(1) This judgment will dispose of Civil Writs Nos.307-D of 1958 and 48-D of 1959.
(2) The petitioner is the Deputy Director of Supplies, Government of India, New Delhi, having joined service in 1942.By means of a letter dated 16-12-1955 from the Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Works, Housing and Supply, he was called upon under R.15 (4) of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1955, to submit before 30-12-1955 a full and complete statement of movable and immovable property held or acquired by him or by the members of his family. The statement required, was duly furnished. He was served with a memorandum dated 8-11-1956 purporting to be a charge-sheet. Seven charges were contained in the statement annexed to the memorandum. The petition filed his reply to the charge-sheet on or about 9-3-1957.On 23-11-1957 he wrote to the Secretary. Government of India, stating inter alia that since a long time had elapsed and no proceedings had been taken, he wanted an opportunity to defend the case in person.
An order dated 31-12-1957 was served on him in which it was stated that whereas an enquiry under R.55 of the Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules corresponding to R.15 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules 1957 was being held against him and whereas the President considered that an enquiry officer should be appointed to enquire into the charges famed against him, vide memorandum dated 8-11-1956, the President was pleased to appoint Shri S. S. Venkatakrishnan, Director of Supplies and Disposals, as Enquiry Officer. Enquiry on charge VII was kept separate and in a subsequent letter dated 31-12-1957 the petitioner was informed that the aforesaid charge regarding possession of disproportionate assets had been kept separate pending further Enquiry and verification. On 14-2-1958 the following order was made by the Government of India :
'The undersigned is directed to refer to Order No.AV-13(11)/56 dated 31-12-1957, appointing Shri S. S. Venkatakrishnan, Director of Supplies and Disposals, Bombay, as the Enquiry Officer to enquire into the charges framed against Shri. B. C. Majumdar, Deputy Director of Supplies, and to state that the Government of India have decided that the enquiry should not be proceeded with until further orders.'
On 2-9-1958 an order suspending the petitioner was made in which it was stated that as a disciplinary proceeding was pending against the petitioner, he had been placed under suspension in exercise of the powers conferred by sub-r.(1) of R.12 of the Central Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1957.On 24-9-1958 the first writ petition was instituted in this Court in which the main prayers were than an appropriate writ, order or direction be issued directing respondent No.1 to withdraw or cancel the order dated 14-2-1958 as also the suspension order dated 2-9-1958 and to withdraw the charge-sheet dated 31-1-1957.
The aforesaid petition was admitted to a hearing on 1-10-1958.The respondents acknowledged service of notice on 28-11-1958.On 17-12-1958 the petitioners moved a petition for expeditious disposal of the writ petition. That order was served on respondent No.1.On 26-12-1958 another memorandum was served on the petitioner informing him that it was proposed to hold an enquiry against him under R.15 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1957.
The allegations on which the enquiry was proposed to be held were set out in the enclosed statement of allegations and the charges framed on the basis of the said allegations were specified in the enclosed statement of charges. He was further informed that he could submit his written statement not later than 25-1-1959 and could state whether he desired to be heard in person etc., and if for the purpose of preparing his defence he wished to inspect or take extracts from any official records, he had to furnish a list not later than a specified date. As soon as this memorandum was served, the second writ petition was filed impugning the order contained in the memorandum dated 26-12-1958.
(3) The first point that has been raised by Mr. N. C. Chatterji, the learned counsel for the petitioner, is that once an enquiry had been ordered and an enquiry officer appointed regarding the first charge-sheet of 8-11-1956, it was not open to the Government to cancel or withdraw the enquiry on those charges. It is contended that in fact and substance when the order dated 14-2-1958 was made directing the Enquiry Officer not to proceed, the enquiry was withdrawn or cancelled, particularly when a second charge-sheet was prepared in December, 1958 on which a fresh enquiry was to be made.
In the affidavit in reply filed in the first writ petition it is stated in para 2 that while the statement filed by the petitioner in response to the charge-sheet was being considered, the Special Police Establishment approached the Ministry of Works, Housing and Supply, stating that investigation was being made into allegations of corruption against the petitioner and that if the departmental enquiry was to proceed with it would hamper their investigation and prejudice the case. After due consideration, it was decided that the departmental enquiry be kept in abeyance till such time as the police investigations were over. After the police investigations were concluded, a fresh charge-sheet was issued on 26-12-1958.After the receipt of the petitioner's reply, the enquiry was to be proceeded with further.
(4) The first question that has to be determined is whether the enquiry as ordered in December, 1957 was in fact withdrawn and cancelled and whether the submission of a fresh charge-sheet on 26-12-1958 on which an enquiry will proceed now is tantamount to the first enquiry proceedings having been totally supersede. My attention has been invited to R.15 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1957 (hereinafter referred to as the Rules) which lays down the procedure for imposing major penalties. Sub-rule(2) provides that the Disciplinary Authority shall frame definite charges on the basis of the allegations on which the enquiry is proposed to be held.
Such charges, together with a statement of the allegations on which they are based, shall be communicated in writing to the Government servant, and he shall be required to submit within such time as may be specified by the Disciplinary Authority, a written statement of his defence and also to state whether he desires to be heard in person. According to sub-rule (3), the Government servant shall for purpose of preparing his defence, be permitted to inspect and take extracts from such official records as he may specify etc. Sub-rule (4) is to the effect that on receipt of the written statement of defence or if no such statement is received, within the time specified, the Disciplinary Authority may itself enquire into such of the charges as are not admitted or, if it considers it necessary so to do, appoint a Board of Enquiry or an Enquiring Officer for the purpose.
Sub-rules (5) and (6) need not be noticed. Sub-rule (7) says that at the conclusion of the enquiry, the Enquiring Authority shall prepare a report of the enquiry, recording its findings on each of the charges together with reasons therefor. It is submitted on behalf of the petitioner that the second set of charges are materially different from those that were preferred on 8-11-1956 and in accordance with R.15 the whole procedure has to be followed afresh, with the result that it will be a new enquiry and cannot be considered to be in continuation of the old enquiry with regard to which the Enquiry Officer was appointed on 30-12-1957.
Although the order dated 14-2-1958 did not purport to cancel or to withdraw the enquiry proceedings and the Enquiry Officer was only directed not to proceed with them, there may be substances in the contention that has been raised that the first charge-sheet having been dropped, there will have to be a fresh enquiry on the second charge-sheet but it is difficult to accede to the other part of the contention that once an enquiry had been ordered on a specific set of charges, the Enquiry Officer was bound to proceed with the same and those proceedings could not be cancelled, withdrawn or dropped. Mr. Chatterji has relied on the ratio of the decision in State of Bihar v. D. N. Ganguly, 1958 SCA 1082 : (AIR 1958 SC 1018), in which it was held that where an industrial dispute had been referred to a tribunal for adjudication by the appropriate Government under S. 10(1)(d) of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 the said Government cannot supersede the reference pending adjudication before the tribunal constituted for that purpose.
Their Lordships examined the various provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act and observed that it was clear that the policy of the Act was to secure and preserve good relations between the employers and their workmen and keep peace and harmony and that the scheme of the provisions in Chapter III and IV of the Act appeared to be a leave the reference proceedings exclusively within the jurisdiction of the tribunals constituted under the Act and to make the awards of such tribunals binding between the parties, subject to the special powers conferred on the appropriate Government under Ss. 17A and 19. It was further considered that the power to cancel a reference made under S. 10(1) would be inconsistent with some other provisions of the Act. At page 1096 (of SCA) : (at p.1025 of AIR) the following observations appear which are pertinent
'As we have already indicated, the scheme of the Act plainly appears to be to leave the conduct and final decision of the industrial dispute to the industrial tribunal once an order of reference is made under S. 10(1) by the appropriate Government.
Mr. Chatterji has particularly relied on the aforesaid observation and has submitted that the scheme of the rules shows that the final decision on the question of charges preferred against the Government servant is left to the Enquiry Officer once he has been appointed to make an enquiry under Rule 15.I am unable to find any analogy between the scheme of the Industrial Disputes Act and the scheme contained in R.15 of the Rules with regard to the procedure to be followed in the matter of imposing major penalties on Government servants who are governed by t he aforesaid Rules.
The object of a departmental enquiry which is more or less of a domestic nature is to enable the Disciplinary Authority to record its findings on each charge that may have been framed against the Government servant after he had a reasonable opportunity of meeting those charges. This is the scheme up to sub-rule (9) of R.15.After that the Disciplinary Authority has to Act in accordance with sub rules (10), (11) and (12) which provide for the show cause notice with regard to proposed punishment and the consultation with the Union Public Service Commission in cases in which it is necessary.
It is not comprehensible how the disciplinary authority is debarred in the absence of any express provisions to that effect from dropping any charges that it may have considered fit to frame in the first instance and to frame fresh charges which may on further consideration appear to be appropriate charges for being preferred. For instance, in the present case it has been suggested on behalf of the Government that the second set of charges became necessary after there had been investigation by the police into the allegations against the petitioner. I can see no reason or justification for the Disciplinary Authority not being competent to prefer a fresh charge-sheet after superseding the first one.
(5) The next submission of Mr. Chatterji is that the suspension order made on 2-9-1958 was bad as no enquiry was pending at that time and suspension could not have been ordered under Rule 12(1) in such circumstances. The aforesaid rule provides that the Appointing Authority or any authority to which it is subordinate or any other authority empowered by the president in that behalf may place a Government servant under suspension.
(a) where a disciplinary proceeding against him is contemplated or is pending, or
(b) where a case against him in respect of any criminal offence is under investigation or trial.
It is pointed out that it is fairly clear from the order dated 2-9-1958 that the suspension was ordered under sub-rule (1) (a) of Rule 12 and not under the other provision. It is said that no enquiry was pending on 2-9-1958 and consequently no suspension could be ordered under Rule 12(1)(a).Shri Jindra Lal who appears for the Union suggests that the suspension order could have been and was validly made under Rule 12(1)(b) as admittedly a case against the petitioner in respect of criminal offence was under investigation of the material time. In view of the clear words of the order dated 14-2-1958 it is not possible to hold that he was suspended under the provisions relied on by Mr. Jindra Lal. As the suspension order was made under Rule 12(1)(a), the only point that has to be determined is whether any disciplinary proceeding against him was contemplated or pending on 2-9-1958 when that order was issued.
(6) A perusal of the order dated 14-2-1958 shows that all that was stated was that the Government had decided that the enquiry should not be proceeded with until further orders. Up to that stage the enquiry on the first charge-sheet had not been cancelled or dropped, only the enquiry proceedings were suspended for the time being or ordered to be postponed till further orders. Mr. Chatterji has himself relied on the language of the memorandum dated 26-12-1958 relating to the second charge sheet to show that the enquiry on the first charge-sheet had been superseded.
There is no order of supersession of the first enquiry whatsoever prior to that date and it cannot be said that enquiry on the first set of charges was no longer pending on 2-9-1958.The first enquiry could not be regarded to have been superseded till 26-12-1958.In this view of the matter, the suspension order made on 2-9-1958 does not suffer from any such infirmity as would make it illegal or void or contrary to the Rules.
(7) In the result, both the petitions fail and they are dismissed, but taking into consideration the entire circumstances, I would leave the parties to bear their own costs.
(8) Petitions dismissed.