1. This is a petition filed by a State Transport Bus Conductor challenging the order, Annexure 'B' dated 20th June, 1978 passed by the Divisional Director, State Transport Corporation of the Gujarat State.
2. The petitioner had been a conductor serving in the State Transport Corporation for 10 years prior to the institution of the proceedings. He was holding a permanent post. The petitioner claimed that he had at his back an unblemished record of faithful service. The unfortunate incident that allegedly brought about his removal order is stated by him in his petition. On 8-6-1978 he was the conductor in the bus that started its journey from Ahmedabad and was bound for Mitha-Ghoda. A girl named Shakuntala boarded the bus from Sanand. The petitioner did know, because of the rush in the bus, that she was bound not for the terminus of the route. There were about 10 to 12 passengers in the bus after it left Khara-Godha. The petitioner then found that she was to get down at Kharagodha and was not to go to Mitha-Ghoda. The girl according to the petitioner, got down at Mitha-Ghoda along with other passengers and went to the place of the village Sarpanch and by the next morning by the very bus she went with her relatives to Viramgam. On 14-6-1981 that is after six days, the sensitive news in the Jai Hind Daily about the reported misconduct of the conductor with the girl under the caption 'If True, Shameful' came out. On the basis of that report in the Press, the Security Department of the respondent-Corporation had conducted some ex parte preliminary inquiry and the respondent No. 2 had called the petitioner on 20th June, 1978 and asked him to give his statement in that regard. The petitioner stated in his statement what the truth was and denied categorically of his having taken any liberty with the girl. According to the petitioner, hardly had he finished his statement about the alleged incident on that day, namely, 20th June, 1978, before the respondent No. 2 the Divisional Director of the State Transport Corporation Mr. Raj Guru passed, then and there, the impugned order Annexure 'B', discharging the petitioner from service with immediate effect as per the provisions of Rule 61 of the State Transport Employees Regulations. The petitioner, therefore, filed this petition. The petitioner had appended to his petition the affidavit of the girl Shakuntala and of the Sarpanch of the village Mitha-Ghoda and also the affidavit of the girl Shakuntala's uncle. In my view this is redundant because this Court is not sitting in judgment on the merits of the matter.
3. Mr. B. H. Brahmbhatt, the learned advocate appearing for the petitioner told that the impugned order Annexure 'B' which bears the garb of discharge simpliciter is in effect a penal order intended to punish the petitioner summarily for the alleged misconduct attributed to him as a possible misconduct that might have taken place on that night, i.e., on 8-6-1978.
4. The affidavit-in-reply has been filed by Mr. Raj Guru, the respondent No. 2 herein. Time and again he stated in his reply that his action was rooted in the State Transport Employees Regulations Rule 61 and that the services of the petitioner were terminated as his service were not found to be 'satisfactory', trust worthy and useful in the interest of the 'Corporation'. He denied that the order was passed by way of punishment to the petitioner for the alleged incident but the services of the petitioner were not 'useful to the Corporation' and therefore, the impugned order, Annexure 'B', was passed. It is to be noted that the deponent did not deny that he had summoned the petitioner to his office and had taken his statement in connection with the press report and had passed the impugned order then and there.
5. The Supreme Court has time and again said such innocent - looking order in the facts and circumstances of the case can be screened and X-rayed so that a public authority does not abuse its powers. Let us apply the above ratio to the facts of the present case. The petitioner's statement in the petition was that he was a permanent employee of the ST. Corporation no having at his back any bad record as far as his service was concerned. There is no denial of the fact that a news item was flashed in the Jai Hind Daily on 14-6-1978 attributing the possible outraging of the modesty of the girl Shakuntala at the hand of the conductor of St. Corporation. It cannot be gainsaid that the conductor that was aimed at was a person none other than the petitioner. Mr. Raj Guru does not dispute that fact that he had held an ex parte preliminary inquiry into the alleged incident nor did he dispute the fact that on 20th June, 1978 he had summoned the petitioner to his office to have his personal say in the matter. The order, Annexure 'B' came to be passed immediately. Can it be said in this background that the petitioner's services were not needed by the State Transport Corporation In the affidavit-in-reply the cat has partly come out of the bag Mr. Raj Guru says that the petitioner's services were not found to be satisfactory, trustworthy and useful in the interest of the Corporation. A man who had been serving the Corporation for 10 years past and was a permanent employee of the Corporation was overnight found to be a useless person. Why his services were not required should have been elaborated by Mr. Raj Guru in his affidavit-in-reply. He simply banked on the Rule 61 of the State Transport Employees Regulations. In my view the power reserved by the said Regulation 61 has been abused by the respondent No. 2 under the guise of exercising that power. He wanted to visit this petitioner with punishment for his alleged worthlessness and alleged unworthiness and his alleged unsatisfactory performance or character.
6. The Supreme Court had an occasion to deal with a situation akin to the one on hand in a case that went to that Court from this Court. The Supreme Court in the case of Gujarat Steel Tubes Limited v. Its Mazdoor Sabha, reported in [1980 I L.L.J. 137], has observed as follows :
'The form of the order of termination or the language in which it is couched is not conclusive. The Court will lift the veil to see the true nature of the order .... If two factors co-exist, an inference of punishment is reasonable though not inevitable. If the severance is effected, the first condition is fulfilled and if the foundation or causa casuans of such severance is the servant's misconduct the second is fulfilled. If the basis or foundation for the order of termination is clearly not turpitudinous or stigmatic or rooted in misconduct or visited with evil pecuniary effects, then the inference of dismissal stands negated and vice versa .... The Court will find out from other proceedings or documents connected with the formal order of termination what the true ground for the termination is .... A termination effected because the master is satisfied of the misconduct and of the consequent desirability of terminating the service of the delinquent servant, it is a dismissal, even if he had the right in law to terminate with an innocent order under the Standing Order or otherwise. Whether in such a case the grounds are recorded in a different proceeding from the formal order does not detract from its nature. Nor the fact that, after being satisfied of the guilt, the master abandons the enquiry and proceeds to terminate. Given an alleged misconduct and a live nexus between it and the termination of service the conclusion is dismissal, even if full benefits as on simple termination, are given and non-injurious terminology is used. On the contrary, lien if there is suspicion of misconduct, the master may say he does not wish to bother about it and may not go into his guilt but may feel like not keeping a man he is not happy with. He may not like to investigate nor take the risk of continuing a dubious servant. Then it is not dismissal but termination simpliciier if no injuries record of reasons or punitive pecuniary cut back on his full terminal benefits is found. For, in fact, misconduct is not then the moving factor in the discharge'.
7. In my view the case of the State Transport Corporation is absolutely defenceless. I am surprised, that not only the order, Annexure 'B', had come to be passed but it has been sought to be stuck to. It is really unfortunate that even public officers like the Divisional Director of the State Transport Corporation, the respondent No. 2 herein did not know the limitations on his public powers and that is why he has tried to justify an action which is ex facie untenable in the facts and circumstances of the case. The petition, therefore, is allowed. It is declared that the order, Annexure 'B', passed by the Divisional Director of the State Transport Corporation, the respondent No. 2 herein, terminating the service of the petitioner, is bad at law and the petitioner continues in the employment of the respondent State Transport Corporation. The Corporation is hereby directed to reinstate the petitioner in service with full backwages with continuity of service and all other benefits, if any. Rule is accordingly made absolute with no order as to costs.