Rama Jois, J.
1. The petitioner who is an employee of the K.S.R.T.C. Employees Credit Cooperative Society has presented this Petition praying for quashing the order of the Karnataka Appellate Tribunal dismissing his Revision Petition against the order of the Enquiry Officer appointed by the Society declining to permit the Petitioner to engage an advocate to defend his case before the said Enquiry Officer.
2. The facts of the case in brief are as follows :
The Petitioner is a clerk in the employment of the 2nd respondent society. Disciplinary proceedings has been instituted against him on the allegation that he hadmisappropriated a sum of Rs. 1,41,334.00. Before the Enquiry Officer appointed by the Society, the Petitioner made a request to permit him to engage an advocate to defend him in the enquiry on the ground that the charges levelled against him was serious and complicated questions of law and facts arise for consideration. This application was rejected by the Enquiry Officer holding that no complicated questions of law or facts would arise for consideration. Against the said order the petitioner preferred Revision Petition before the Tribunal. The Tribunal rejected it on the ground that no such Petition wasmaintainable.
3. Under Section 107 of the Act revision lies only in respect of matters in which appeal lies. Under no provision of the Act an appeal is provided against an order passed by the society as disciplinary authority or an enquiry officer appointed by it, declining to permit its employee to engage an advocate to defend him in the disciplinary proceedings. The revision was not maintainable and therefore its rejection by the Tribunal is right.
4. Learned Counsel relied on subsection (2) of Section 117 of the Act and Rule 55 of the Karnataka Co-operative Societies Rules, 1960 (the 'Rules' for short), and submitted that there was provision for according permission in special cases for engaging an advocate and therefore such permission could not be refused, arbitrarily, particularly in the present case which was serious and complicated one.
The submission is without substance. Section 117(2) of the Act reads:
'2. Except with the permission of the Registrar or any other person deciding a dispute, as the case may be, no party shall be represented at the hearing of a dispute by a legal practitioner.'
Rule 55 of the Rules reads :
'55. Restrictions on persons appearing as legal practitioners - 1) In proceedings before the Registrar, the Arbitrators or any other person deciding a dispute or in proceedings in appeals before the Registrar, or the State Government, a legal practitioner shall not be entitled to appear to represent any party; but the Registrar or any other authority deciding a dispute or hearing an appeal may permit such appearance in special cases.'
The wording of the two provisions indicate, they apply to disputes which could be raised under various provisions of the Act and proceedings in appeals before the Registrar or the Government and not to the disciplinary proceedings instituted by the Society. Thus, it is clear the application made before the inquiry officer relying on the above provisions itself was on a wrong understanding of them.
The only rule which is applicable to disciplinary proceeding, relevant to the request of the Petitioner is Rule 18(11) of the Rules. It reads :
'18 (11) No kind of punishment shall be awarded to any employee unless he has been informed in writing of the grounds on which it is proposed to take action against him and he has been afforded a reasons able opportunity to defend himself.'
This rule makes it obligatory to a Society exercising disciplinary power to impose penalty on its servant to afford reasonable opportunity to the delinquent servant before imposing any penalty. The content of reasonable opportunity in a given case might include the giving of permission to engage a lawyer. Therefore it is for the enquiry officer or the disciplinary authority to take a decision to permit or not to permit the taking of assistance of an advocate when requested. Ifpermission is refused, if and when final decision goes against the employee and the same is challenged by him in a dispute under Section 70 of the Act of in any other proceeding on the ground that reasonable opportunity was denied, the disciplinary authority would have to justify its action at that stage. Therefore, it is for the disciplinary authority or the Enquiry Officer to decide whether the case is such, in which the not giving of permission to engage a lawyer might amount to denial of reasonable opportunity or not or whether it should err on the safer side by permitting the delinquent employee to engage an advocate or to deny the assistance of an advocate and take the risk of a challengeto the final order on the ground that reasonable opportunity was denied.
The petitioner is at liberty to make a request once again, relying on Rule 18(11) of the Karnataka Co-operative Societies Rules 1960, either to the disciplinary authority or to the inquiring authority and it is for them to decide whether to grant or reject the request.
However, there is no ground to entertain the Petition. The Petition is rejected.