Sunanda Bhandare, J.
(1) The petitioner was working as Meter Reader with the Delhi Electric Supply Undertaking, New Delhi when he was served with a Memorandum No. BC-250/76-Vig /11 H.P.M. dated 28th August, 1976 issued by the Deputy General Manager of respondent No. 2 Along with the statement of charges alleging negligence and dereliction of duty on the part of the petitioner. The petitioner was asked to give his Explanationn which he did and thereafter respondent No. 2 appointed an Inquiry Officer to inquire into the said charge-sheet. For some reason the Inquiry could not be completed, however, respondent No. 2 on 19th August, 1977 issued a show cause notice why the proposed penalty of recovery of Rs. 39,614.63 may not be made against the petitioner. The petitioner filed a representation and reply to the show cause notice and contended that since the inquiry was not completed and the Inquiry Officer had not given a report, the proposed penalty cannot be imposed against him. Respondent No. 2 on 27th August, 1977 passed the order imposing a penalty of recovery of Rs. 39,614.63 from the petitioner. These two orders dated 19th August, 1977 and 27th August, 1977 have been challenged by the petitioner in this writ petition.
(2) It was contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the matter regarding the theft of certain material came in for investigation as early as in the year 1968. A report was made on 28th February, 1970 that the theft was untraced, and no action was taken for almost six years thereafter and it was only in the year 1976 that the charges were served on the petitioner. It was further contended that once having initiated an inquiry the action taken by the respondent imposing the penalty even before the Inquiry Report was available, was had and illegal.
(3) Learned counsel for the respondent submitted that since only a penalty of recovery of amount was made, and no major penalty was imposed, it was not necessary to hold an inquiry and the impugned orders could be passed even before the Inquiry Report was available.
(4) It is an admitted fact that an inquiry was instituted, the petitioner was called upon to show cause, and the action imposing the penalty was taken by the respondent before the inquiry was completed. The petitioner was to retire from service on 31st August, 1977 and it seems this action was taken because of some legal opinion of the respondent that the inquiry could not be continued after the employee had retired from service and that the order would be passed even before the inquiry was completed. There is no doubt that once the inquiry was instituted and the report of the Inquiry Officer was still awaited, the impugned orders could not have been passed before the petitioner was found guilty of the charges against him. Once having initiated the inquiry the orders could be passed only after the inquiry was completed and if the petitioner was found guilty of the charges. Misunderstanding or misconception of law is no ground for making an order in haste only because the employee was likely to retire. The impugned orders dated 19th August, 1977 and 27th August, 1977 cannot, thereforee, stand and have to be quashed.
(5) It is contended by the learned counsel for the petitioner that the gratuity, pension, provident fund and salary due to the petitioner was also withheld by the respondent in view of the impugned orders. Ld. counsel for the respondent states that the petitioner has not opted for pension and he may have opted to get benefit under some other Scheme in lieu of pension. Needless to say that without specific orders to that effect gratuity and other dues payable to the employee cannot be withheld when the liability is not accepted by the employee. The exact amount withheld by the respondent which was payable and due to the petitioner towards gratuity, provident fund and salary is not available with either side today. The respondent is hereby directed to ascertain the exact amount and pay the same to the petitioner with interest @ 12% p.a. within six weeks from today.
(6) As regards the claim of the petitioner regarding pension, it is stated by the learned counsel for the respondent that the petitioner has not opted for the same. The petitioner is given liberty to exercise his option if he has not availed of some other Scheme in lieu of pension. The claim of the petitioner will be decided by respondent no. 2 according to law but will not be rejected on the ground of delay.
(7) In the result, the petition succeeds. The impugned orders dated 19th August, 1977 and 27th August, 1977 are quashed. The petitioner will be entitled to his costs quantified at Rs. 500.00 .