1. The petitioners are employees of the State Bank of India. The petitioner in W.P. No. 6860 of 1985 is attached to the Ganapathy Branch, Coimbatore. The petitioner in W.P. No. 9205 of 1985 is attached to the Santhome Branch, Madras. The petitioner in W.P. No. 6860 of 1985 has been visited with an order by the respondent therein, who is the Branch Manager, on 15th April, 1985 the contents of which run as follows :
'STAFF : AWARD
You have not completed the allotted working of writing the C & I SB DAY Book on 12th April, 1985 even though the relevant Day Book and vouchers were given to you in time. You should have completed the work but you have deliberately left the work unfinished. Therefore, you are not eligible for wage for 1 - hour on 12th April, 1985.
2. This is without prejudice to the Bank's right to initiate appropriate disciplinary action against you in this regard. The petitioner in W.P. No. 9205 of 1985 was given an order by the respondent therein, who is the Branch Manager, on 13th May, 1985 which runs as follows :-
'Failure to perform allotted work.
3. In the absence of one clerk on leave you have been assigned effective from 2nd May, 1985 by an office order to do the undernoted work in addition to the work already attached to your seat.
4. 'Lodging of cheques - LOCAL' It is observed that you have not written the savings Bank and Recurring Deposit Day Books attached to your seat on 2nd August, 1985, with the result the balancing of clean Cash Book/General Ledger could not be completed in time. However the work allotted to you has been completed by the officials of the Branch.
5. Since you have not performed the duties allotted to you on 2nd May, 1985, please note that you are eligible for wages on that day.
6. Please submit your explanation before the close of business today. This is without prejudice to any disciplinary action that the Bank might initiate against you in this regard'
'Two poins were urged by Mr. D. Murugesan, learned counsel for the petitioners, coveting quashing by this Court in Writ jurisdiction of the orders passed by the respondents, the respective Branch Managers and directing repayment of the wages cut. One is, the withholding of the wages for the day is absolutely unsustainable without resorting to the disciplinary action Mr. R. Sreekrishnan, learned counsel for the respondents, would try to sustain the impugned orders by stating that the conduct of the petitioners in not completing the work allocated to them would amount to non-performance of the work and hence there could be valid curtailment of the wages. He draws my attention to a circular letter addressed by the Head Office of State bank of India to all branches in Madras Circle on 11th November, 1983 and in particular to paragraph 3 and 4 thereof which runs as follows.
'3. During period of agitation, it is the general practice of a many employees to resort to non co-operation, go-show or work to rule, with the intent of disrupting normal work, as a measure of concerted action. We wish to clarify that failure/refusal to perform normal work, in a normal manner, would amount to breach of contract of service and the employees who fail/refuse would not be entitled to payment of wages for the day/days on which they persist in such failure/refusal. Such failure/refusal, would also amount to misconduct entitling the Bank to take appropriate disciplinary action against the concerned employees. In connection, notices on the lines of Annexure A suitably modified, where necessary, should be displayed.
'4. We would also like our Branch Managers/Departmental Heads to maintain a register in which names of employees who fail/refuse to do normal work should be recorded with particulars of work assigned and not carried out. The details so recorded should clearly indicate the nature of output and mistakes deliberately committed by the employees who have not turned out a normal days's work, care being taken to ensure that the details recorded are correct and duly authenticated by supervising officials and the Branch Manager under whom the employees are working. The employees should be advised in writing that they failed to earn the wages for the days(s) in question for the lapses noticed on their part on the lines of the Annexures B and C. Reference should be made to the Controlling Authority as regards wage cut with full details.'
7. I asked the learned counsel for the respondents as to whether this circular has got any statutory backing. Learned counsel admitted that it does not have. Equally so, learned counsel would also admit that it does not go to form a term or a condition in the contract of employment. In the absence of any specific provision in the contract of employment or in the statute, we could take it that there is no power available to the employer to straightway cut the wages on the ground that the employee has not completed the work allocated to him even though he did not absent from duty for the whole day or part of the day. It is not a case of the employee not turning up for work for the whole day or part of the day so that the question of absence from duty and denial of wages on that ground can be considered keeping in mind the principles enunciated in this behalf by pronouncements of courts. In the present cases, the employees did turn up for work and they did not absent themselves during any part of the day and the charges levelled against them are that they did not complete the work allocated to them though they were present for duty. This could only be the subject matter of scrutiny in a disciplinary action after satisfying the requisite formalities including the affording of an opportunity to the employees to make their say in the matters, and passing ultimate orders thereafter, and certainly there could not be straightway cut of the wages on the ground that the employees did not complete the work allocated to them as has been done by the impugned orders.
8. This is sufficient to interfere in writ jurisdiction and accord the reliefs asked for by the petitioners. However, the second point raised by Mr. D. Murugesan is that orders of the present nature could not be passed by the respondents because they are not authorities having disciplinary powers over the petitioners. In answer, Mr. R. Sreekrishnan, learned counsel for the respondents would draw my attention to clause 2 of Chapter II of the instructions relating to Delegation of Financial Powers of State Bank of India which contemplates plates the Head of an office and the Head of a department in an administrative office shall have powers to authorise payment of salaries and allowances and would contend that therefore he could also withhold payment of wages in contingencies like the present one. There is no need to go into this aspect because I have sustained the first ground of attack. The reasons expressed above oblige me to allow these writ petitions and accordingly these writ petitions are allowed. No costs. I make it clear that this order shall not stand in the way of the authorities concerned prosecuting the disciplinary action as contemplated in the impugned orders and passing ultimate orders thereon.