1. The petition was filed by the officer of the Central Bank of India praying that he be deemed to have been promoted and to give him all retirement benefits accordingly. In the departmental proceedings against the petitioner the Disciplinary Authority and the Appellate Authority has punished the petitioner with penalty of withholding of promotion under Regulation 4(C) of the Central Bank of India, Officers Employees' (Discipline & Appeal) Regulation, 1976. .. .... ....
16. Even a bare look at the above extracts from the proceedings and the orders will be sufficient to show that the whole enquiry has gone off the tangent. The charge was that the petitioner did not effect inspection. The evidence in the from of TA bills showed that he had effected inspection. So an attempt was made to spin a new charge without any attention of the petitioner being specifically drawn to it and the attempt is pitiable also. The MR alleged that the petitioner himself had not submitted the reports but submission was required to be made to whom was not at all made clear even in the finding. The MR then stated that the petitioner should not have sanctioned loans without obtaining relevant reports in this regard. The petitioner was never told that he had to obtain relevant reports and that in fact he had not. Something off the charge was alleged only at the time of inquiry. At the stage of the enquiry the MR asserted that the petitioner had not submitted report. I have already referred to this. So the only allegation at the time of the enquiry was that the petitioner had not submitted those reports. When the matter came to recording a finding, the Enquiry Officer stated that he had not obtained relevant reports. Thus there is evidently irreconcilable decision taken differently at different times. On this ground also, the finding can be said to be totally vitiated.
17. Mr. N. J. Mehta in this connection submitted that the word 'effect' would mean doing or getting things done. With respects, it is difficult to strain the language in the manner Mr. Mehta suggested. The charge that has been reproduced above would show that the only charge that was levelled against the petitioner was that he had failed to effect inspection but when it was found that he had effected inspections himself, both before and after the sanction of loans, a somersault was taken and a new case was sought to be created and that too in a half-hearted manner. It is, therefore, safe for me to conclude that there was no material whatsoever to bring home the charge and therefore the charge was vitiated in toto. The Appellate Authority in this regard simply observed that the petitioner had not obtained pre-sanction inspection report. The Appellate Authority in this connection mechanically reproduced what was found by the Enquiry Officer and accepted by the Disciplinary Authority. No note has been taken of the petitioner's assertion supported by documents that there were no guidelines issued in this regard, no provisions was alleged to be existing under which such reports were to be submitted by the petitioner or were to be obtained by him from the Agricultural Finance Officer and no mind was applied to the petitioner's assertion that in the initial stages he was told that it was not necessary for him to conduct these inspections himself and that he should rely on a specially appointed officer for dealing with the agricultural finances. Such important documents relied upon by the petitioner were at lest required to be considered and dealt with but inconvenient situations were totally ignored and this would also go to vitiate the enquiry, the findings and the punishment imposed on the petitioner.
18. On the above short grounds and without going into the question as to whether the Regulation 8 (Central Bank Officers Employees) (discipline & Appeal Regulations) 1976 was required to be followed despite introduction of Regulation 6 into Regulation 8, whether the proper documents were furnished or not, it is held that the findings are totally vitiated. They can be branded as perverse and the impression that has been left in my mind on the perusal of these proceedings, the part of which is already extracted above, is that the whole enquiry was initiated after about more than six years with an ulterior object in mind since the petitioner was emboldened to file a suit against the Bank in the City Civil court challenging the Bank's action of reverting him from his post and denying him other benefits and stopping his increments. His explanation was sought for in the year 1970 and he had furnished the same and if there was any case for holding department enquiry, nothing was there to deter the Bank from initiating the same then on within a reasonable time thereafter. The Agricultural Finance Officer was dealt with departmentally and his services were put an end to. The long period of six years lapsed and it was only after the summons of the suit was received, that this bogey of enquiry came to be started. As many as 39 charges were bundled of together and out of them only two charges can be allegedly made good and I have already shown that it was a feeble and faint attempt that was foredoomed to failure.
19. Before I leave this matter at this stage and go to the reliefs that could be granted to the petitioner, I would like to mention here what the Appellate Authority observed before confirming the order of punishment. It observed as follows :
'His (the petitioner's) intention and bona fides, however, were not questioned and the same have not been doubted ....... Nowhere in his finding the E.O. & D.A. has shown harsh or unjust approach. He has rightly said in his findings that it would not be fair to arrive at conclusion that because of A.F.O. was responsible for scrutiny of proposals prior to finance and verification of end use thereafter, the Branch manager had no role to perform. Branch Manager should have been aware of the fact that overall responsibility for the proper functioning of the branch was on him. If Shri Tripathi had exercised proper check and sized up the situation, several lapses/irregularities and excess disbursements would have been prevented.'
It is surprising that the word 'disbursements' figures for the first time at the fag end of this order. There never was any charge that there was any excess disbursement. This also would show that there is non-application of mind on the part of the Appellate Authority. As a matter of fact, one of the excess disbursements was held but was not pursued and still the Appellate Authority has clung to it. This also is indicative of some pre-determined mind working behind the whole operation.
20. The result is that the orders at Annexures 'G' and 'H' are required to be quashed and they are hereby quashed. The petitioner has prayed that a writ should be issued directing the Bank to treat the petitioner as deemed to have been promoted in June 1971 when the person next junior to him was promoted. It was asserted by the petitioner in the petition that the promotion went by seniority but that does not appear to be true because in the very paragraph 11 of the petition, the petitioner has stated that because of this cloud cast on his career, he was not permitted to appear before the screening committee and his case was not considered at all. This would mean that promotion goes not only by seniority but some merits are to be considered. As the petitioner was denied the consideration for promotion on the ground that departmental enquiry was contemplated as back as in the year 1977 because of the explanation sought for from him and in the reply to the petition it has been specifically stated that 'the promotion was not given to him as departmental proceedings were pending against him' vide page 105 of the petition. All that they can be directed is that the petitioner's case should be viewed as if no departmental enquiry was pending against him. His case will be examined afresh by adopting only those standards which were adopted at the time of selecting persons next junior to him in the seniority list two of whom are named by the petitioner in the petition and they are Shri C. S. Vakil and Shri V. J. Shah. A writ of mandamus shall, therefore, issue against the respondent-Bank directing them to consider the case of the petitioner for promotion in June 1971 on the basis and criteria on which the cases of the above said two persons were considered and finalised by the Bank authorities and if there is nothing other wise against him, he will be accorded due promotion and all incidental benefit flowing therefrom.
21. It was then submitted by Mr. Mehta that as the conclusion of the departmental enquiry and consequential penalty are set at naught for want of any proof in respect of the charges and other allied grounds already referred to above, this Court should declare that the Bank is at liberty to start fresh enquiry on the self-same charges. The petitioner has already retired from the service of the Bank by now. The allegations are pertaining to the period 1969-70. This means 12 years have already rolled by and the petitioner had already retired from service. Relying on the ratio of the Supreme Court laid down in the case of Union of India and others v. M. B. Pananaik and others [1981-I L.L.J. 453], I declare that the petitioner shall not be put to harassment by initiating a fresh enquiry of the self-same grounds and allegations that would amount to abuse of the powers of the public authority, namely, the respondent-Bank. I hasten to add, however, that ordinarily a fresh enquiry can be said to be open to be resorted to, but the two major facts, namely, that so many years have rolled by and the petitioner has already retired from service since 1980 show that such a libery cannot be reserved for the respondent-Bank. I, therefore, allow this petition by declaring the orders at Annexures 'G' and 'H' as quashed and directing the respondent-Bank to consider the case of the petitioner for promotion in June, 1971 in the manner already set out by me above and it is directed that the respondent-Bank shall release to the petitioner all other benefits on the basis of the promotion, if awarded to him in the light of the direction of considerations already issued. It goes without saying that other further benefits flowing from this situation will be available to the petitioner as matter of necessary corollary. In view from service, it is directed that his case shall be considered not later than 30th June, 1982. Rule is made absolute with costs.