant No. 2. Plaintiffs have filed the aforesaid suit to restrain the defendants by means of a permanent injunction from proceeding with the Departmental Enquiry until the termination of the criminal trial in CC. No. 1 of 1978 on the file of the Court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Shimoga. The case of the plaintiffs is that if during the pendency of the criminal trial, the plaintiffs are to put the necessity of facing a parallel departmental enquiry, the defence in the criminal trial will have to be disclosed in the Departmental Enquiry and development of such a situation will jeopardise their defence in the criminal trial. According to the plaintiffs, defendants' refusal to suspend the departmental enquiry which is likely to jeopardise their defence in the criminal trial has given them the cause of action to file the suit for permanent injunction. The plaintiffs having filed the said suit for permanent injunction in the Munsiff's Court, had, on the basis of IA. No. I filed under Or. XXXIX, Or. 1 and 2 CPC., obtained an ex parte order of temporary injunction restraining the defendants from proceeding with the Departmental Enquiry. However, after the filing of IA. No. II by defendants under Or. XXXIX, R. 4 of the said Code, the Court of the Munsiff having considered IA. Nos. 1 and II together made an order dissolving the ex parte order of temporary injunction. The appeal of the plaintiffs filed against the order of dissolution of ex parte temporary injunction in the court of the Civil Judge has been subsequently dismissed, by affirming the order appealed against. Being aggrieved against the order of the Court of the civil Judge in appeal, the present revision petition is filed by the plaintiffs under S. 115 C.P.C. to be referred to as the Code.
3. The Court of the Munsiff, on an examination of the case pleaded by the plaintiffs in the plaint and on consideration of the arguments addressed on behalf of the contesting parties, having found that there was no prima facie case made out by the plaintiffs warranting the continuance of the ex parte order of temporary injunction granted earlier, has dissolved the same. The Court of the civil Judge, in appeal, having taken the view that there is no legal bar for defendant-company to hold a departmental enquiry in respect of the same charges with regard to which criminal trial is pending, has dismissed the appeal.
4. The main contention advanced before me by Sri S. Krishnaiah, learned counsel who appeared for the petitioners, was that it is a requirement of principle of natural justice that no employer should hold against his employee a departmental enquiry in respect of the very same charges which are pending trial in a criminal case till the termination of the criminal case and as such the order of the subordinate Courts by which grant of temporary injunction to prevent breach of such principle of natural justice was refused, thereby exposing the petitioners to jeopardy, had to be treated by this Court as orders made by the subordinate Courts in exercise of their jurisdiction illegally and with material irregularity and reversed.
5. I do not think I can accede to the said contention advanced on behalf of the petitioners. It is well settled law that no temporary injunction in a pending suit should be granted unless it is shown by the party seeking the relief of temporary injunction that he has 'legal right' that is, a right recognised by and capable of being enforced at law and that there is actual or threatened infringement of such right. When I questioned the learned counsel for the petitioners as to whether in the instant case it was possible for him to say that the plaintiffs had any legal right to complain of its infringement, his answer was that the right of the plaintiffs, the infringement of which was threatened, was the requirement of principle of natural justice and as such the civil Courts were under a duty to safeguard such requirement of principle of natural justice by restraining an employer by means of an injunction from proceeding with the departmental enquiry in respect of charges which were also the subject-matter of criminal trial pending its termination. He thereafter submitted that the Supreme Court itself has upheld such a contention in the case of Delhi Cloth & General Mills v. Kushan Bhan, A.I.R. 1960 S.C. 106 and referred me to the following observation of the Supreme Court made in the judgment while dealing with a case where a question arose as to how an employer should proceed in a situation calling for holding a parallel departmental enquiry against an employee in respect of the very charges which would be pending trial in a criminal case :
'We may, however, add that if the case is of a grave nature or involves questions of fact or law which are not simple, it would be advisable for the employer to await the decision of the criminal Court so that the defence of the employee in the criminal case may not be prejudiced'.
Since a perusal of the said observation of the Supreme Court does not give scope for doubting its advisory character. I am not prepared to hold that the Supreme Court by means of the observation has upheld the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners as submitted by him. In fact, the following enunciation of law contained in the earlier part of the very same judgment of the Supreme Court, in my view, is in itself sufficient to negative the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner :
'It is true that every often employers stay enquiries pending the decision of criminal Courts and that is fair; but we cannot say that the principles of natural justice require that an employer must wait for the decision at least of the criminal Court before taking action again an employee.'
Hence, I have no hesitation in negativing the main contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners that it is a requirement of principle of natural justice that no employer should hold against his employee a departmental enquiry in respect of the very same charges which are pending trial in a criminal Court till the termination of such trial and that the Courts below have committed a breach of such requirement as would call for interference under S. 115 of the Code, I, accordingly, negatived it.
6. The other contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners is that when the Supreme Court in the case of Jang Bahadur Singh v. Baij Nath Tiwari, : 1969CriLJ267 , has observed that 'the employee is free to move the Court for restraining the continuance of the disciplinary proceedings' the Courts below ought to have considered that the petitioners in the revision petition had any legal right to obtain the order of temporary injunction from them to restrain the continuance of the disciplinary proceedings taken against them by the respondents, and granted the injunction sought for. I do not think I can accede to this contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners, as well.
7. The observation of the Supreme Court on which reliance is placed by the learned counsel for the petitioners was made in a criminal appeal filed against an order of the High Court of Allahabad. In that case, the appellant was the Manager of a private educational institution, while the respondent was a teacher in that institution, Disciplinary proceedings were taken against the respondent in relation to misappropriation of certain scholarship amounts at the instance of the Managing Committee of the institution. The appellant had passed an order suspending the respondent from his work pending the enquiry. The order of suspension having been challenged in a writ petition in the High Court of Allahabad by the respondent, he had obtained an ex parte order from the High Court staying the operation of the suspension order. However, the ex parte order was subsequently vacated after hearing both the parties. Thereafter, the appellant served a charge-sheet on the respondent with regard to misappropriation of the scholarship amounts and called upon him to submit his explanation. The respondent, instead of submitting his explanation, filed a petition in the High Court seeking committal of the appellant for contempt of Court. The contention raised before the High Court was that when the charge levelled against the respondent was the subject-matter of enquiry in the pending writ petition, the parallel enquiry launched by the appellant, with regard to the same charge, had resulted in contempt of the High Court. The High Court, accepting the said contention of the respondent, held that the appellant was guilty of contempt of Court and directed him to pay a fine of Rs. 500 and costs. It is that order of the High Court by which the appellant was held guilty of contempt of Court that was under challenge in the appeal before the Supreme Court. Dealing with the question as to whether the appellant was guilty of contempt as held by the High Court, this is what has been stated by the Supreme Court in paragraph 3 of its judgment,
'The issue in the disciplinary proceedings is whether the employee is guilty of the charges on which it is proposed to take action against him. The same issue may arise for decision in a civil or criminal proceeding pending in a court. But the pendency of the court proceeding does not bar the taking of disciplinary action. The power of taking such action is vested in the disciplinary authority. The civil or criminal court has no such power. The initiation and continuation of disciplinary proceedings in good faith is not calculated to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice in the pending Court proceeding. The employee is free to move the court for an order restraining the continuance of the disciplinary proceedings. If he obtains a stay order, a wilful violation of the order would of course amount to contempt of Court. In the absence of a stay order the disciplinary authority is free to exercise its lawful powers.'
A perusal of the discussion of the Supreme Court contained in the said paragraph shows that the underlined observation on which reliance is placed by the learned counsel for the petitioners in support of his contention, cannot be given the meaning that the Supreme Court has conferred a right on every employee against whom disciplinary proceeding is taken, to get the disciplinary proceeding stayed by means of an injuction by approaching the civil or criminal Court. The context in which the Supreme Court made the said observation is that when the respondent had not obtained an order from the High Court to restrain the continuance of the disciplinary proceedings, it was not open to him to contend that the continuance of the disciplinary proceeding against him would amount to contempt of Court. In this view of the matter, the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioners that the subordinate Courts were under an obligation to grant the injunction sought for by the petitioners cannot be sustained and deserves to be rejected. It is accordingly rejected.
8. As I have rejected the contentions raised by the learned counsel for the petitioners in support of the revision petition, and when the trial Court has refused to grant temporary injunction in favour of the petitioners in exercise of its discretion and when the appellate Court, on consideration of the points urged before it, has affirmed that order in appeal, I do not find any valid ground to interfere with such orders in revision.
9. In the result, this revision petition fails and it is accordingly dismissed. However, taking into consideration the fact, that the petitioners are workers in a factory, I do not propose to make any order as regards costs payable by them in this revision petition.