IN THE HIGH COURT OF JHARKHAND AT RANCHI W.P. (S) No. 2297 of 2011 Md. Abul Lais Ansari son of Late A.M.F. Elahi Ufrouri at Present working as Panchayat Sewak, Baliapur Block, resident of village-Bhadri Chowk, P.O. Sijua, P.S. Jogta, District-Dhanbad. .... Petitioner Versus 1. The State of Jharkhand.
2. The Deputy Commissioner, Dhanbad.
3. Deputy Development Commissioner, Dhanbad.
4. District Panchayati Raj Officer, Dhanbad. Respondent No.2 to 4 having their respective offices at District Collectoriate, P.O., P.S. and District-Dhanbad.
5. Block Development Officer, Topchanchi, P.O. and P.S. Topchanchi, District-Dhanbad. ..... Respondents --- CORAM : HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE PRAMATH PATNAIK --- For the Petitioner : M/s P. K. Mukhopadhyay & Tejo Mistri, Advocates For the Respondents : J.C to G.P. IV ----- 03/17.11.2016 In the accompanied writ application, the petitioner has inter-alia prayed for quashing of the order dated 19.01.2011 (Annexure-4) passed by District Panchayati Raj Officer, Dhanbad (Respondent No.4) pertaining to award of punishment and the petitioner has further prayed for payment of full salary during the period of suspension i.e. from 31.08.2009 to 19.01.2011 with interest.
2. The brief facts as disclosed in the writ application, is that initially the petitioner joined Panchayat Sewak under the respondents in the year 2002 and posted in Topchanchi Block. While continuing as such, during the visit of Deputy Commissioner, Dhanbad (respondent no.2) at Topchanchi Block on the basis of allegations of some of the pensioners who had complained that for the last 8-9 months, despite repeated requests to the concerned Panchayat Sewak, their grievances have not been mitigated. On the basis of aforesaid complaints, the petitioner was placed under suspension by the order of the Deputy Commissioner, Dhanbad (respondent no.2) vide order dated 31.08.2009 as evident from Annexure-1 to the writ application. Thereafter, charges against the petitioner was framed by the respondent no.2 vide memo dated 18.09.2009 and the petitioner was asked to submit his reply. Thereafter, the inquiry officer was appointed, during the course of inquiry, the inquiry officer collected evidences and the allegations levelled against the petitioner have not been proved. It has been found in the inquiry, Bridha Pension of the concerned beneficiaries have been delayed on account of defects of the Bank Pass Books and there was no fault, laches and negligence on the part of the petitioner. The disciplinary authority basing on the inquiry report passed the order of punishment vide Annexure-4 to the writ application. In the impugned order, the following punishment has been imposed:- (I) Stoppage of two increments. (II) Withholding of the salary during the period of suspension minus the subsistence allowance. (III) The period of suspension would not be treated as break in service. Being aggrieved by and dissatisfied with the impugned order of punishment, the petitioner left with no other alternative efficacious and speedy remedy, has approached this Court invoking extra-ordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for redressal of his grievances.
3. Learned counsel for the petitioner has vehemently submitted that the impugned order of punishment dated 19.01.2011 passed by the respondent no.4 is absolutely arbitrary, illegal and has been passed based on unfounded allegations. Learned counsel for the petitioner further submits that the impugned order of punishment dated 19.01.2011 passed by the respondent is harsh, excessive and disproportionate to the alleged charges. Learned counsel for the petitioner further submits that there is absolutely no justification on the part of the respondents to pass the impugned order of punishment when the allegations made by the beneficiaries of the Bridha Pension scheme have been found negatived by the inquiry officer and the inquiry officer has clearly opined that there is no laches on the part of the petitioner but the said pension was delayed on account of some defects in the Bank Pass-Books. So in absence of any proved misconduct the impugned order of punishment dated 19.01.2011 vide Annexure-4 to the writ application is not legally sustainable.
4. Per-contra, controverting the averments made in the writ application, a counter-affidavit has been filed by the respondent nos.2 to 5. Learned counsel for the State, J.C to G.P IV has reiterated the submissions made in the counter-affidavit. During course of hearing, learned counsel for the State has assiduously submitted that vide Annexure-1 of the writ application, the order of suspension has been passed on the basis of complaints of old age pensioner that they were not being paid pension for the last 8-9 months despite repeated requests to the petitioner. On enquiry from the Bank Official it was reported that for furnishing wrong bank account number of the pensioner despite repeated request to the petitioner, no positive step taken by him. It has further been stated in the counter-affidavit that no major punishment has been awarded against the petitioner as provided under Section 33 of the Manual of Departmental Proceeding rather punishment awarded to the petitioner comes on minor punishment as provided under Section 32 of the said Manual. It has further been stated in the counter-affidavit that the aforesaid minor punishment awarded to the petitioner without break in service of the period of suspension, withholding two increments on non-cumulative effect on account of dereliction of duty and misconduct on the part of the petitioner for delay in payment of monthly pension to the old age pension holder for 8-9 months.
5. After hearing, learned counsel for the respective parties at length and on scrutiny of the relevant documents, I am of the considered view that the petitioner has been able to make out a case for interference due to the following facts, reasons and judicial pronouncements stated hereinbelow: (I) On perusal of the charge, it is quite apparent that the allegations made by the pensioners for non-payment of the pension due to inaction, negligence on the part of the petitioner has been inquired into by the inquiry officer and when the inquiry officer has not found the allegations levelled against the petitioner to be proved rather he has recommended awarding for giving 'warning' to the petitioner. Though, the allegations levelled against the petitioner have not been proved to be hilt by the inquiry officer but inquiry officer has suggested for award of 'warning' to the petitioner probably on the negligence, laches being shown by the petitioner in not submitting the correct Pass-Books. It was incumbent on the part of the Panchayat Sewak who transmitted to correct Pass-Books to enable the beneficiary to receive without any hindrance or impediments. Though, the charges have not been proved on the laches on the part of the petitioner, but it has not been completely ruled out. Therefore, considering the allegations levelled against the petitioner vis-a-vis findings of the inquiry officer it is quite apparent that the punishment inflicted on the petitioner appears to be grossly disproportionate and as to the alleged misconduct. On that scope, the case of the petitioner ought to be considered afresh by the disciplinary authority on the question of quantum of punishment. (II) It would be profitable to refer to a decision rendered by the Hon’ble Apex Court in the case of Damoh Panna Sagar Rural Regional Bank v. Munna Lal Jain, as reported in (2005) 10 SCC84 in particular paragraph 15, which is quoted herein below:
“15. To put differently unless the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority or the appellate authority shocks the conscience of the court/tribunal, there is no scope for interference. Further to shorten litigations it may, in exceptional and rare cases, impose appropriate punishment by recording cogent reasons in support thereof. In the normal course if the punishment imposed is shockingly disproportionate it would be appropriate to direct the disciplinary authority or the appellate authority to reconsider the penalty imposed.”
6. In view of the allegations stated hereinabove and logical sequitur, the impugned order of punishment dated 19.01.2011 vide Annexure-4 to the writ application is hereby quashed and set aside and the matter is remitted back to the respondent no.2 to consider the case of the petitioner on the question of quantum of punishment and pass appropriate orders within a period of 3 months from the date of receipt/production of copy of this order. With the aforesaid direction, the writ petition stands allowed. (Pramath Patnaik, J.) RKM