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C.S. Sharma Vs. State of Uttar Pradesh and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectService;Constitution
CourtAllahabad High Court
Decided On
Case NumberCivil Misc. Appln. No. 245 of 1956
Judge
Reported inAIR1961All45
ActsConstitution of India - Article 311 and 311(2); ;Civil Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules - Rule 55(3)
AppellantC.S. Sharma
RespondentState of Uttar Pradesh and anr.
Appellant AdvocateIqbal Ahmad and ;Harish Chandra, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateStanding Counsel
DispositionPetition allowed
Excerpt:
.....officer against whom an allegation of bias was made butthe learned judges were satisfied that the chargedofficer. if the enquiring officer could, according to the learned advocate general, be not expected to depart from his opinion expressed in another previous enquiry against another officer, i do not see how the learned advocate general can with any force argue that in the case before me the enquiring officer could be expected to revise his opinion that he had earlier expressed in january 1953. thus this ruling, the correctness of which is not doubted by the learned advocate general, clearly contradicts his contention that the bias must be shown in some form during the course of the enquiry against the charged officer. the circumstances pointed out by the learned advocate general are..........officer against whom an allegation of bias was made butthe learned judges were satisfied that the chargedofficer.'was not given an opportunity much less a reasonable opportunity to establish his case of mala fides and that every genuine attempt made by him was thwarted by the enquiry officer'. i have also referred to two rulings of the punjab high court. the first is joti parshad v. supdt. of police, air 1938 punj 327. the passage relied upon by the learned counsel appears in paragraph 5. it is stated:, 'the person dealing with an enquiry at any stage is in the position of a judge and the rules of natural justice demand that he must be a person with open mind, a mind which is not biased against the delinquent. he should be open to conviction and must not have prejudged the issues'. the.....
Judgment:

B.N. Nigam, J.

1. C. S. Sharma has filed this petition praying for a writ of certiorari quashing the order of his dismissal.

2. The petitioner alleges that he- was appointed Sales Tax Officer on 25-1-1949. In that capacity he was posted at Hathras from April 1950 to September 1952. During the month of November 1952 an ex parte enquiry was started by the Assistant Commissioner Sales Tax against the petitioner and on 18-2-1953 the petitioner was suspended. A charge-sheet was served on the petitioner on 8th July, 1953. He gave an application (annexure 8) on July 10, 1953 asking for an inspection of the evidence against him. By annexure 9 dated July 17, 1953 the Commissioner Sales Tax U. P. asked him to submit his explanation before the opportunity to examine the papers the petitioner wanted to inspect was given to him. On 12-8-1953 the petitioner submitted an explanation claiming an opportunity to be heard in person and naming three defence witnesses ''for clearing the charge of the purchase of the car'.

By annexure 19 the Commissioner Sales Tax informed the petitioner that he would be permitted to produce his three defence witnesses and that his request for representation through lawyer was rejected. On 14-11-1953 the Commissioner Sales Tax again wrote to the petitioner forwarding copies of eight statements and stating that the petitioner's request for a copy of the letter dated November 7, 1952 from Ram Krishna Das and a copy of his statement November 8, 1952 was rejected. The Commissioner Sales Tax held the inquiry on December 8 and 9, 1953 and then on 25-1-1954 called upon the petitioner to submit a list of defence witnesses. At this the petitioner wanted 20 days further time for furnishing the list as 'some of the prospective witnesses ....... have gone out and their present addresses are not known'.

This request was refused and then on 10-2-1954 the petitioner submitted another application which is annexure 14. No reply was received and then on 24-2-1954 by annexure 15 the petitioner submitted a list of four witnesses. The fact that calls for notice is that out of the witnesses mentioned in that list only two witnesses were of the list previously submitted. The learned counsel for the petitioner has conceded that the addresses of these two persons were known to the petitioner throughout. A doubt, therefore, arises whether the petitioner was not asking for all this time only to arrange for the other two witnesses who were named by him for the first time. One month elapsed and no reply was received.

The petitioner thereupon sent a reminder on March 25, 1954 and a subsequent reminder on 10-4-1954.

In April the enquiring officer, i.e., Commissioner, Sales Tax submitted his report. In May 1954 the petitioner submitted an application to the State Government praying for an opportunity for examination of his defence witnesses and for a personal hearing. This application is annexure 18 to the petition. No reply was received, On 20th July, 1954 the petitioner received a show cause notice (annexure 21). The petitioner submitted his reply but by annexure 26 the State Government passed an order of dismissal on 26th July, 1955. The petitioner preferred an appeal to the Governor but this appeal was dismissed on 29th June, 1956 and then the petitioner preferred this petition on 24th September, 1956.

3. This petition is opposed by the State Government but it is not necessary to give the details of the counter-affidavit as the points raised will appear sufficiently from the discussion which follows. I have heard the learned counsel for line parties at length.

4. The first contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the petitioner had not had a reasonable opportunity to put forward his defence inasmuch as the officer appointed by the State Government was biased against him. This plea of bias was not raised in the original petition. It was only as a result of annexure 'M' filed by the State Government that this plea has been raised. The learned Advocate General has not urged that the petitioner is not entitled to raise this plea. The portion objected to in annexure 'M' reads:

'By personal enquiries also I have satisfied myself that Sharma was undoubtedly corrupt.'

This opinion was expressed by the enquiring officer on January 28, 1953 much prior to the enquiry held by him. The contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that this bias in the officer expressed itself in the course of the enquiry and led to the officer refusing to allow the petitioner to inspect documents before he submitted his explanation and also led to his refusal to allow the petitioner an opportunity to argue his case before the enquiring officer submitted his report.

5. The learned Advocate General has urged that no bias was noticed by the petitioner in the course of the enquiry and the petitioner was not even aware of any bias in the enquiring officer and that is why he did not raise this point in his petition. It is urged that before a domestic tribunal the rules of evidence do not apply and that a bias in the officer is immaterial. In support of this contention the learned Standing Counsel (who also appears for the State) has drawn my attention to Lennox Arthur Patrick O'Reilly v. Cyril Cuthbert Gittens, AIR 1949 PC 313. The Domestic tribunal in this particular case was the Trinidad Turf Club. This ruling will, in my opinion, not help the learned standing Counsel. In that case quoting Maugham J. their Lordships stated :

'Speaking generally, it is useful to bear in mind the very wide differences between the principles applicable to courts of justice and those applicable to domestic tribunals'.

Their Lordships also stated:

'They do not think it would serve any useful purpose to discuss the many other eases cited in argument in which standards have been laid down, in varying terms, for tribunals of various kinds'

And they further stated:

'The jurisdiction of the courts in regard to tribunals of a domestic nature has been discussed in many cases but their Lordships think that the observations which apply most directly to the present case are those contained in the judgment of Maugham J., as he then was, in the case of Maclean v. Workers. Union, 1929-1 Ch. 602.'

The principles applicable in the case of such domestic tribunal will not, in my opinion, apply to a tribunal such as the one with which I have to deal with.

6. There is no doubt that under the Constitution a reasonable, opportunity has to be given to the charged officer. There can be no dispute about this after the case of Parshotam Lal Dhingra v. Union of India : (1958)ILLJ544SC . Again, on the basis of the same ruling it is clear that the fact whether the officer is a permanent officer or a temporary one makes no difference when the Government seeks to punish the officer. At p. 49 of the report the following passage occurs:

'But even if the Government has, by contract or under the rules, the right to terminate the employment without going through the procedure prescribed for inflicting the punishment of dismissal or removal or reduction in rank, the Government may, nevertheless, choose to punish the servant and if the termination of service is sought to be founded on misconduct, negligence, inefficiency or other disqualification, then it is a punishment and the requirements of Article 311 must be complied with'.

7. The learned Counsel for the petitioner has relied on Dr. K. Subba Rao. v. State of Hyderabad (now Andhra Pradesh), (S) AIR 1957 Andh Bra 414 and relies on the rule of law laid down:

'But it is a fundamental principle of natural justice that the officer selected to make an enquiry should be a person with an open mind and not one who is either biased against the person against whom action is sought to be taken or one who has prejudged the issue'.

The learned Advocate General has, however, urged that bias is relevant, only in the punishing authority and not in the enquiring officer where the enquiring officer is a different person from the punishing authority. This contention is based on the argument that the final opinion is arrived at by the punishing authority and thus any bias on the part of the enquiring officer does not really affect the matter so far as the final decision is concerned. The learned Advocate General further states that a bias in the enquiring officer will however, matter if it really affects the' course of the enquiry and in fact prevents the charged officer from putting forward his defence properly.

The learned Advocate General has tried to explain that all the cases relied on by the learned counsel for the petitioner do not contradict his contention. He points out that in this particular case the Government had not only selected an officer against whom an allegation of bias was made butthe learned Judges were satisfied that the chargedOfficer.

'was not given an opportunity much less a reasonable opportunity to establish his case of mala fides and that every genuine attempt made by him was thwarted by the enquiry officer'. I have also referred to two rulings of the Punjab High Court. The first is Joti Parshad v. Supdt. of Police, AIR 1938 Punj 327. The passage relied upon by the learned counsel appears in paragraph 5. It is stated:,

'The person dealing with an enquiry at any stage is in the position of a Judge and the rules of natural justice demand that he must be a person with open mind, a mind which is not biased against the delinquent. He should be open to conviction and must not have prejudged the issues'.

The learned Advocate General, however, points out that in this case the Superintendent of Police who was holding the enquiry had already in an earlier enquiry held that the petitioner had been guilty of paying bribe to one Ram Saran Das. The contention of the learned Advocate General is that in the circumstances the enquiring officer could not be expected to sit in judgment, on his own previous decision. I am unable to see how this ruling, the correctness of which has not been questioned by the learned Advocate General, supports his case. There was nothing in the course of the enquiry against the charged officers which had indicated any bias on the part of the enquiring officer.

If the enquiring officer could, according to the learned Advocate General, be not expected to depart from his opinion expressed in another previous enquiry against another officer, I do not see how the learned Advocate General can with any force argue that in the case before me the enquiring officer could be expected to revise his opinion that he had earlier expressed in January 1953. Thus this ruling, the correctness of which is not doubted by the learned Advocate General, clearly contradicts his contention that the bias must be shown in some form during the course of the enquiry against the charged officer.

8. The learned counsel for the petitioner has also relied on State of Punjab v. Karam Chand . The statement on which he relies is contained in paragraph 57 :

'The enquiry officer must conduct the hearing with open mindedness, fairness and impartiality and must approach the hearing without bias and without prejudgment of the issues .... The opportunity must be a real and adequate opportunity and not merely a nominal or a sham, one.'

The learned Advocate General points out that in this case the Supdt. of Police was himself an aggrieved party having been personally insulted, The suggestion is that the Superintendent of Police was practically in the position of the complainant himself. Thus he was both the prosecutor and the Judge.

9. I have also been referred to Ramesh Chandra Verma v. R. D. Verma : AIR1958All532 . In this case the enquiring officer had expressed his opinion on a charge before the cross-examination of witnesses was complete. Thus this part of the ruling does not contradict the contention of the learnedAdvocate General. However, in this case the enquiring Officer was different from the punishing officer. The statement at page 534 is ;

'Thereafter by an order dated 20-7-1955 Sri H. P. Ghose, the Personal Assistant to the Chief Engineer was appointed to conduct the enquiry into the charges levelled against the petitioner.'

Admittedly the punishing authority was the Chief Engineer. Thus this ruling, the correctness of which has again not been challenged by the learned Advocate General, contradicts the other proposition that no bias on the part of the enquiry officer is relevant, unless, the enquiry officer himself, is also the punishing authority.

10. It is thus clear that there is no force in either of the two contentions of the learned Advocate General. Both must be rejected. The fact is that the enquiry officer was admittedly biased against the petitioner.

l0a. The learned Advocate General has, however, drawn my attention to several circumstances and urges on the basis of those circumstances that it must be held that no prejudice has in fact been occasioned and that in the particular circumstances of the case the charged officer must be held to have had a reasonable opportunity to make his defence. The circumstances pointed out by the learned Advocate General are :

(1) The enquiry officer was not the punishing,officer :

(2) Nothing occurred in the course of the enquiry to prevent the charged officer from putting his case to his own satisfaction (I have earlier mentioned that the charged officer was not allowed to inspect the documents and was not permitted an opportunity to argue his case).

(3) The report submitted by the enquiry officer was carefully scrutinised by the punishing authority and the punishing authority differed from the report, of the enquiry officer in material particulars thus indicating that the whole case was in fact carefully scrutinised and while the punishing authority may have attached some weight to the opinion of the enquiry officer, in fact it re-examined the whole case, and

(4) Before meting out the punishment, the Public Service Commission an independent body created to safe guard fair treatment to the civil servants, was consulted and it agreed, both as regards the guilt of the officer and the quantum of the punishment.

I have considered these contentions. I am of opinion that they will not avail. The Constitution guarantees that the charged officer must be afforded a reasonable opportunity. The appointment of an officer, who is biased against the charged officer, is, in my opinion a clear denial of such a reasonable opportunity. I have already mentioned a few of the cases which support my view and I hold that the appointment of Mr. K. K. Dass, who had already expressed himself in strong terms against the charged officer on January 28, 1953, was a denial of a reasonable opportunity to the petitioner.

11. The second contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the witnesses were not examined-in-chief in the presence of the petitioner. The learned counsel point's out that in annexure 10dated August 12, 1953 the petitioner had claimed that the evidence of the witnesses cited against him should be recorded in his presence. He also relies on annexures 5, 6 and 23 which indicate that Ram Prakash, Mitthu Lal and Radhey Shyam were not examined-in-chief in detail. Their previous statements were read over and were accepted by them to be correct. The learned counsel has relied on State v. Gajaman Mahadev : AIR1954Bom351 ; A. R. S. Choudhury v. Union of India : (1957)ILLJ494Cal and : AIR1958All532 (supra). I am of opinion that none of these rulings will help the learned counsel.

In the Bombay case it was held that the rules of evidence do not bind a domestic tribunal. But the courts should not countenance an inquiry in which only a cross-examination, without the accused hearing as what to evidence the witness is going to give is permitted. It was further held that even when copies of statements are furnished to the charged officer, the statements of the witnesses should be recorded in the presence of the accused. In the Allahabad case also it was held that the statement should be taken in the presence of the charged officer. It was stated :

'The procedure which was in substance adopted by the enquiring officer was that he treated the statements contained in certain letters either written by some of the witnesses or endorsed by them as their statements-in-chief. A copy of these documents having been supplied to the petitioner earlier the enquiring officer thought that the petitioner had knowledge of the statements contained in those letters and endorsements and the only opportunity which was necessary to give to the petitioner was to permit him to cross-examine these witnesses and it was not necessary to record their statements before the petitioner again ...... But the statements of thewitnesses which the enquiring officer intended to take into consideration or did take into consideration when giving his findings were not brought on the record.'

A little later it was held :

'The petitioner was in effect asked to cross-examine in vacuum'.

In the Calcutta case the charged officer was merely asked to cross-examine the witnesses. He wan not even furnished with a copy o the statements and he was asked to cross-examine them without being told what were the specific charges against him and what the two witnesses had stated against the petitioner.

12. I am, however, of opinion that the fact's of the case are distinguishable. In the present case the statements of the witnesses separately recorded previously were read out to them and were confirmed by them. These previous statements were then 'formally brought on to the record and exhibited. This, in my opinion, is different from the record of a statement of the witness being contained in an endorsement made by him. Here the charged officer was clearly informed of the statement of the witness by the record of the previous statement being read over at the inquiry. I am of opinion that the basic fact that rules of evidence are not applicable to these domestic tribunals and that they must conduct themselves in accordance with the rules of natural justice must not be lost sight of.

An attempt to bring the procedure of these domestic tribunals in strict conformity with the procedure obtainable in courts of law must also be resisted. All that is necessary is that the charged officer should clearly know what the statement made by the witness is. If that is contained in a document which is formally brought on to the record, it should not be necessary for the enquiring officer to record the same statement in full. It is sufficient if the statement is read over and confirmed by the witness. Even in courts of law, in criminal trials, previous statements made in the committing court are brought on to the record on certain conditions being fulfilled under the provisions of Section 288 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. There is no reason why the procedure in these domestic tribunals should conform to the formalities of a court of law.

I am, therefore, of opinion that if two conditions are satisfied then it should not be necessary to insist on any personal examination of the witness in detail. These conditions are that the statement must be contained in, a separate document, i.e. there should be no possible ambiguity about the statement made by the witness and secondly that statement must be read over and affirmed by the witness. Once these conditions are satisfied I am of opinion that no further formality is to be insisted upon in the examination-in-chief. In that view I am of opinion, that there was nothing objectionable about this part of the procedure.

13. Two other points have been raised by the learned counsel for the petitioner. They can be dealt with without any detailed discussion. These contentions are firstly that copy of the statement of Ram Krishna Das was not supplied to the charged officer and secondly that the defence witnesses named by him either originally or subsequently, were not examined by the enquiring officer. In the particular circumstances of the case before me, I am of opinion that neither of these points has any validity inasmuch as the charges in respect of which these contentions are raised have been held not to have been proved against the charged petitioner and that whatever irregularities in procedure occurred have not affected the case against him and have not led to the punishment that has been imposed on him.

14. The last contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the petitioner was not permitted to argue his case. The fact that no arguments were permitted is not denied. The contention of the learned Advocate General is that the ease of the petitioner is governed by Rules 55(3) and not 55(1) and thus the petitioner was not entitled to a personal hearing. He further urges that a personal hearing is not guaranteed under the Constitution; what has been guaranteed is only a reasonable opportunity and not a personal hearing. I am unable to see any force in either of the two contentions. As I shall presently state Rule 55(3) is not applicable and a personal hearing is part of the reasonable opportunity guaranteed under the Constitution.

15. Rules 55(3) of the Civil Service (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, reads :

'This rule shall also not apply where it is proposed to terminate the employment of a probationer .... or to dismiss, remove or reduce in rank a temporary government servant for any specific fault ...... In such cases the probationer or temporary government servant concerned shall be apprised of the grounds of such proposal, given an opportunity to show cause against the action to be taken against him, and his explanation in this behalf, if any, shall be duly considered before orders are passed by the competent authority'.

The contention is that it is this sub-rule which is applicable. I am unable to agree with the learned counsel. After P. L. Dhingra's case : (1958)ILLJ544SC it cannot be urged that in proceedings ending with an order of dismissal against a temporary servant he is not entitled to the protection of Article 311. I am unable to see any reason why 'reasonable opportunity' allowed to a temporary Government servant should be different from that allowed to a permanent Government servant. I am unable to see any reason whatsoever for putting two different constructions to the phrase 'reasonable opportunity' occurring in Article 311 of the Constitution.

16. I will now proceed to examine the contention that arguments are not a part of the 'reasonable opportunity' which must be afforded to the charged officer. In Khem Chand v. Union of India : (1959)ILLJ167SC the words 'reasonable opportunity' were considered. In paragraph 19 it was stated :

'The reasonable opportunity envisaged by the provision under consideration includes :

(a) An opportunity to deny his guilt .......

(b) An opportunity to defend himself by cross-examining the witnesses produced against him and by examining himself or any other witnesses in support of his defence'

In Gullapalli Nageswara Rao v. A. P. S. R. Transport Corporation : AIR1959SC308 it was stated in paragraph 31:

'Personal hearing enables the authority concerned to watch the demeanour of the witnesses and clear up his doubts during the course of the arguments, and the party appearing to persuade the authority by reasoned argument to accept his point of view.'

It is clear that a personal hearing thus includes a right to argue the case. I am unable to hold that affording a personal hearing is no part of the reasonable opportunity guaranteed under the Constitution. In fact the enquiring officer himself enquired from the petitioner whether he claimed a personal hearing. In the charge annexure 7 the last paragraph reads :

'You are further required simultaneously to inform the undersigned in writing whether you desire to be heard in person......'

The charged officer also desired in annexure 10 to be heard in person. It is thus a little too late for the learned Advocate General to urge that a personal hearing (which phrase includes a right to argue the case) is no part of the reasonable opportunity which must be afforded to every charged officer. I find support for my view in (supra). In paragraph 57 it is stated:

'The expression 'reasonable opportunity' has not been defined by the framers of the Constitutionbut there can be little doubt that the expression means opportunity, the vital elements of which are timely notice and full opportunity to the person concerned to present all the evidence and arguments which he deems important for the purpose of his case.'

I am, therefore, of opinion that this order of dismissal is also vitiated inasmuch as the enquiry against the charged officer was not conducted properly and he was not granted an opportunity to argue his case before the enquiring officer.

17. I accordingly accept this petition and direct the issue of a writ of certiorari quashing the order of the State Government dated 28th July, 1955 copy of which is annexure 26 with the petition. The petitioner will get his costs.


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