1. This Writ Petition has come up before us on a reference made by Rama Jois, J.
2. The Petitioner, who was a Tahsildar in the Service of the State Government, has challenged the validity of the notice and the notification dated 1st April, 1976, issued by the Government compulsorily retiring him from service under the provisions of Note. 1 to Rule 285 of the Karnataka Civil Services Rules, 1958.
3. The Petitioner originally joined service as a Second Division Clerk on 20th March, 1944 in the composite State of Madras. On the merger of Bellary district from 1st October, 1953, the petitioner came to be allotted to the former State of Mysore, while he was working as a First Division Clerk. After his allotment in the Revenue Department of the State, he was promoted in the first instance as a Taluk Sheristedar in August 1965, later on as Deputy Tahsildar in March 1969 and ultimately promoted to the post of Tahsildar in January 1973.
4. It appears that when the Petitioner was working as a Tahsildar in Manvi taluk of Raichur District, he was issued a notice dated 13th February, 1975 to show cause against certain misconduct viz., alleged tampering of certain pahani records in his office. He submitted his representation containing his defence. Later by an order dated 15/16th July 1975 issued by the Government, the Petitioner was kept under suspension pending enquiry into the alleged misconduct under Rule 10 of the Karnataka Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeals) Rules 1957. When no action was taken in pursuance of the suspension order the Petitioner filed Writ Petition No. 1207 of 1976, which came to be disposed of on 4th June, 1976 on the submission of the learned Government Pleader that a notice has been issued to the Petitioner calling upon him to show cause as to why he should not be compulsorily retired from service with effect from 1st July, 1976. However, it is seen that the notice dated 1st April, 1976 received by the Petitioner was in fact three months' notice of compulsory retirement in accordance with Note-1 to Rule 285 of the K.C.S. Rs. The Petitioner has now challenged the validity of the said order of compulsory retirement.
5. Mr. Subrahmanya Jois, learned counsel for the Petitioner has urged the following grounds against the impugned order of compulsory retirement. Firstly, it was urged that the Government having initiate disciplinary proceedings and suspended the petitioner, it was not open for the Government to abandon the said proceedings and make the impugned order, which is of a penal nature. Secondly, it was contended that the order cannot be said to have been made in public interest but the Petitioner has been victimised at the instance of certain local persons with influence, who had developed hostility against him on account of the special collection drive scheme which he had undertaken and carried out in spite of many obstacles. The counsel said that on account of the good work in connection with the special collection drive, the Petitioner was given encomiums by the concerned authorities as seen from several letters Exs. A to E filed with the Writ Petition. Thirdly, it was contended that the uncommunicated adverse remarks recorded in the confidential report of the Petitioner could not be relied upon and could not form the basis of the order of compulsory retirement of the Petitioner in so far as it is violative of the principles of natural justice. The said remarks ought not to be acted upon unless it is first communicated to the official concerned and his representation against the same considered by the Government.
6. The principles governing the compulsory retirement of a Government servant are well settled. Compulsory retirement after the employee has put in the qualified number of years of service with full pension is neither a punishment nor a stigma so as to attract the provisions of Art. 311(2) of the Constitution. It has been held that the object of the rule relating to compulsory retirement is to weed out dead wood in order to maintain a high standard of efficiency and initiative in the State Services. There may be cases of officers who are corrupt or of doubtful integrity who may be considered fit for being compulsory retired in public interest when they have almost reached the fag end of their career. Nevertheless such retirement would not cast any aspersion nor entail any civil consequences on the Government servant. The power of the Government to compulsorily retire its employees under the relevant Rules has been stated to be one of the facets of the doctrine of pleasure incorporated in Art. 310 of the Constitution and as such it excludes the application of rules of natural justice.
7. In Union of India v. Col. J. N. Sinha [1970-II L.L.J. 284] the Supreme Court, while considering the scope and ambit of Rule 56(j) of the Fundamental Rules which is similar to the relevant Rule under the K.C.S. Rs, has observed at page 285 :
'The right conferred on the appropriate authority is an absolute one. That power can be exercised subject to the conditions mentioned in the Rule, one of which is that the concerned authority must be of the opinion that it is in public interest to do so. If that authority bona fide forms that opinion, the correctness of that opinion, cannot be challenged before Courts .... Various considerations may weigh with the appropriate authority while exercising the power conferred under the Rule. In some cases, the Government may feel that a particular post may be more usefully held in public interest by an officer more competent than the one who is holding. It may be that the officer who is holding the post is not inefficient but the appropriate authority may prefer to have more efficient officer. It may further be that in certain key posts public interest may require that a person of undoubted ability and integrity should be there. There is no denying the fact that in all organisations and more so in Government Organisations, there is a good deal of deal wood. It is in public interest to chop off the same. Fundamental Rule 56(j) holds the balance between the rights of the individual Government servant and the interest of the public. While a minimum service is guaranteed to the Government servant, the Government is given power to energise its machinery and make it more efficient by compulsorily retiring those who in its opinion should not be there in public interest.'
8. Accordingly the two ingredients to be satisfied before compulsorily retiring a Government servant are (1) that the member of the service must have completed the prescribed qualifying service or the age of 50 years and (2) that the order must be passed in public interest. If these two requirements are satisfied the Government has absolute right to retire any Government servant and his action impliedly excludes the application of the rules of natural Justice.
9. It is equally well settled that the pendency of any disciplinary proceedings against an official is no bar for exercising the power to compulsorily retire him from service. In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Chandra Mohan Nigam [1978-I L.L.J. 6] the Supreme Court observed thus a page 14 :
'We should hasten to add that when integrity of an officer is in question that will be an exceptional circumstances for which orders may be passed in respect of such a person under Rule 16(3), at any time, if other conditions of that Rule are fulfilled, apart from the choice of disciplinary action which will also be open to Government.'
In Syam Lal v. State of Uttar Pradesh (A.I.R. 1955 S.C. 369) the Supreme Court has observed as follows :
'It is true that this power of compulsory retirement may be used when the authority exercising this power cannot substantiate the misconduct which may be the real cause for taking the action but what is important to note is that the directions in the last sentence in Note-I to Art. 465-A make it abundantly clear that an imputation or charge is not in terms made a condition for the exercise of the power. In other words, a compulsory retirement has no stigma or implication of misbehaviour or incapacity.'
10. The learned counsel for the petitioner relied upon the letters of encomiums received by him during the short period between July and September 1974 which all relate to his work in connection with the special collection drive scheme. The grievance in other words was that the impugned order of compulsory retirement having been passed soon after the said appreciation of his work would indicate that the order was not bona fide and cannot be said to be in public interest. It was also contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the action of the Government in compulsorily retiring the petitioner was not justified in as much as the petitioner has an excellent record of service which was not considered.
11. We have been taken through the relevant records pertaining to the service of the petitioner including the annual confidential reports. Except the letters of encomiums issued by the authorities relating to his work of collection during a limited period, there is nothing else to substantiate his claim of an outstanding past service. At the most the petitioner gives an impression to be a mediocre against whom there are several adverse remarks throughout the service. The confidential report for three years immediately preceding the order of compulsory retirement reveals his bad performance and doubtful integrity. The assessment made by his superior officer in the C.R. for the year 1973 is' very bad' as per the entry therein dated 5th March 1973. The remarks made by the Divisional Commissioner on 30th March, 1974 is that he is corrupt. The report dated 20th February, 1975 for the year 1974 stated that 'He is not industrious and is inclined to take matters easy-Haughtiness'. The confidential report for 1975 by the Divisional Commissioner is that the petitioner is of 'doubtful integrity'. The confidential reports for the earlier years also were not complimentary. It was urged on behalf of the petitioner that against the adverse confidential report dated 5th April, 1974 there was a representation, which has not been considered by the Government. However, on perusal of the records produced, it is seen that the said representation has been duly considered and rejected on 19 the October, 1974.
12. It was further urged that the Government could not have relied upon certain uncommunicated confidential reports in the service record of the petitioner. While dealing with a similar contention in the case of Union of India v. M. E. Reddy & another [1980-I L.L.J. 7], the Supreme Court has observed at para 17 on page 13 :
Mr. Krishnamurthy Iyer appearing for Reddy submitted that the order impugned is passed on materials which are non-existent in as much as there are no adverse remarks against Reddy who had a spotless career throughout and if such remarks would have been made in the confidential reports they should have been communicated to him under the Rules. This argument, in our opinion, appears to be based on a serious misconception. In the first place under the various Rules on the subject it is not every adverse entry or remark that has is not every adverse entry or remark that has to be communicated to the officer concerned. The superior officer may make certain remarks while assessing the work and conduct of the subordinate officer based on his personal supervision or contact. Some of these remarks may be purely innocuous, or may be connected with general reputation of honesty or the integrity that a particular officer enjoys. It will indeed be difficult if not impossible to prove by positive evidence that a particular officer is dishonest but those who have had the opportunity to watch the performance of the said officer from close quarters are in a position to know the nature and character not only of his performance but also of the reputation that he enjoys'.
Further in para 18 at page 14 of [1980-I L.L.J. 7] it is observed thus :
'... It is not an entry here or an entry there which has to be taken into consideration by the Government but the overall picture of the officer during the long years of his service that he puts in has to be considered from the point of view of achieving higher standard of efficiency and dedication so as to be retained even after the officer has put in the requisite number of years of Service.'
In R. L. Butail v. Union of India [1970-II L.L.J. 514] the Supreme Court has observed at p. 527 at para 28 :
'It may well be that in spite of the work of the appellant being satisfactory as the claimed it was, there may have been other relevant factors, such as the history of the appellant's entire service and confidential reports throughout the period of his service, upon which the appropriate authority may still decide to order appellant's retirement under F.R. 56(j)'.
Relying upon the above dictum, the Supreme Court has in M. E. Reddy's case (supra), observed that the confidential reports can certainly be considered by the appointing authority in passing the order of compulsory retirement even if they are not communicated to the officer concerned.
13. The learned counsel for the petitioner has relied upon the following decisions of the Supreme Court to support his contention that the impugned order cannot be said to have been made in public interest. Smt. S. R. Venkataraman v. Union of India [1979-I L.L.J. 25], J. D. Shrivastava v. Union of Madhya Pradesh [1984-I L.L.J. 344] and Baldev Raj v. State of Punjab [1984-II L.L.J. 7].
We find that the ratio of the said decisions is not applicable to the facts and circumstances of the instant case. In Venkataraman's case (supra), the Supreme Court has held on facts that the relevant record of the Public servant did not reveal that the compulsory retirement was in public interest. This fact was also conceded by the Government counsel that the Government was not in a position to support the unfair order. In Shrivastava's case (supra), the Supreme Court has found that the decision to compulsorily retire a judicial officer of the State of Madhya Pradesh was based on a stale confidential report. It was held therein that the confidential report relating to a remote period would not be relevant for the purpose determining whether a person should be retired compulsorily or not. In fact in that case the authority relied upon the remark made about 20 years prior to the date on which the decision was taken. In Baldev Raj's case (supra), the Supreme Court has held that in the absence of any record and the annual confidential reports, there was no other material before the competent authority to hold that the order of compulsory retirement was passed in public interest. In that case it is found that in pursuance of the order of Supreme Court the official was reinstated by one order and by another order simultaneously issued by the State Government he was compulsorily retired from service. The order was, therefore, held to be clearly bona fide and untenable in the circumstances of the case.
These cases do not lie on close parallel with the facts of the case on hand and therefore not applicable.
14. The petitioner has also been unsuccessful in making out a case of bona fide on the part of the Government in passing the impugned order. Indeed the feeble material vaguely referred to in the writ petition for building up a case of bona fides totally fails. While taking a decision to pass the order of compulsory retirement against the petitioner the Government has taken into consideration the report of the screening, Committee, which went into the case of the petitioner and on a consideration of over all performance of the officer during his service, has recommended that he is not fit to be continued in service and he should be retired in public interest. The learned Government Pleader has also placed before us the proceedings of the Government from which it is abundantly clear that the highest authority concerned has considered the report and recommendation of the screening committee and has applied its mind properly before taking a decision to retire the petitioner. As such we do not see any illegality or irregularity in the order warranting interference in the exercise of our jurisdiction under Art. 226 of the Constitution.
15. In the result, the Petition is dismissed. No costs in the circumstances.