1. This is a writ application by Ramanand under Article 226 of the Constitution challenging his order of reduction in rank under circumstances presently to be mentioned.
2. The petitioner held the post of a Loco Foreman on the Northern Railway. He was posted at Delhi Serai Rohilla Railway Station on the 35th July, 1957. On the last-mentioned date, theDivisional Mechanical Engineer, Bikaner Division, Bikaner, served him with a charge-sheet in connection with certain complaints arising against him. The petitioner repudiated the charges, but his explanation was not considered satisfactory, and an enquiry was ordered against him by the said officer. Shri K.N. Mathur, an Assistant Mechanical Engineer was appointed Enquiry Officer. The enquiry was held from the 9th November, 1957, to the nth March, 1958. The Enquiry Officer found the petitioner guilty of all the charges levelled against him, except for a part of charge No. 2 to which we shall refer at the proper place, and was of the opinion that the petitioner was unsuitable for holding the charge of the responsible post of a loco foreman and submitted his report to the Divisional Mechanical Engineer.
The latter then issued a notice to the petitioner on the 29th April, 1958, to show cause why he should not be reduced to the post of a charge-man on a salary of Rs. 350/- P.M. for a period of two years without affecting his future increments and seniority at restoration. The petitioner submitted his objections, which were overruled, and by an order dated the 12th September,1958, he was awarded the punishment mentioned above. Against that order, the petitioner went in appeal to the Divisional Superintendent of the Northern Railway, Bikaner Division, Bikaner. This appeal was rejected on the 29th January,1959. It is in these circumstances that the petitioner has come up with the present writ application.
3. Now, before we summarise the grounds of attack raised by the petitioner against the order of his reduction, we think it necessary to mention the charges which were raised against the petitioner by the Divisional Mechanical Engineer. These were as follows: -
'(1) For failing to show any improvement in your working in spite of repeated bad confidential reports.
(2) For failing to improve in your dealings with the staff although this has been pointed out to you a number of times, verbally and in writing. The more recent cases of this nature were conveyed to you vide this office letter No. CRF/M/ HQ/1 dated 26-4-57 and Nos. 40-CON dated 3-6-57 and 29-6-57.
(3) For failing to carry out instructions issued vide this office circular No. 96M-01 dated 4-1-57 viz., you had certified that the steam pumps under your charge were in a good condition and that the only assistance you needed was some spare leather buckets. The instructions for personally checking up the steam pumps to avoid steam pump failure were recirculated vide this office letter No. 96-M-0 of 29-3-57. It was observed on 5-6-57 during my inspection of your shed that the stand by steam pump was not in a working condition and the water supply to Delhi Serai Rohilla failed completely on the night of 17-18/6/1957 due to failure of the injector for which you did not arrange any spares for emergencies. This has affected the train operation.
The above falls under Rule No. 1708 R (i) i.e., continued inefficiency.
4. For remaining absent from your office on 26-6-57 and attending office at 14.00 hours on 27-6-57 on having been called for by the Divisional Accounts Officer, Bikaner, but marking presence in the Attendance Register for both these days.' It may also be noted here that the instances mentioned vide office letter No. CRF/M/HQ/1 dated the 26th April, 1957, in the second sentence of charge No. 2 were dropped by the Enquiry Officer.
4. We shall now mention the various grounds of attack, on which the petitioner relies, in support of his writ application.
(1) The Enquiry Committee, inasmuch as it consisted of only one member, was legally not competent to make the inquiry, and the contention is that it must properly have consisted of at least two members, and, therefore, the entire proceedings taken by the Enquiry Officer were of no consequence.
(2) The inquiry was also bad because the Enquiry Officer failed to give a written Charge-sheet to the petitioner at the commencement of the inquiry.
(3) Furthermore, the petitioner's complaint isthat he was deprived of a reasonable opportunity of defending himself at the inquiry and therefore also the order of dismissal passed against him must foe quashed.
Reliance was placed in support of this ground on the following factors:-
(a) The petitioner was not furnished with the copies of the confidential reports referred to in charge No. (1).
(b) The petitioner's defence witnesses, a list of whom had been supplied by him to the Enquiry Officer on the 27th January, 1958, were not allowed to be summoned or examined by that Officer.
(c) The venue of inquiry which was originally fixed at Delhi was in the middle thereof changed to Bikaner and thereby it became difficult for the petitioner to produce his defence witnesses at the inquiry.
(d) The charges Nos. (1) and (2) were vague, inasmuch as, they did not furnish the requisite particulars on which they were based.
We may point out at this place that one more ground was mentioned in the writ application to the effect that the Divisional Mechanical Engineer Bikaner, who had reduced the petitioner to the post of a chargeman, was not competent to do so; but this was abandoned at the time of arguments, and, therefore, we shall say nothing more about it.
5. The application is opposed on behalf of the Divisional Mechanical Engineer, Northern Railway, Bikaner, and the Divisional Superintendent, Northern Railway, Bikaner.
6. We shall now deal with the aforementioned grounds in the order in which we have mentioned them above.
7. The first ground of attack is that the constitution of the Enquiry Committee, inasmuch as it consisted of only a single officer, was wrong and illegal, and, therefore, the whole inquiry was bad. Our attention has been invited in this connection to Appendix B to Sanjiwa Row's Indian Railways Act Volume 2 (Third Edition) at page 1094 and the following pages: The heading is 'Procedure' for conducting Enquiries under the Disciplinary Action Rules'. The preamble in Clause (a) lays down that this supersedes all previous instructions on the subject; and Clause (b) further lays down that these are supplementary instructions to those given in Rule 1707 and Rule 1730 of the Railway Establishment Code, and what follows further is important, and is this:-
'When a competent authority orders an enquiry or when an enquiry is obligatory under the Disciplinary Action Rules the following procedure must be followed. These rules do not apply to preliminary fact-finding enquiries, enquiries connected with accidents or summary enquiries held in connection with punishments inflicted on persons guilty of negligence which may result in accidents.'
Then Rule 1 (c) is in these terms:-
'(c) For Senior Class III staff, enquiries shall be conducted by senior scale Assistant Officers. The number of persons serving on an enquiry committee shall be at least two, and the members of the committee should be practically of the same status, one not being subordinate to another; in case of offences of a very serious nature, the number of the members of the committee should be increased to three, of whom two should be from departments other than that to which the employee whose conduct is under enquiry belongs.'
It is conceded before us and is indeed indisputable that the petitioner belonged to the category of Senior Class III staff.
8. From what we have pointed out above, it is clear that these are statutory rules, and a failure to comply with them has to be held to be illegal.
9. Our attention was invited in this connection by learned counsel for the respondents to Rule 42 of the Rules for non-gazetted railway servants of the Northern Railway published by its General Manager, which hereinafter we shall for facility of reference refer to as the Rules. Rule 42 occurs in Chapter V namely 'Constitution of departmental inquiry committees and rules for their business' and its material portion reads as follows:-
'A departmental inquiry committee should normally consist of two or three gazetted officers. There is, however, no objection to a single officer being nominated to hold the departmental inquiry in circumstances warranting such a course.'
At the very outset, we may point out thatthis compilation is a hand-book which seeks topresent in a concise and consolidated form the Discipline and Appeal Rules relating to non-gazettedrailway servants on the Northern Railway with aview to ensure that rules on the subject are correctly understood and applied whenever it becomes necessary to take disciplinary action againstits staff. It is, however, clearly provided thatnothing in this hand-book is to be taken to implyany amendment or supersession of rules in theRailway Establishment Code, (see the preface ofthis hand-book.)
10. Now coming to the rule itself as laid down in this compilation, it is clearly laid down that a departmental inquiry against a member of the non-gazetted staff should be held normally by two or three gazetted officers, although it has been further laid down that there would be no objection to a single officer to be nominated to hold a departmental inquiry where circumstances warrant such a course. For one thing, we are not at all sure whether Rule 42 can supersede the procedure laid down in Appendix B to which we have made reference above. So far as we think, it cannot. For another, even Rule 42 in the hand-book lays down that normally a departmental inquiry should consist of two or three gazetted officers, though it adds a rider that a single-officer-inquiry would also be permissible where circumstances warrant such a course. In our opinion, before the last-mentioned course can be accepted as correct, the circumstances warranting it must clearly appear from the order appointing the departmental inquiry.
Curiously enough, no order appointing the departmental inquiry seems to have been passed in this case, much less is there anything to show that there were circumstances attending this case wherein a single-officer-inquiry should be held to be proper. Under the circumstances, it seems to us that the constitution of the inquiry committee in the present case cannot be sustained as correct in law. We may also add in this connection that we are not unmindful that in the charge-sheet served to the petitioner on the 25th July, 1957, it was mentioned that he was sought to be proceeded against under Rule 1708 of the Railway Establishment Code. That, however, does not make any difference to the procedure which was and should be held to be correctly applicable to the inquiry in a case like the present where reduction in rank was contemplated. The reason is that Rule 1707 came to be amended from the 18th July, 1956, and the procedure laid down thereunder which was earlier applicable only to a case of dismissal was also prescribed for cases of dismissal, removal and reduction.
We may also point out in this connection that consequential amendment was made in Rule 1712. This rule as it stood before the amendment governed the procedure for inquiries where an order imposing the various penalties mentioned in Clauses (2) to (6) of Rule 1702 was to be passed. In other words, the last mentioned rule applied in the case of an order of reduction to a lower post or time scale or to a lower stage in a time-scale and thereby the more elaborate procedure prescribed under Rule 1707 was excluded in a case of this kind. By a like amendment in this rule which came into effect from the 18th July, 1956, this rule was also amended and the procedure laid down thereunder was to be confined where a penalty specified in Clauses (2) to (4) and (6) of Rule 1702 was imposed and Clause (5) namely, reduction to a lower post or time scale or to a lower stage in a time-scale was taken out of the ambit of this rule.
In these circumstances, we have no hesitation whatsoever in coming to the conclusion that the procedure prescribed under Rule 1707 of the Codemust govern cases of orders of reduction also. If this is the correct conclusion to come to, as we think it is in the absence of any other material having been placed at our disposal, we think that the constitution of the departmental inquiry in the present case must be held to be bad, and with it must fall the entire proceedings at the inquiry and the resultant action taken against the petitioner. In view of the conclusion at which we have arrived on this point, it may not be strictly necessary to deal with the other grounds of attack raised by the petitioner but as full-dress arguments were addressed to us on the other points also and they are of importance and some of them go to the very root of the matter, we have thought it both desirable and necessary to give our considered findings on them.
11. The second contention is that the Inquiry Officer failed to give the various charges in writing to the petitioner at the commencement of the inquiry and therefore the enquiry was bad and must be quashed on that ground also. Reliance is placed in this connection on Rule 49 of the Rules. This rule, in so far as it is material for our present purpose, is in these terms :-
'49 (a). After going through the charge-sheet which was served on the accused railway servant, the inquiry committee shall make out a list in writing of unadmitted charges, deliver it to him and explain the same to him.'
The meaning of this rule, put in plain language, is this. The inquiry committee shall take up the charge-sheet, which has already been served on the railway servant against whom the inquiry has to be made, and ask him whether he admits any of the charges, and thereafter shall make out a list in writing of all such charges as have not been admitted by him and deliver it to him, and, at the same time, explain the charges to him.
It is admitted that this procedure was strictly not followed in the present case. We are, however, of opinion that a breach of this rule by itself would hardly be sufficient to vitiate the inquiry. The proceedings of the 23rd November, 1957, (Ex. 4) clearly show that all the four charges were read over and explained to the petitioner by the Enquiry Officer and that he was also informed that in so far as the second charge was based on the complaint of the sweepers, it had been dropped it having been already found that this part of the case against the petitioner was not correct and that his action was fully justified. All that, therefore, remained to be done was that a fresh list of charges had not been given to the petitioner at the time of the commencement of the inquiry excluding that part of charge No. 2 which had been dropped.
We are clearly of opinion that a failure like this is hardly sufficient to vitiate the inquiry which was held against the petitioner. In this connection we may refer to A.K. Vyas v. State of Rajasthan, ILR (1960) 10 Raj 1419, to which one of us was a party, wherein it was held that a departmental inquiry should be conducted in accordance with the rules of natural justice and if such rules are substantially followed and no prejudice is caused to the officer concerned, a mere failure to observe aparticular rule should not be enough to quash the inquiry. We, therefore, overrule this contention.
12. This brings us to the third contention which, if we may say so, appears to us to be more formidable. The first branch of this contention relates to the failure of the inquiry officer to supply the various confidential reports referred to in charge No. 1. In their reply, the respondents have submitted that an extract from the adverse confidential report for the year ending 30th June, 1953, had been communicated to the petitioner but his acknowledgement was not traceable, and, further, that no confidential report was written against him for the year 1954 as the petitioner was under suspension, and, as for the confidential reports relating to the years 1955 and 1956, it was pointed out that 'the representations of the petitioner were recorded.' It was further submitted that it was not necessary to send any reply to those representations or to hold any inquiry in regard to these confidential reports. The point made by learned counsel for the respondents was that the substance o the charge against the petitioner was not what was contained in the confidential reports against him but that he had failed to show any improvement in his working in spite of such reports, and, therefore, it was submitted that it was not necessary to furnish him with copies of those confidential reports.
We have carefully considered this aspect of the case and we feel bound to point out that we are not much impressed by the submission made on behalf of the respondents. It is true that the substance of the charge against the petitioner was that he had failed to show any improvement in his working during the past few years in spite of bad reports against him. But it is implicit in this allegation that his various failings had been mentioned in the confidential reports, and quite obviously the improvement that was expected of him was in those respects in which he had been found deficient as mentioned in the various confidential reports made against him from time to time. It seems to us, therefore, that, in fairness and in order to provide the petitioner with a reasonable opportunity of defending himself against the charge of failure to improve, these confidential reports should have been made available to him.
We also think that it is no answer to this to say that he was aware of some of these reports already. The reason is simple that at the time he was made aware of them, it was not considered necessary to hold any inquiry against him. And it is equally clear that it would be only reasonable to hold that when an inquiry had been initiated against the petitioner in respect of his failure to show improvements with respect to the various matters entered against him in the confidential reports, such reports should have been made available to him at the time of the inquiry. It also seems to us that on the emphasis which learned counsel for the respondents laid as to the substance of this part of the charge, the charge was delightfully vague, inasmuch as, apart from the bad confidential reports which were not made available to the petitioner, no instances of lack of improvement were mentioned therein to which the petitioner would be expected to reply; but there, we are perhaps anticipating what we would have to say hereafter about this at the proper place.
13. The point that we wish to emphasize is that where a charge against a government servant is sought to be founded substantially on some documentary material against him, such material must be made available to him during the course of the inquiry, and it would be no answer to this that it was unnecessary to make such material available to the servant concerned because he was already aware of it at some earlier stage. See Amulya Ratan v. Dy. Chief Mechanical Engineer, Eastern Rly., AIR 1961 Cal 40 in this connection. This point, therefore, is not without force.
14. The next complaint under this head is that the inquiry officer had completely refused to summon and examine certain departmental witnesses whom the petitioner wished to examine in his defence and thereby he had been seriously prejudiced in his defence. The answer of the respondent on this aspect of the case is that these witnesses had not been summoned as the inquiry officer did not consider them material to the matters under inquiry, and it was further submitted in this connection that the said officer had given his reasons for not examining those witnesses in his report which appears at page 216 of the paper-book. The relevant extract from the report reads as follows :
'17 witnesses were examined in respect of charge contained in item 2 regarding dealings with the staff. Shri Ramanand requested for certain defence witnesses to be examined but the request was not accepted as nothing substantial relating to the charges was said to be contained in their statements which are placed at SN 20 and 21 of this file.'
The statement to which reference has been made by the inquiry officer is Ex. 6. It seems that when, after the evidence for the prosecution had been closed, the petitioner filed an application to summon six departmental witnesses in his defence, he was asked to give some particulars as to how the evidence of those witnesses would be relevant. Ex. 6 is the application which contains those particulars. This is dated the 29th January, 1958. The case was then adjourned for a number of times to enable the petitioner to produce his other witnesses but these he entirely failed to produce. Thereafter he submitted his written defence on the nth March, 1958, and offered himself for cross-examination which was made. The inquiry officer then submitted his report, and it was for the first time in this report that the reasons were recorded for not summoning the petitioner's witnesses.
The contention of the respondents is that a discretion had been allowed to the inquiry officer under the rules to refuse to call any witness suggested by the railway servant. The relevant portion of rule 49 of the Rules reads as follows :
'The committee shall record in the presence of the accused all evidence in support of the charge as well as his defence along with any evidence which he may adduce in defence. The committee may however, for special reasons to be recorded in writing,' refuse to call any witness suggested by the railway servant and record evidence of any witness otherwise than in his presence.' (The underlining (here into ' ') is ours).
We may as well quote here Rule 11 of the Rules headed as 'Procedure for conducting enquiries under the Disciplinary Action Rules' contained in Appendix B of Sanjiwa Row's Indian Railways Act to which we have made reference above. This rule is as follows :
'For reasons to be recorded, the enquiry committee can refuse to call any witness who is not material to the defence or if it is felt that his presence is being asked for only to delay proceedings or to harass the proposed witness.'
There is, therefore, no question that, in an appropriate case, a power has been vested in the inquiry officer to refuse to summon any witness where such witness may not be material to the defence or where the object is merely to protract the proceedings or to harass a particular witness. But this power is, quite obviously, an exceptional power, and its exercise should, in our opinion, be rare, and for very good reasons which, as the rule itself lays down, must be recorded in writing. It must be remembered, therefore, that where an inquiry officer chooses to exercise this power, he must do so for cogent reasons which must bear scrutiny and must not be a matter of mere whim or caprice of the inquiry officer.
15. Now, let us see whether the discretion which was exercised against the petitioner was properly exercised in all the circumstances of the case. In the first place, we should like to point out that, whenever such a question arises, the reasons for the exercise of discretion against the government servant must be stated at the time when the question arises. A subsequent recording of the reasons, in our opinion, is likely to defeat the very purpose of the rule. No reasons were stated in the present case by the inquiry officer at the appropriate time, but he chose to record them in his final report.
16. Even if we were to accept this as good enough the question that next arises is whether the inquiry officer was right in thinking that the witnesses would have nothing to say relevant to the charges, and, therefore, they need not have been summoned. It was submitted to us by learned counsel for the petitioner that the notes which were supplied by the petitioner to the inquiry officer as indicating the topic or topics on which the various witnesses who were to be summoned would depose were extremely brief and should not be deemed to have been stated exhaustively. It was further pointed out that the petitioner had not submitted a long list of departmental witnesses whom he wished to be summoned, and that the total number of such witnesses was only six, and it should have hardly taken a couple of days to record their evidence. It was also brought to our notice in this connection that the prosecution had examined as many as 17 witnesses and their evidence covers some thing like 92 typed pages. It was also made the subject-matter of trenchant criticism before us that lot of evidence was allowed to be brought on the record from these witnesses which pertained to events subsequent to the date of the charge, that is, the 25th of September, 1957.
It was also submitted before us in this connection that one of the charges against the petitioner was his bad treatment towards the members of the staff working under him, (Charge No. 2) andthat some of these witnesses who were all departmental employees and had worked with the petitioner would have been competent to give evidence on this part of the case, and, in particular, our attention was drawn to two witnesses, namely, E.N. Pol and Ram Swaroop mentioned in the list Ex. 6 who were required to be produced to explain the difficulties of the petitioner in his relationship with the staff, and that such evidence could not be rejected as entirely irrelevant. These submissions, in our opinion, have a good deal of force. As we have already pointed out above, the power to refuse to summon or examine witnesses in defence of a government servant at a departmental inquiry is a very extraordinary power, and the greatest care and caution is necessary for the exercise of such power, else the servant concerned would be perfectly justified in raising the complaint that he has been deprived of a reasonable opportunity of defence.
We are not at all satisfied that this power was duly or properly exercised in the present case. Nay, we are disposed to hold that the inquiry officer acted with undue zeal in refusing to summon just a few departmental witnesses whom the petitioner wished to produce in his defence. It seems to us that if the petitioner's relations with his staff were so execrably bad, as they are alleged to be, every thing was to be gained by the examination of these witnesses, even so far as the case for the prosecution was concerned. Under the circumstances, we are constrained to hold that there was a clear violation of the principle of reasonable opportunity of defence enshrined in Article 311 of the Constitution in the present case on account of the failure of the inquiry officer in the respect mentioned above, and, therefore, the departmental inquiry-was vitiated.
17. It was earnestly submitted before us that the inquiry officer had acted bona fide and, therefore, we should not interfere with his discretion in this case. This argument is without any substance, and here we cannot do better than to refer to the decision of their Lordships of the Supreme Court in State of Madhya Pradesh v. Chintaman, AIR 1961 SC 1623 wherein the following observations, which furnish a complete answer to the submission raised on behalf of the respondents, were made :
'It cannot be denied that when an order of dismissal passed against a public servant is challenged by him by a petition filed in the High Court under Article 226, it is for the High Court to consider whether the constitutional requirements of Article 311(2) have been satisfied or not. In such a case it would be idle to contend that the infirmities on which the public officer relies flow from the exercise of discretion vested in the enquiry officer. The enquiry officer may have acted bona fide but that does not mean that the discretionary orders passed by him are final and conclusive. Whenever it is urged before the High Court that as a result of such orders the public officer has been deprived of a reasonable opportunity, it would be open to the High Court to examine the matter and decide whether the requirements of Article 311(2) have been satisfied or not.'
That was a case of dismissal; but Article 311 equally applies in the case of reduction in rank,and, therefore, the observations extracted above would fully cover the instant case. Their Lordships further held in the case cited above, as, with respect, it was laid down in a case of this very Court in ILR (1960) 10 Raj 1419 (Supra), that the broad requirement which must needs be fulfilled is that a
'departmental inquiry should observe rules of a natural justice and that if they are fairly and properly conducted, the decisions reached by the enquiry officers on the merits are not open to be challenged on the ground that the procedure followed was not exactly in accordance with that which is observed in Courts of Law.'
Applying this test, we are categorically of the view that the inquiry officer in the present case had completely 'failed to exercise his discretion in a proper or judicious manner, and, therefore, the action taken against the petitioner on such an inquiry cannot be sustained in law.
18. The third contention under this head was that the inquiry officer had changed the venue of enquiry during the middle thereof from Delhi to Bikaner, and thereby it became extremely difficult for the petitioner to produce his other defence witnesses at the inquiry. Although this ground was hotly pressed by learned counsel during the course of arguments before us, we would decline to go into it as no specific mention thereof has been made in the writ application. We have no doubt that if the change of venue to which objection is now taken had any effect on the course of inquiry, the petitioner would not have failed to mention it in his writ application or to make a grievance of it before the inquiry officer. As he did nothing of the kind, we are clearly of the opinion that this is an afterthought, and we are not prepared to hold that the petitioner was deprived of a reasonable opportunity of defending himself on account of any such change.
19. The last branch of contention under this head is that two of the charges levelled against the petitioner were extremely vague ' and therefore it was not possible for him to defend himself. The charges Nos. I and 2 to which objection is being taken in this regard have already been set out by us in full. Put briefly, these charges were (1) that the petitioner had failed to show any improvement in his working in spite of repeated bad reports against him which reports had not been supplied to him during the course of the inquiry and (2) that he had failed to improve in his dealings with his staff (and in the last-mentioned connection reference was made to some complaint contained n letters No. 40 Con. dated the 3rd June, 1957 and 29th June, 1957). There can be no gainsaying the position that charges like these are very easy to make and they are extremely difficult to meet. On the principles of natural justice, which are the ultimate guide in a proper determination of matters of this character, it seems to us that such charges throw the person charged completely, and, if not completely very largely, at the mercy of his accusers, and for the simple reason that they are not specific and are quite general and vague, they afford an almost limitless opportunity for those minded to run down a government servant to say what they like against him without any check whatsoever.
We are, therefore, disposed to hold that either the charges themselves must be more specific, or they must be based on specific allegations as to persons or events and time and place which should be supplied along with the charges to the government servant concerned so that he may have a reasonable opportunity of defending himself at the inquiry.
20. We feel considerably fortified in the observations we have made above by rule 21 of the Rules. This rule provides a form for a charge-sheet and this is in Appendix B. We cannot do better than to quote this Appendix in extenso here :
(To be used where the penalty of dismissal or removal or reduction is proposed to be imposed).
(1) ................................................ Youare hereby charged with :
(2) ....................................... under rule.............................. of Indian RailwaysEstablishment Code Vol. I in that you at...........................
(3) ........................ on the ............... dayof ............ 19
(4) ................................................ 2. You are hereby called upon to show causewhy you should not be dismissed/removed fromservice/reduced in rank or punished with any ofthe lesser penalties specified in Rule 1702, IndianRailways Establishment Code Vol. 1.The fact and/or circumstances whereon thecharge (s) has/have been based are as related in theannexure hereto.
3. 'You are hereby given seven clear days from the date of receipt of this charge-sheet to answer this charge/these charges by a written explanation and to state whether you desire to be heard in person and also whether you desire to be accompanied by another Railway servant of this railway or an official (who is not a professional lawyer) of a recognised Trade Union of this Railway at the hearing. If so, a panel of three names should be given in order of priority after ascertaining from the persons indicated that any one of them if called upon would be prepared to act as your counsel.'
4. You are required to acknowledge receipt of the charge-sheet on the form subjoined.
(5) ........................... (Place/Station).
(6) ........................... (Date)
(7) ........................... Signature.......................... Designation.
(N.B.--For explanatory notes regarding the number in brackets please turn over)
-------------------------------------------------- RECEIVED CHARGE SHEET, DATED..............
Signature or thumb
impression of Employee
This charge sheet is to be used-when the proposed penalty is dismissal/removal from service/reduction in rank except when the employee is convicted by a Court of law.
The following explanatory notes which should be connected to small numbers in brackets in theblank spaces of the charge sheet, are issued for guidance of all concerned :
(1) Here enter the full name, designation, headquarters station and ticket No. (if any) of theaccused.
(2) Here enter the appropriate charge or charges (word for word) as enumerated in Rule 1706/1706-R. I. Should the space not suffice for a whole catalogue of charge framed a continuation, sheet of charges can be attached, the fact that this is done being suitably mentioned in the space lefton the form.
(3) Here enter the place at which the offenceoccurred, when a number of lapses, offences or instances of inefficiency spread over a period of time have to be specified the blanks after the figure (3) should not be filled in but the words during the period between ..................... and .....................should be substituted for the printed words and blank spaces following the figure (3).
(4) Here enter a concise account of the offence for which the charge sheet is being issued. In caseof multiple charges each item of the account to beentered here should be serially numbered to correspond with the respective charges, and if necessary, a continuation sheet should be attached, the fact that this is done being suitably mentioned in thespace left on the form.
(5) Here enter the place at which the chargesheet is issued.
(6) Here enter the date on which the charge-sheet is issued.
(7) Here the charge sheet is to be signed by the officer competent to issue it.
21. We would in particular focus attention on Explanatory Notes marked as Nos. 3 and 4 above. These notes clearly bring out the broad requirement that a charge, in order to be proper and in order that it may give a reasonable opportunity for defence must not be vague or general but must be clear-cut and specific. The failure to observe this fundamental requirement is bound to make the inquiry a snare and a weapon of oppression instead of a safeguard for justice and fairplay.
22. Now, what happened in this case will be presently seen. When the charges were first served on the petitioner on the 25th July, 1957, he submitted his reply on the 4th August, 1957, and in this reply he raised the following complaint :
As regards charge No. 1, he said :
'I should certainly have attempted to effect further improvements in working if any specific defects therein were pointed out to me, instead of relying upon general definition of routine terms.' As regards charge No. 2: he also objected in these terms :
'Where and in what respect do I lack in my dealings with the staff? Without knowing this I must leave this remark ........................ The allegationis vague.'
In his written statement filed before the InquiryOfficer, the petitioner again pointed out that the charge of inefficiency against him was vague. He further complained :
'I must place on record that these inimical employees who were brought to the enquiry by the Union officials have made statements as tutored which are irrelevant to the charge under investigation, and it is unfortunate that this pure and straight slandering has been recorded in the proceedings of this enquiry. I note, however, what your goodself, as the enquiring officer told me, viz., to ignore all the irrelevant portions in the statements of witnesses and not to give any defence in respect of those irrelevant portions.'
In his reply to the 'show cause notice' again, the petitioner submitted that the charges framed against him were vague and that the requisite particulars thereof had not been furnished to him together with the charge-sheet, and in this connection he specially pointed out that charges Nos. 1 and 2 were quite vague. This complaint went unheeded with the result that we have reasons to believe that lot of matter was brought on the record of the inquiry which was utterly irrelevant and unconnected with the charges. Reference may be made in this connection to the appeal filed by the petitioner to the Divisional Superintendent wherein he has given a long list as to how the various witnesses were freely allowed to depose to incidents which clearly related to the post-charge period--a procedure which we are entirely unable to appreciate. There is nothing to show that the Enquiry Officer in preparing his report had excluded all this irrelevant material out of his consideration. We have no hesitation in saying that if these charges had been framed with sufficient particularity pointing out in what specific respects the petitioner had failed to show improvement in his working in spite of repeated warnings and further how and with respect to whom and on which particular occasions he was found to have improperly dealt with the staff under him, the wrong shape which this inquiry appears to us to have taken would have been entirely avoided.
23. In the result we have felt persuaded to hold on the whole that the complaint of the petitioner that he was deprived of a reasonable opportunity of his defence on account of the charges under discussion being vague and general, and the necessary particulars thereof having not been furnished to him at the commencement of the enquiry, is not without force, and, we, therefore, hold that the entire proceedings taken against the petitioner must be held to be bad on this ground also.
24. The net result is that for the reasonswhich we have mentioned at length above, we mustallow this application, set aside the order of reduction against the petitioner and quash the inquiryupon which that order has been founded. We mayadd, however, that this will not stand in the wayof the respondents, if they so think fit, to issue afresh charge-sheet to the petitioner giving properparticulars of the allegations with reference to whichthe inquiry may be contemplated to be made, andhave a fresh inquiry made into his conduct according to law. Having regard to all the circumstancesof the case, we would make no order as to costs.