J.K. Tandon, J.
1. Both the petitions raise similar question of law to be determined. The petitioner in either was employed -- in one case as relieving trains clerk at Aligarh and in the other as assistant goods clerk at Hathras Killah station. They were prosecuted for offences under Section 409 I. P. C., in relation to certain acts done by them in the performance of their duties. Ram Nath Gautam, petitioner in writ petition No. 3729 of 1959, was also prosecuted in the same transaction for an offence under Section 477-A I. P. C. also. The Magistrate who tried the petitioners on these charges convicted them for the said offences by his order dated 18-12-1956. A few days later they filed appeals before the Sessions Judge, Aligarh who allowed the same on 15-2-1958. Before, however, the appeals could be disposed of by the learned Sessions Judge but after they had been instituted before him, the Divisional Superintendent, Allahabad, who was the appointing authority in the case of the two petitioners, dismissed them from service by his order dated 25-2-1957.
Admittedly the petitioners were not charge-sheeted separately by the departmental authorities. No enquiry either was held against them on those charges departmentally. But the order of dismissal was passed on the strength of the finding reached by the Magistrate who had convicted them for offences under Sections 409 and 477-A I. P. C. After the appeals had succeeded the petitioners approached the respondent to reinstate them. This request of theirs was not accepted. In the meantime they commenced these petitions asking the dismissal orders dated 25th February 1957, by which the petitioners were dismissed, and the order dated 9-10-1958 by which the respondent declined to reinstate them, to be quashed.
2. The facts which lie within a small compass are not disputed. The respondent also does not claim that any departmental enquiry was held against the two petitioners. But he has justified the two orders on the ground that in view of the conviction of the petitioners by the Magistrate the protection embodied in Clause (2) of Article 311 of the Constitution was not applicable to their cases. For this they have relied on the proviso under it which is to the effect that Clause (2) is inapplicable where a person is dismissed or removed or reduced in rank on the ground of conduct which has led to a conviction on a criminal charge.
That the petitioners had been convicted for offences under Sections 409 and 477-A I. P. C. by the trial Court is admitted. It also is not disputed that they were acquitted on those charges by the appellate Court. Another fact which must have been noticed is that the dismissal orders were passed at a time when appeals against their convictions were already pending before the Sessions Judge who ultimately allowed them. The question which arises, therefore, is whether the case of the two petitioners, even though they were ultimately acquitted on appeal, is covered by Sub-clause (a) of the proviso under Clause (2) of Article 311 of the Constitution.
Article 311 is in the nature of a constitutional guarantee in favour of persons who are members of civil services or holding civil posts under the Union or a State. Clause (2) thereof requires that a person as aforesaid shall not be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank until he has been given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken in regard to him. It imposes an obligation on the authority competent to dismiss, remove or reduce in rank a servant under the State or the Union to give to the servant concerned reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to bo taken in regard to him. The dimissing authority has, therefore, to come to a conclusion on the charges levelled against the public servant and the action proposed to be taken in regard to him before making the order.
The proviso relieves him from this obligation where a person is dismissed or removed or reduced to hold an enquiry and to ask the servant to show his conviction on a criminal charge. The obligation to hold an enquiry and to ask the servant to show cause in regard to the action proposed against him is made inapplicable because there is a conviction by a Court of law standing against him. The underlying intention, or, if I may say so, the reason is that the formality of enquiry on the charges is rendered unnecessary because of a subsisting conviction on criminal charges against the servant concerned.
3. But apart from the above consideration the main thing to be considered is the true meaning of the words in the proviso 'which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge'. Do these words merely indicate, as the respondent has contended, that there was at one stage of the proceedings a conviction against the public servant, or do they further imply a conviction finally upheld? The words 'led to his conviction' mean, in the context they have been used, not merely to bring a criminal charge against the delinquent servant but further imply that as a result or consequence it has ended in conviction also.
A proceeding will not be said to have led to his conviction if it has not resulted ultimately in conviction or as a consequence of appeal, has failed in an acquittal. Appeal is a continuation of the proceedings commenced on the criminal charge and it does not conclude in a conviction where an appeal is preferred against the order of the trial Court or of any subsequent Court until these subsequent proceedings have finally ended. There is no conclusion of the proceedings which therefore, cannot be said to have resulted in a conviction until either the order has become final by efflux of time or has been uphold, where an appeal or revision is preferred by the higher Court.
4. In the above view which, to my mind, is the only reasonable interpretation capable of being placed on the words 'led to his conviction on a criminal charge' the petitioners' case is not covered by the proviso.
5. In a recent case Dibagh Rai v. Divl. Supdt. Northern Rly., AIR 1959 Punj. 401, a similar question arose and the learned Judge observed as under:
'Now the aforesaid proviso, becomes applicable only if a person has been convicted on a criminal charge. Conviction here can have only one meaning, namely that the person must have been convicted finally. In other words, if a person is acquitted by a Court of appeal, then it cannot be said that there is any conviction in the sense in which it has been used in the aforesaid proviso.'
6. The facts of this case briefly were that the petitioner in it had been dismissed by the Divisional Superintendent Northern Railway because he had been convicted of an offence under Section 509, I. P. C. His conviction, however, ultimately was set aside by the Supreme Court in an appeal by special leave. The learned Judge held that the acquittal ultimately of the petitioner took out his case from the purview of the proviso. The facts here are, if I may say so, a shade stronger because the appeal against the petitioners' conviction was already pending before the Sessions Judge when their dismissal was ordered. In view of it the question whether the petitioners had been guilty of the offences for which they had been convicted and whether their conviction was rightfully ordered was already at large when the dismissal order was made.
7. Sri Jagadish Swarup also argued that on the date when the dismissal orders were passed the convictions against the petitioners were still good, hence what the petitioners are asking is that they should be reinstated; indeed they made such a request also, which is not the concern of Article 311 of the Constitution. No doubt Article 311 is not directly concerned with the question of reinstatement of a public servant. At the same time it is clear that the order of dismissal passed by the Divisional Superintendent cannot be supported on the ground stated in Sub-clause (a) of the proviso under Clause (2) of Article 311. This is so because of the finding arrived at earlier that the sub-clause implies a final conviction. If that is so, the very foundation on which the dismissal order was based and which in its turn gave occasion for a reinstatement order to be passed has fallen, and if the foundation should disappear, the edifice must also necessarily go.
8. For the reasons given above I am of theopinion that the dismissal order and with it theorder refusing to reinstate the petitioners contravened the provision in Article 311(2) of the Constitution. These orders must, therefore be vacated. Thepetitions are accordingly allowed and the ordersdated 25-2-1957 and 9-10-1958 are quashed. Noorder is made as to costs.