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Workmen of Indian Overseas Bank Vs. Indian Overseas Bank and anr. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectLabour and Industrial
CourtDelhi High Court
Decided On
Judge
Reported in(1973)ILLJ316Del
AppellantWorkmen of Indian Overseas Bank
RespondentIndian Overseas Bank and anr.
Cases ReferredRitz Theatre (Private) Ltd. v. Their Workmen
Excerpt:
- - all the employees of the bank who accompanied rohtagi and raj kumar were shouting objectionable slogans like: 521(10)(a) of (he sastry award they should indicate the date when they would like to be present for hearing in person. it was contended that it was essential that the disciplinary authority itself must apply its mind in the first instance to the explanationns submitted by the concerned workmen and it is only after it comes to the conclusion that it is not so satisfied and wants to hold an enquiry that the enquiry should be held. their lordships have clearly expressed the view that it is not necessary for the authority which is to pass the order of dismissal, to initiate enquiry itself. in this connection it is also necessary to notice that in the replies sent to the.....rajindar sachar, j.1. this petition under articles 226 and 227 of the constitution of india has been filed against the award given by respondent no. 2 dated july 31, 1969, by which the tribunal upheld the order of the management in suspending and later on dismissing the four employees of the bank.2. in order to appreciate the controversy it will be necessary to mention a few main facts. indian overseas bank (previously known as indian overseas bank ltd.), janpath, new delhi, respondent no. 1, had three branches at the time of the incident situated at janpath, chandni chowk and karol bagh in 1966-67. j. k. sehgal and m. b. jain at the relevant time were employed in janpath branch of the bank and j. p. rohtagi and raj kumar were employed in chandni chowk branch of the bank. it is alleged in.....
Judgment:

Rajindar Sachar, J.

1. This petition under Articles 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India has been filed against the award given by respondent No. 2 dated July 31, 1969, by which the Tribunal upheld the order of the management in suspending and later on dismissing the four employees of the bank.

2. In order to appreciate the controversy it will be necessary to mention a few main facts. Indian Overseas Bank (previously known as Indian Overseas Bank Ltd.), Janpath, New Delhi, respondent No. 1, had three branches at the time of the incident situated at JanpaTh, Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh in 1966-67. J. K. Sehgal and M. B. Jain at the relevant time were employed In Janpath branch of the bank and J. P. Rohtagi and Raj Kumar were employed in Chandni Chowk branch of the bank. It is alleged In the petition that on 31st March, 1964, a settlement had been arrived at between the management of the bank and its workmen which provided that direct recruitment to officers' cadre would not exceed 50 per cent of the entire promotions made to the officers cadre from amongst the employees in the services of the bank in any calendar year. It is stated that in violation of this agreement, in May, 1965, the management of the bank posted one Shri A. T. Panirselvam as an officer in the Karol Bagh branch of the bank to which the union protested. Dispute having been raised before the conciliation officer, it Is alleged that Shri A. f. Panirselvam was sent back to Madras after completing his training. Later on it is alleged one Shri K. R. Menon was appointed as an officer in Chandni Chowk branch in Delhi. It is alleged in the petition that the posting of Shri Menon was objected to by the union office bearers who went to discuss this matter with the officers posted in Chandni Chowk branch. It was also alleged that the bank instead of giving relief to the workmen chose to victimise the leaders of the union and issued letters to the four workmen mentioned above seeking their Explanationns. It is stated that subsequently these workmen were suspended and then ultimately dismissed. The bank denies that the matter of posting of Shri Menon was discussed by the union with the officers. Instead it is maintained by the bank that the four employees, namely, Sehgal, Jain, Rohtagi and Raj Kumar committed various acts of gross misconduct for which they were charge-sheeted. This will be a proper stage to refer now to the charge-sheets which were admittedly issued to the workmen and which ultimately led to their dismissal. One of the charge-sheets issued against Rohtagi and Raj Kumar alleged that they had entered the room of Shri G. V. Krishnamurthy, agent of the Chandni Chowk branch of the bank on 30th July, 1965 at 10-15 a.m. without his permission and without his sending for then and demanded that he should not allow Shri Menon who had been transferred by the head office to that branch, to work and should be sent back immediately. When Shri Krishnamurthy pointed out that the question concerning staff could not be discussed without Shri Rai, agent of the Janpath branch of the bank, the workmen are stated to have forced Shri Krishnamurthy to phone Shri Rai to come over there. They also without permission of Shri Krishnamurthy phoned and asked Jain and Sehgal of the Janpath branch of the bank to come over to Chandni Chowk by interrupting the discharge of their duties and the said act was prejudicial to the interest of the bank. It was further alleged that after the arrival of Sehgal and Jain Shri Krishnamurty was compelled to book a trunk call for the Assistant General Manager of the bank at Madras. It was then alleged that under duress Shri Krishnamurthy was forced to convey that message and thereafter the said workmen allowed the agent to leave the room. They were, thereforee, charged for gross misconduct under para 521 (4)(c), (e), (j), (1) of the Sastry Award read with para 18.28 of the Desai Award. It may be mentioned that it is a common case that the Sastry Award had laid down the terms and conditions of the employees of the bank including that of the Indian Overseas Bank and the management and the workmen are bound by such an award.

3. The second charge-sheet issued to Sehgal, Jain and Raj Kumar was that on July 30, 1965, they entered the room of the agent of Janpath branch of the bank at 10-10 a. m. and forced Shri Rai to disconnect the phone. Raj Kumar is also stated to have thrown the telephone directory most insultingly on the agent's table. Again, when the agent came to his room at 12-20 p, m. the said employees came to him at about 12-30 p. m., forced open the door of the agent's room, called the staff and instigated them to repeat the slogans and abusive epithets. In this way the work of the bank was brought to a standstill which was prejudicial to the interest of the bank and thus they were charged under para, 521(4)(c), (e), (j), (1) of Sastry Award read with para. 18.28 of the Desai Award.

4. The third charge-sheet against Sehgal was that he left the premises of the bank without permission of Shri Rai and thus grossly neglected his work as head cashier and would have involved or likely to have involved the bank in serious loss. He was, thereforee, charged under para 521(4)(j) of the Sastri Award read with para. 18.28 of Dssai Award.

5. Another charge-sheet against Raj Kumar was that on August 2, 1965, he absented himself from duty at Chandni 'Chowk branch without obtaining leave. It was also alleged that on August 4, 1965, he went to Chandni Chowk branch and though the agent Insisted on his taking a letter dated August 4, 1965, Raj Kumar refused to take it and went away. Again, on August 5, 1965, he went to the bank but refused to receive the letter dated August 4, 1965, which was being given to him by the agent but instead typed out a leave application from August 2, 1965 to August 4, 1965. The agent in order to see that the bank's work may not be impeded, received his letter and served on him the letter dated August 4, 1965. Immediately thereafter he took possession of the attendance register and marked ' L' against August 4, 1965, and initialled against August 5, 1965. This conduct, according to the charge-sheet, is amounting to tampering with the bank's record and he was charge-sheeted under para. 521(4)(c), (e), (j) and (6)(a) of the Sastry Award read with para. 18.28 of the Desai Award.

6. Sehgal and Jain were also charge-sheeted, vide charge-sheets dated September 1, 1965, on the allegation that on July 31, 1965, at about 9-45 a. m. they instigated the members of the staff in New Delhi branch of the bank not to co-operate with the management in any manner and not to discharge their respective duties. It was also alleged that they induced Shri Somasundaram, clearing clerk, not to attend to his clearing work with the result that Shri Ganesan, another clerk was requested by Shri Somasundaram to do this work. Further, they telephoned the Chandni Chowk and Karol Bagh branches of the bank not to do any work and thus paralysed the work of the bank. They were thus charged under para. 521(4)(j) and (1) of the Sastry Award read with para. 18.28 of Desai Award. Rohtagi and Raj Kumar were also further charge-sheeted on September 1, 1965, to the effect that on Monday the 2nd August, 1965, at about 10-15 a.m. they entered the room of Shri Krishnamurthi without his permission along with others and shouted/'to him that Shri Menon posted at Chandni Chowk branch should go back. All the employees of the bank who accompanied Rohtagi and Raj Kumar were shouting objectionable slogans like:

G. V. K. Hai Hai, G. V. K. Kamine, G. V. K. Badrnash,

Down with G. V. K., Down with Rai, Down with Rao.

Rohtagi is said to have commanded the agent to follow the instructions of Raj Kumar and to book a call to Madras. When the agent declined to do so, Rohtagi is said to have instructed the staff to squat in the agent's room with the result that all the members stopped work. For this conduct they were charged under para. 521(4)(c), (e), (j), (1) of Sastry Award read with para 18.28 of Desai Award.

7. Under para. 521(12) of the Sastry Award it has been provided that the bank should decide which officer shall be empowered to take disciplinary action in the case of each office or establishment. It has been laid down in the said para, that the name of the officer empowered to pass the original order or hear appeal shall be published on the bank's notice board. It was in pursuance of this requirement that by an order dated August 10, 1965, a notice was pasted under para. 521(12) of Sastri Award, in which it was stated that Shri R. Ramachandran, agent, Madras branch, and Shri G. V. Krishnamurthy, agent, Chandni Chowk branch, are empowered to take disciplinary action when necessary in respect of disciplinary matters arising in Chandni Chowk branch. It was also laid down that Shri T. K. Pillai, Assistant General Manager, Central Office, will be the officer empowered to hear the appeals. This is to be found at annexure F-1 to the petition.

8. The Explanationns which the employees had been asked to furnish were found to be unsatisfactory and a letter was addressed to them on August 12, 1965, by Shri Rao, Assistant General Manager, annexures G-1 to G-4 to the petition, informing them that after considering their Explanationns it has been decided to hold an enquiry against them, Workmen were also informed that Shri R. Ramachandran, agent, Madras branch, will conduct the enquiry. They were also suspended pending the conclusion of the enquiry, vide annexures G-1 to G-4 to the petition. It was this suspension order which was referred to the adjudication of respondent No. 2 vide Government Notification No. 51(46)/66-LRlV, dated 26th November, 1966. Later on, charge-sheets were issued to Sehgul, Jatin, Rohtagi and Raj Kumar dated September 1, 1965, by Mr. Rao, Assistant General Manager. Workmen were told that they were required to furnish their written Explanationn of the charges mentioned in the charge-sheets to reach Shri Rao on or before 10th of September, 1965, and also to lead evidence at the enquiry which was to be held from September 15, 1965. These annexures are H-1 to H-6 to the petition. The charges were on the lines which have already been mentioned previously by me.

9. Replies were submitted by the concerned workmen. Thereafter Shri Ramachandran who had been designated as an officer competent to take disciplinary action under para. 521(12) of the Sastry Award as per annexure F-l held the enquiry against these four employees. After the enquiry was concluded Shri Ramachandran issued a show cause notice to the concerned workmen informing them that according to his finding the charges framed under para. 521(4), (c), (e), (j), (1) of the Sastry Award read with para. 18.28 of the Desai Award, had been conclusively proved against them and that they were guilty of gross misconduct under the aforesaid paras of the Award and that he has provisionally come to the conclusion that they should be dismissed from service without notice as provided under para. 521(5)(a) of the Award. He also informed them that as they had a right to be heard by him as regards the nature of the proposed punishment under para. 521(10)(a) of (he Sastry Award they should indicate the date when they would like to be present for hearing in person. These notices dated May 13, 1966, are annexure J-l to J-7 to the petition. Similarly, he issued notice to Sehgal that he had also found him guilty of gross misconduct under para 521(4)(j) and (1) of the Sastry Award. This notice is annexure J-8. A similar notice was issued to Jain and the same is annexure J-9 to the petition. Rohtagi was issued a show cause informing him that he had been found guilty under para. 521(c) and (j) of the Sastry Award and the notice is annexure 1-10 to the petition. Similarly, Raj Kumar was also informed vide notice annexure J-11 to the petition. He also issued notice to Raj Kumar informing him that he had found him guilty in respect of that particular charge-sheet framed under para 52l(6)(a) of the Sastry Award read with para 18.28 of Desai Award and that he proposed to punish him with censure as provided under para. 521(7)(a) of the Sastry Award. Sehgal was also issued notice annexur': J-1 3 informing him that he had bee? found guilty under para 521(4)(j) of the Award and it was proposed to dismiss him from service.

10. Personal hearing was given to these workmen on 1st August, 1966. On 7th August, 1966, the union served notice of strike and conciliation proceedings started on 8th August 1966. During the pendency of the conciliation proceedings Shri Ramachandran passed the order of dismissal dated 17th August, 1966, annexures L-1 to L-4 to the petition. But, the bank apparently feeling that the dismissal order may be open to objection, having been passed during the conciliation proceedings, Shri Ramachandran rescinded the above orders on 22nd November, 1966, and passed fresh orders by which the concerned workmen were dismissed from service with effect from 23rd November, 1966. These orders are annexures M-1 to M-4 to the petition. These dismissal orders were referred to adjudication, being, reference No. 1 of 1967, to respondent No. 2 vide the Government Notification No. 51(46)/ 66 LRIV, dated 26th November, 1966. Respondent No. 2 by his impugned award dated 31st July, 1969, has upheld the action of the management in suspending and later on dismissing the workmen. It is this award which has been challenged in the present writ petition.

11. Mr. Chari, the learned Counsel for the petitioners, in the beginning of his arguments indicated that he would be challenging the findings of the enquiry officer on the ground that the enquiry officer had not referred to the evidence led by the concerned workmen but during the course of his arguments he did not refer to any such infirmity and in fact fairly conceded that he could not challenge the findings of the enquiry officer on the ground that the evidence of the workmen had not been considered. This ground, thereforee, was not pressed by Mr. Chari.

12. The next contention raised by Mr. Chari was that the dismissal of the four workmen by the management is illegal as the proceedings against them were initiated by a person not competent to do so. It is a common case that charge-sheets dated 1st September, 1965, sent to workmen were issued under the signatures of Shri Rao, the Assistant General Manager. It is also a common case that, later on, the enquiry was held by Shri Ramachandran who himself held the enquiry, heard the concerned workmen and ultimately passed the dismissal order. Mr. Chad's contention is that disciplinary proceedings start from the initiation of tho enquiry and encompasses within its ambit the proceedings from the state of issue of charge sheet to the final order. According to the learned Counsel the initiation of the enquiry is a very material fact and this could only be done by the officer who had been designated to take disciplinary action, i.e., Shri Ramachandran. The contention of the learned Counsel, thereforee, boils down to this that as the charge-sheets were issued and the decision to hold an enquiry was taken by Shri Rao who was not the officer designated under para 521(12) of the Sastry Award the whole enquiry proceedings ultimately resulting in dismissal are void and are of no legal effect. It was contended that it was essential that the disciplinary authority itself must apply its mind in the first instance to the Explanationns submitted by the concerned workmen and it is only after it comes to the conclusion that it is not so satisfied and wants to hold an enquiry that the enquiry should be held. It was suggested that it is not possible to say whether Shri Ramachandran who was the disciplinary authority would have decided to hold the enquiry, had he considered the Explanationns of the concerned workmen at the initial stage. Thus, it is submitted that the charge-sheets issued by Shri Rao having been issued by a person not competent to do so the whole proceedings resulting in the dismissal of the concerned workmen are void. This plea partly found favor with the Tribunal who was inclined to hold that the charge-sheets were not issued by the officer empowered by the bank to take disciplinary action as according to him the disciplinary proceedings start with the issue of a charge-sheet. For this proposition the Tribunal relied on Shardul Singh v. State of Madhya Pradesh 1968 XI L.L.J. 274, But the Tribunal considered this as a mere irregularity and found that no prejudice has been caused to the workmen by the initiation of the enquiry proceedings as the dismissal had been ordered by the disciplinary authority and, thereforee, negatived this contention of the workmen. Mr. Chari before me also relied mainly on this authority. Mr. Pai, the learned Counsel for the respondent however, pointed out that the whole fabric of the argument by the petitioners is without substance as it bases itself mainly on the decision given above. Mr. Pai pointed out that this decision has been overruled by the Supreme Court in the case State of Madhya Pradesh v. Shardul Singh, (C. 4. No. 2554 of 1966, decided on 2-12-1969). This case has also been reported as (1970) 2 S.C.C. 108. This was a case which had come up in appeal from the Madhya Pradesh High Court decision mentioned above. Their Lordships of the Supreme Court set aside the judgment of the High Court. The High Court had held that the enquiry by the Superintendent of Police was against the mandate of Article 311(1) of the Constitution of India as he was not competent to initiate or conduct the enquiry because the dismissal order could only be passed by the Inspector General of Police. The Supreme Court did not accept the correctness of this view and their Lordships observed as under:

Hence we are unable to agree with the High Court that the guarantee that the disciplinary proceedings resulting in dismissal or removal of a civil servant should also be initiated and conducted by the authorities mentioned in that article.

13. Mr. Chari sought to distinguish this authority by pointing out that there the power under the rules was given to initiate action to the Superintendent of Police. But, in my view, this distinction is without any substance. Their Lordships have clearly expressed the view that it is not necessary for the authority which is to pass the order of dismissal, to initiate enquiry itself. I am further inclined to agree with the view of the Tribunal that even if the charge-sheets were issued by Shri Rao, the same is not such an infirmity as to render the whole proceedings against the concerned workmen illegal and void. It is not disputed that the enquiry proceedings were held by Shri Ramachandran, the disciplinary authority himself. It is also not disputed that personal hearing was given by him and the order of dismissal was passed by him. It, thereforee, cannot be said that the mere fact of the charge-sheets originally having been issued by Shri Rao (assuming that he was not competent to do so) would make the further proceedings void. In this connection it is also necessary to notice that in the replies sent to the charge-sheets issued by Shri Rao or even in reply to the show-cause notice, no grievance was made that the whole proceedings were bad because of the reason that the charge-sheets were not issued to the concerned workmen by the person authorised to do so. If the grievance was made that the charge-sheets were not issued by the proper person, the management might have withdrawn them and fresh charge-sheets could have been issued by the disciplinary authority. The workmen not having objected to the issue of the charge-sheets by Shri Rao could not now be permitted to urge that as a ground for challenging the ultimate order of dismissal passed by the disciplinary authority against them. This contention of Mr. Chari, thereforee, fails.

14. Mr. Chari in this connection referred me to the award made by Mr. R. K. Baweja, Industrial Tribunal in Reference 1. D. No. 121 of 1963, on May 2, 1970, in a case between K. G. Khosla & Co. (P.) Ltd. v. Its Workmen, and pointed out that in that award Mr. Baweja has taken the view that though the order of dismissal had been passed by the person who was competent to do so yet the dismissal was bad as proceedings had been initiated by a person who was not competent to do so. Mr. Chari pointed out this to show the inconsistency of the finding given in the present case as against the finding given in the latter award. In my view, it is not necessary to say anything about the correctness of the view taken by Mr. Baweja as I have already come to the conclusion that the only authority on which the Tribunal found in this case that initiation of proceedings should be by the disciplinary authority was not approved by the Supreme Court in the latest judgment. The whole purpose of designating the officer to take disciplinary action as per para. 521(12) of the Sastry Award is to provide for certainty of providing an officer who is competent to take disciplinary action against the employees. The object is so that the employees know beforehand who is the punishing authority and the management is not free to pick and choose the disciplinary authority in each case. This provision is analogous to that of Article 311 of the Constitution under which the power of dismissal can be exercised-only by the appointing authority. Now, if in such a case even though the dismissal authority is 'A' and yet the initiation of enquiry can be ordered by 'B' as held in the latest case of Supreme Court, it cannot be understood what objection there can be in the present case to the initiation of the enquiry by Mr. Rao when the enquiry itself and the dismissal order has been passed by the designated officer, Mr. Ramachandran. In my view the ratio of the Supreme Court case clearly applies to the present case before me. The contention of Mr. Chari, thereforee, fails.

15. The next contention of Mr. Chari was that under para 521 of the Sastry Award it was incumbent on the management to first prosecute the workmen in a criminal Court and as admittedly the same had not been done the management could not proceed to take action departmentally against the workmen and, thereforee, the dismissal was bad. This argument proceeds on the interpretation which Mr. Chari wanted to give to para 521(1), (2) and (3) of the Award. In para 521 of the Award it is stated that a person against whom disciplinary action is proposed or likely to be taken should be informed of the particulars of the charge against him; he should have a proper opportunity to give his Explanationn as to such particulars. Final orders should be passed after due consideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances.

16. Clause (1) of para. 521 defines the expression 'offence' to mean any offence involving moral turpitude for which an employee is liable to conviction and sentence under any provision of law. Clause (2)(a) says that, when in the opinion of the management an employee has committed an offence, unless he be otherwise prosecuted, the bank may take steps to prosecute him or get him prosecuted and in such a case he may also be suspended. Clause (2)(b) provides that if an employee is convicted he may be dismissed with effect from the date of his conviction. Clause (2)(c) provides that if he is acquitted, the management may proceed against him by holding an enquiry as provided in sub-paragraphs (9) and (10) relating to discharges Clause (2)(d) provides that if an employee who has been convicted, files an appeal or revision and thus acquitted, the management will review his case and may either reinstate him or proceed against him under the provisions set out below in sub-paragraphs (9) and (10) relating to the discharges. Clause (3) provides that if after steps have been taken to prosecute an employee, or to get him prosecuted, for an offence he is not put on trial within a year of the commission of the offence, the management may deal with him as if he had committed an act of gross misconduct' or of minor 'misconduct' provided that if the authority which was to start the prosecution proceedings refused to do sow comes to the conclusion that there is no case for prosecution it shall be open to the management to proceed against the employee under the provision set out in sub-paragraphs (9) and (10) relating to discharges. The employee in such a case is only liable to termination of services,

17. The argument of Mr. Chari is that the charge-sheets which were issued to the four workmen, annexures H-1 to H-6, mention that they are guilty of causing wrongful confinement which was an offence punishable under the Penal Code and, thereforee, it was incumbent on the management to first either prosecute the workmen itself or get them prosecuted and it is only if they were not prosecuted or put on trial within a year of the commission of the offence that the management could proceed against them under Clause (3) of para, 521 of the Award. According to the learned Counsel this is a mandate given by the Award that whenever any employee acts in a manner which is an offence the management must first proceed against him in a criminal Court of law. According to Mr. Chari the object of such a provision is that it is not left to the discretion of the management either to prosecute such a person or to hold a departmental enquiry. Respondent No. 2, the Tribunal, has held that the word 'may' in paragraph 521(2) shows that the bank has a descretion whether to prosecute an employee or not. According to the Tribunal's finding the option being with the bank if it chooses not to prosecute an employee it does not in any manner debar it from taking any departmental proceedings against the workman. Mr. Chari strongly contended that this finding of the Tribunal was erroneous. According to the learned Counsel, there can be no purpose in providing such a detailed procedure if the matter was to be left to the discretion of the management. Mr. Chari contended that the intention of the award was that as soon as it is noticed that an offence has been committed the management must be made to prosecute an employee before a criminal Court. This, he contended, is provided so as to give greater assurance to the workmen as they would be judged by a Court of law which would be necessarily impartial and unbiased as against departmental enquiry which would be conducted by the management itself. In my view, however, there is no force in this contention of Mr. Chari, as the wording of para 521(2) is clear that where in the opinion of the management an employee has committed an offence the bank may take steps to prosecute him or get him prosecuted and in such a case he may also be suspended. Clause (2) on a plain reading gives an option to the management to prosecute a workman and has provided that if they do so it will also have the right to suspend the workman. In my view, Clause (2) was not meant to be laying down a compulsion on the management that in case any offence has been committed it necessarily must start prosecution against an employee. The further provisions that are provided in the award clearly show that at the initial stage the management is being given an option either to proceed against the employee in a criminal Court or depart-mentally. Once, of course, the management has decided to proceed against an employee in a criminal Court the award has laid down that it will not be possible for the management to withdraw from the same and start disciplinary proceedings against the employee at its discretion as it could have done originally. Purpose of Clause (2) obviously is that the management should not be allowed to delay making up its mind in the first instance as to how it wishes to proceed against a certain employee. It is for this reason that it is provided that once the prosecution proceedings have been set against an employee, but they do not result in his conviction, the employee has to be reinstated or that even if he is not put on trial the management can proceed against him, but in that case the action to be taken against the employee is limited to discharge or termination. The purpose of Clause (2) really is only to give the right to the management to suspend an employee in case it chooses to proceed against him in a criminal Court. Mr. Chari contended that the word 'may' in Clause (2) must be read as 'shall' and thereby a mandate must be held to have been given to the management to prosecute an employee in case an offence is said to have been committed. In my view there is no reason to read the word 'may' as 'shall' nor is there anything in the context of this which should compel me to read 'may' as 'shall'. This interpretation seems to me to be against the interest of the employee who in many cases would welcome a departmental enquiry rather than face a criminal trial. It is not uncommon to find that many employees prefer facing a departmental enquiry rather than the odium and harassment of facing a criminal trial. In my view, thereforee, the Tribunal was correct in holding that Clause 2(a) of para 521 of the award did not compel the management to prosecute the concerned workmen and, thereforee, no infirmity can be found with the dismissal order on the ground that the management was bound in the first instance to proceed against the workmen in the criminal Court. There is another reason why in my opinion the petitioners could not get any relief on this argument. Assuming that my interpretation is not correct and that the management is under compulsion to proceed against an employee when in its opinion the employee has committed an offence, still it has to be only that offence which has been defined in Clause (1) of para 521 of the Award. 'Offence' in Clause (1) of para. 521 of the Award has been defined to mean any offence involving moral turpitude for which an employee is liable to conviction and sentence under any provision of law. The only offence alleged, which Mr. Chari pointed out, was the offence of wrongful confinement as mentioned in annexure H-1 to the petition. The question, thereforee, arises whether the offence of wrongful confinement which is no doubt punishable under the Indian Penal Code can be held to be an offence as defined by para 521(1) of the Award, as meaning an offence involving moral turpitude. Clause (1) clearly specified that it is only in case of an offence involving moral turpitude that Clause (2) of para 521 becomes applicable. If the offence which the workmen are supposed to have committed does not involve moral turpitude Clause (2) would not become applicable. Mr. Chari referred me to a number of authorities in which the meaning of the word 'moral turpitude' has been attempted. In Durga Singh . The State of Punjab , 'moral turpitude' was held to be a term generally taken to mean a conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty or good morals and contrary to what a man owes to a fellowman or to society in general. In this authority the question did not arise as the argument was raised in a case of a police official who had been convicted. It had been sought to be urged that the provision of Article 311 of the Constitution of India which says that no enquiry is necessary if a person is dismissed on the ground of conduct whit has led to his conviction should be read as merely a conviction but a conviction involving moral turpitude.

18. In Baleshwar Singh v. District Magistrate and Collector, Banaras : AIR1959All71 , 'moral turpitude' was held to imply depravity and wickedness of character or disposition of the person charged with the particular conduct. In that case it was held that a person who is convicted under Section 182, Indian Penal Code, for having given false statement to a public official was guilty of an offence involving moral turpitude.

19. In Mangali v. Chhakki Lai : AIR1963All527 , it was held that it is not every punishable act that can be considered to be an act involving moral turpitude. In that case a person had been found guilty of carrying with him bhang in an area in which prohibition was there. Though he was convicted under the Excise Ac, it was accepted that he was carrying bhang with him as medicine. The learned Judge held hi n not guilty of offence involving moral turpitude.

20. In Risal Singh y. Chandgi Ram, , a Division Bench consisting of A. N. Grover, J., (as he then was) and S. B. Capoor, J., held that the conviction of a person under Section 19(f) of the Indian Arms Act for being in posses don of an unlicensed revolver could not be considered to be an offence involving moral turpitude. The observations in Mangalfs case : AIR1963All527 , were referred to with approval.

21. These authorities clearly lay down that there must be something so wicked and depraved in the action before an offence can be called as involving moral turpitude. The mere fact that a person is held guilty under some law would not mean that he was guilty of an offence involving moral turpitude. In the present case all that Mr. Chari could point out was that it was being suggested that the workmen had wrongfully restrained the agent of the bank. In the context of the fact that the workmen were the workers in the bank and had come to the agent's room and might have thus committed an offence of wrongfully restraining him, it cannot be said that involves moral turpitude. Mr. Chad referred me to the article Infamous Crimes' at page 54 of Corpus Jurisdiction Secundum, volume 22, which is defined as one which works in the person committing it, one which involves moral turpitude and disqualifies the person convicted as a witness, and especially to the observations that the better modern view is that the question is determined by the nature of punishment, and not by the character of the crime, and that any crime is infamous that is punishable by death or by imprisonment, with or without hard labour, in a State prison or by the loss of civil or political privileges. The decision turns not upon the punishment actually inflicted, but upon the punishment which the Court is authorised to impose. In my view, these observations are of no assistance to Mr. Chari. It is not known as to in what context these observations are being made and moreover they are referring to the infamous crimes. These observations are not laying down that all offences which involve imprisonment are necessarily involving moral turpitude. If they are meant to lay down this, it is clearly contrary to the unanimous opinion of the various High Courts noticed above that merely because a person has committed an offence does not mean that he is guilty of an offence involving moral turpitude.

22. Mr. Pai in this connection referred me to Bouvier's Law Dictionary, page 247, where 'moral turpitude' :is defined as 'an act of baseness, vileness or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man'. In my view 'moral turpitude' can only mean vileness and depravity of character and I cannot persuade myself to hold that the offence in the present case is one which involves moral turpitude. In my view, thereforee, on this ground also the contention of Mr. Chari that reference should have been made to the criminal Court before taking departmental action cannot be accepted and must be repelled.

23. The next contention of Mr. Chari was that the dismissal was bad as the disciplinary authority had not complied with the provisions of para 521(10)(c) of the Sastry Award inasmuch as the disciplinary authority had not taken into account the previous record of the workmen. Sub-clause (c) of Clause (10) of para 521 of the Sastry Award provides that in awarding the punishments by way of disciplinary action the authority concerned shall take into account the gravity of the misconduct, the previous record, if any, of the employee and any other aggravating or extenuating circumstances that may exist. In the enquiry officer's report there is no mention that he had referred to the previous record of the concerned workmen at the time of passing the order of dismissal. According to Mr. Chari the disciplinary authority has not carried out this obligation cast on him by the Award and the result, thereforee, is that the dismissal order passed by him is void. Mr. Pai in this connection pointed out that the disciplinary authority acts as a quasi-judicial authority, and, thereforee, can only refer to matters which are placed before it by the parties arriving at a conclusion. According to Mr. Pai the disciplinary authority is not a prosecutor but is in the position of a judge. According to him Clause (c) means that in awarding punishment these various considerations including the past record of employees are relevant considerations. According to the learned Counsel all that it means is that if an employee brings to the notice of the disciplinary authority his past record the same has to be taken into consideration when awarding punishment. In the present case it is worth noting that at the stage when the employees showed cause against the notices served on them it was not pleaded by them that they should not be dismissed as their past record was such that extreme penalty should not be imposed upon them. Their past record was never pleaded by them as extenuating circumstances when showing cause to the notice sent to them by the disciplinary authority on 13th May, 1966. The concerned employees were also heard by the disciplinary authority and even at that time there was no reference made by these workmen to their past record. Even in the writ petition I find that no grievance is made that the order of dismissal is bad because the past record was not taken into consideration. It is true that Clause (c) of para 521(10) of the Sastry Award provides that in awarding punishment the past record is a relevant consideration. That means that if at any stage the same is brought to the notice of the disciplinary authority but he refused to consider it, it can be then said that this has cast an infirmity in the ultimate order of dismissal and it must be struck down. This clause makes the past conduct a relevant consideration but if the same is not brought to the notice of the disciplinary authority omission to refer to it cannot by itself cast such a fatal infirmity in the order ultimately passed by him. Mr. Chari has sought to rely on the case Mahalakshmi Textile Mills v. Labour Court [1963] XI L.L.J. 58, for the proposition that where the management failed to take into account the various factors in awarding punishment as required under the relevant provisions of the standing order, the order of dismissal was held to be bad. But this authority was distinguished in a later case of the same High Court in a case between Solar Works, Madras v. Their Workmen 1968 I L.L.J. 768 : [1967] 32 F.J.R.. 422. In this case it was pointed out that where the worker is guilty of a serious offence, very little will turn upon the previous record of the worker. It was pointed out that in each case it will depend upon what was the misconduct for which the employee was being proceeded against and if the misconduct proved against the employee was per se serious then the omission to consider the past record of the employee will not make action against the employee per se illegal. Observations of Srinivasan, J., in an unreported decision in Writ Petition No. 166 of 1963, were referred to with approval and the same are as under :

Where a worker is guilty of a serious offence inviting dismissal, very little will turn upon the previous record of the worker. The fact that a person had a previous good record can hardly weigh with the management when it finds that the worker by inciting an illegal strike was paralyzing the working of the industry. If, in such an instance, the management proceeded to dismiss the person, I am unable to see how the failure to take into account the previous record vitiates the final order. What the standing order merely says is that the management shall take into account the gravity of the misconduct, the previous record, if any, of the workman, and any other extenuating or aggravating circumstances. There may be cases where the gravity of the offence, standing by itself, would justify the dismissal, and no amount of previous good conduct might offset the gravity of the misconduct. It would depend upon the facts of each case whether the order of dismissal is liable to be interfered with for such a reason as this.

It was also pointed out that:.in the absence of anything to show that the punishment was disproportionate or shockingly severe, but on the other hand was inflicted in the context of a serious violation of a standing order, there was no ground at all for the Labour Court to hold that in awarding the punishment, a relevant provision in the standing order for fixing the quantum of punishment had been overlooked by the management.

In the present case the workmen were held guilty of gross misconduct in terms of para 521(4)(c), (e), (j) and (1) which are as under:

(4) By the expression 'gross misconduct' shall be meant any of the following acts and omissions on the part of an employee:

* * *(c) drunkenness or riotous or disorderly or indecent behavior on the premises of the bank;

* * *(e) willful insubordination or disobedience of any lawful and reasonable order of the management or of a superior ;

(j) doing any act prejudicial to the interest of the bank, or gross negligence or negligence involving or likely to involve the bank in serious loss;

* * *(1) abetment or instigation of any of the acts or omissions above mentioned;

A reference to these clauses will show that if the finding of tile enquiry officer is correct then the concerned workmen have been guilty of gross misconduct and it cannot be said on that finding that the punishment of dismissal is so shockingly disproportionate to the misconduct or that the mere omission to refer to the past record of the workmen will make the order of the disciplinary authority void. Mr. Chari contended that it was possible that if the previous record was referred to, the disciplinary authority might have come to the conclusion that misconduct in the present case was not so gross as to entail the penalty of dismissal. In my view, however, if the finding of the disciplinary authority is correct, and I may say in all fairness to Mr. Chari that he did not attempt to challenge the same, as he could not do so in proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution, then the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority cannot be said to be so disproportionate as to be shocking to the conscience. In the earlier case, i.e., the case between Mahalakshmi Textile Mills v. Labour Court 1963 XI L.L.J. 58, it is obvious that the misconduct was of having overstayed without leave. Obviously that misconduct was not such a venal one that a reference to the previous record could not have made any difference. It was for this reason that the dismissal was set aside.

24. Mr. Chari also referred me to the case Travancore Titanium Products Ltd. Their Workmen 1970 II L.L.J. In my opinion that case has no relevance to the present case. In that case the Tribunal had found four serious infirmities as having vitiated the enquiry held by the management. One of the infirmities noticed was that the notice of the enquiry which had been given to the employee was of 2J days while the requirement of the starting order was that three clear days should have been given. The argument was raised that this was merely a technical breach but this was not accepted by their Lordships who held that as standing order provided for three clear days being provided to the workmen and as it was not given, this failure did introduce an infirmity in the proceedings. The other infirmity that has been found was that the workman had not been given a copy of the enquiry report nor had they been permitted to be assisted by any member of the staff of his choice. It was in these circumstances that it was held that the enquiry was unfair and dismissal had been set aside by the Tribunal. Mr. Chari sought to contend that as the Supreme Court has held that a requirement of three days was mandatory and did not condone the delay of even half a day it must be held in the present case that the omission to refer to the previous record of the employee has caused infirmity in the order of dismissal as it is one of the mandatory obligations on the disciplinary authority to refer to the previous record. In my view there is no force in this argument. Their Lordships held that as an opportunity for holding an enquiry for three days was necessary and the same was not given it caused an infirmity. In the present case the award requires that in awarding punishment previous record of the employee shall be taken into account. All that this means is that if the record of the employee is such that it can be an extenuating circumstance then the same must be taken into account. In the present case no attempt was made even before me to show that the previous record of the employee was in any manner of such nature as to be an extenuating circumstance in the face of the definite charge of proved gross misconduct.

25. When Clause (10)(c) of para.-521 of the Award provides that in awarding punishment the authority concerned was to take into account the gravity of the misconduct, the previous record, if any, of the employee and any aggravating or extenuating circumstance that may exist, it means that the disciplinary authority will have due regard to the fact of the previous record of the employee and if it finds that the previous record has been an excellent one then that may be considered as an extenuating circumstance even if gross misconduct has been committed. Similarly if the previous record has been a bad one it may be considered as an aggravating circumstance. In the present case omission to make a specific reference to previous record can only mean that is a neutral kind of record which means that the previous record may not be considered as either aggravating or extenuating circumstance. That necessarily leaves the present gross misconduct alone to be taken into account in awarding punishment. I have already held that the misconduct proved against the employees has been held to be a gross misconduct and punishment imposed on that basis cannot be held to be shockingly disproportionate. It has not been suggested by the petitioner that their previous record was in any manner such as would have been an extenuating circumstance in awarding punishment. In that view of the matter, the grievance that previous record was not specifically referred to and, thereforee, it makes the order of dismissal bad cannot be accepted. This contention, thereforee, fails.

26. The next contention of Mr. Chari was that after the show cause notices annexure J-1, etc., had been issued to the workmen they had replied to it in detail challenging the findings of the disciplinary authority holding them guilty under various charges. According to Mr. Chari the dismissal order annexure L-l shows that the disciplinary authority had only considered the reply made in the written representation as also made on personal hearing with regard to the proposed punishment and did not apply his mind to the question of guilt. This, according to the learned Counsel, makes the conclusion of the disciplinary authority bad. According to Mr. Chari when show cause notices were issued to the workmen they had a right to show cause not only against the proposed punishment but also to show cause with regard to the finding of guilt against them. According to the learned Counsel, the enquiry officer was not right in assuming that he had only to consider at that stage the question of proposed punishment and was not to go into the question of guilt. Mr. Chari sought to urge his point on the analogy of Article 311 of the Constitution of India under which it is now well-settled that the employee when showing cause has a right to challenge not only that the proposed punishment be not inflicted on him but to go further and show that, in fact, no punishment should be imposed on him as he is not guilty at all. According to the learned Counsel, the disciplinary authority has not kept this view of law before him, with the result that he has not applied his mind in accordance with law and, thereforee his order of dismissal of the workmen cannot be sustained. In my view, there is no merit in this contention. Reference to para 521(10)(a) of the Sastry Award shows that an employee against whom disciplinary action is proposed or is likely (sic) is to be permitted to appear before the officer conducting the enquiry, to cross-examine any witnesses and produce other evidence in his defense. He shall also be permitted to be defended by a representative of a registered union of bank employees, or, with the bank's permission, by a lawyer. He shall also be given a hearing as regards the nature of the proposed punishment in case any charge is established against him. Now this clause in terms provides for a hearing if the charge is established against an employee and hearing is contemplated only as regards the nature of the proposed punishment. The contention of the counsel is really based on the requirement of two opportunities that are to be given to the civil servant. But there is no justification for stretching this analogy as the same is not borne out by the words in the Sastry Award. Mr. Chari is reading the requirement of hearing as regards nature of the proposed punishment as equivalent to again showing cause against the action proposed to be taken. In my view there is no justification for equating the word 'punishment' with 'action'. It is only after the charge has been established against an employee that a hearing is contemplated and it is specifically laid down that hearing would be with regard to the nature of the proposed punishment. In that view of the matter I feel that the disciplinary authority was correct in saying that once he had arrived at the conclusion of the guilt of the employees it was not open to them to re-open the said matter again and re-urge the same points which admittedly they had done at the time of holding the enquiry. Show cause notices which were issued to them and in pursuance of which hearing was required to be given to them was only with regard to the nature of the proposed punishment. In my view, thereforee, the disciplinary authority was correct in saying that at that stage he was only concerned with considering the objection of the employees regarding the nature of the proposed punishment and could not start rehearing on merits and re-deciding all over again regarding the guilt of the employees. Clause (10)(a) of para 521 of the Sastry Award clearly contemplates that the hearing is to be given only if the charge is established against the employees. In that view it would be pointless to suggest that even if the charge has been established he should again start re-hearing all the matters on merits. There also seems to be a good reason as to why the personal hearing is limited to the nature of the proposed punishment because there is an appeal provided under the award, and any objection as to the finding of the guilt can be made a subject-matter of the appeal. It is a different matter that in the present case the workmen who had a right to appeal did not choose to do so. Moreover the disciplinary authority has also stated in the order of dismissal that he had considered all the material on record and this also shows that the disciplinary authority when passing the impugned order of dismissal did consider all the objections raised by the workmen. The Tribunal also negatived this contention and in my opinion rightly. This contention of Mr. Chari, thereforee, also fails.

27. I have to bear in mind that the matter before me is against the award given by the Tribunal, respondent No. 2, against an order of dismissal passed by the management in a domestic enquiry. I have already indicated that Mr. Chari did not challenge the findings of the enquiry officer holding the workmen guilty under various charges. Now it is -well-settled that when the enquiry held by the management is not vitiated by want of good faith or victimisation or because of the management being guilty of the basic error of violation of principles of natural justice or the finding being baseless or perverse, the jurisdiction of the Industrial Tribunal to interfere with the order of punishment by the management cannot be invoked. It is also well-settled that it is for the management to determine what punishment is to be imposed if a major misconduct is proved and if the action is without discrimination the same is not challengeable before the Industrial Tribunal. The Tribunal does not sit as a Court of appeal over the finding recorded at the domestic enquiry, and if there has been a proper enquiry it is open to the enquiry officer to come to its own conclusion and the Tribunal does not sit over its finding as a Court of appeal. In the case, Hind Construction & Engineering Co. Ltd. v. Their Workmen : (1965)ILLJ462SC , it has been said by their Lordships of the Supreme Court that the Tribunal is not required to consider the propriety or adequacy of the punishment or whether it is excessive or too severe, unless it comes to the conclusion that the punishment is shockingly so disproportionate that no reasonable employer would ever impose such a punishment. It was also pointed out by the Supreme Court in the case, Tata Engineering and Locomotive Co., Ltd. v. Prasad 1969 XI L.L.J. 799 as under (at page 812):

The jurisdiction of the Tribunal being limited, it can deal with the merits of the impugned orders only if it could properly come to the conclusion either that the domestic enquiries were not validly or properly held or that the findings given by the enquiry officers were vitiated either by reason of their being in breach of the rules of natural justice or perverse or contrary to the evidence-c.f, Ritz Theatre (Private) Ltd. v. Their Workmen 1962 XI L. L. J. 498 : [1962] 23 F.J.R. 171.

Such being the limited scope of interference by the Industrial Tribunal, power of this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution to interfere with the order of the Tribunal is still more limited. Respondent No. 2 has after consideration of various matters found no fault with the enquiry held by the management. As a matter of fact no grievance regarding victimisation or unfair labour practice or mala fides of the management in holding the enquiry was urged before me. The only points before me related to the ones which I have already discussed and which were about the competency of the disciplinary authority to take action or to the competency of the disciplinary authority in having taken action by ignoring certain relevant considerations. These points were decided against the petitioner by the Tribunal and in my opinion rightly. I have thus taken the same view as the Tribunal but even if I was inclined to take a different view from that of the Tribunal it would not have been possible for me to interfere with it merely on that ground. It is now well-settled that if there are two views possible and the view taken by the Tribunal is not an impossible one this Court, under Article 226 of the Constitution, cannot set it aside as the same cannot be said to be an error apparent on the face of the record. In my view, there is no illegality in the order of respondent No. 2, as would call for interference by this Court.

28. The result is that there is no merit in the writ petition and the same is dismissed but, in the circumstances of the case, with no order as to costs.


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