1. This is an appeal against the order of Rajagopalan, J., in Writ Petition No. 518 of 1956 which was filed by the Secretary and Correspondent of the Kalyanasundaram High School Education Society, Tanjore, for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Director of Public Instruction, Madras in R.O.C. No. 1046-G. 4/56 dated 20th April, 1956.
2. The appellant before us, who was the second respondent in the writ petition, was employed in the school as a teacher for over twenty years. He was appointed Headmaster of the school with effect from 1s June, 1951. Apparently there were differences between the management of the school and the appellant, and, eventually, on 13th May, 1955, the management served on him a notice in which several charges were made against him. These charges included negligence, inefficiency, incapacity to hold a responsible position and even temporary defalcation. The appellant duly submitted his explanation to those charges. He denied the charges and also stated that the charges were vague, but that he was willing to stand an open enquiry. He wanted to be given a fair opportunity to hear the evidence against him so that he could rebut the charges and vindicate himself.
3. On the 24th July, 1955, the Governing Body of the School passed the following resolution:
Read the explanation submitted by the Headmaster and the remarks of the then Secretary and Correspondent; Sri T. R. Seervai proposes that the very tone of the explanation offered by the Headmaster Sri V. Sarangapani Naidu, B.A., l.t., is not only insubordinate and insinuatory but also vague, unsatisfactory and irresponsible. The charges against him arc of very grave nature and constitute serious misconduct. In conseqnence of the charges framed and explanation obtained, the feelings between the Headmaster and the management have become strained. Considering the above facts, irrespective of the charges framed against him and in the interest of the institution and as per the terms of the agreement, the Headmaster be paid three months' salary in lieu of three months notice and that his services be terminated immediately.
In accordance with the resolution, the appellant was served with an order intimating him that his services were terminated with effect from the afternoon of the 24th July, 1955 and that he will be paid three months' salary in lieu of three months' notice as per the terms of the agreement.
4. Against this order of the managment of the school, the appellant filed an appeal to the Director of Public Instruction, Madras, evidently under Clause 10 of the Agreement of Service between him and the school authorities. On this appeal, the Director of Public Instruction passed an order on 20th April, 1956, the material portion of which runs as follows:
2. After careful consideration of this case, it has been decided that the prescribed procedure has not been followed when the services of the appellant was terminated.
3. The proceedings of the Committee state that it decided to terminate the services of the Headmaster irrespective of the charges. If the charges were completely ignored, then the punishment becomes invalid on that account.
If, on the other hand, the charges were also taken into account, as is presumably what is meant, then all the charges should have been deemed to have been taken into account including the charges of incompetence. There is a prescribed procedure for terminating the services of a member of the teaching staff for incompetence. This has not been followed in the present case as explained below.
It has been held that as the agreement executed by the Management and the appellant in his capacity as Headmaster on 28th July, 1952, does not contain any indication to show that the previous contract entered into between the management and the appellant as assistant should be deemed to have been rescinded or altered in any way and as the agreement of 1952 was not executed in supersession of, or as a substitute for the agreement of 1948, the terms contained in the previous agreement should be held to be binding even after the execution of the 1952 agreement. Therefore, notwithstanding the fact that Sri Sarangapani had not put in five years of service as Headmaster from 1st June, 1951 to 24th July, 1955, when the services were terminated, he should be deemed to be a permanent member of the staff and he did not lose the rights acquired by him under the prior agreement merely because he was appointed as Headmaster. The action of the management of the Kalyana-sundaram High School, Tanjorc, in terminating the services of Sri V. Sarangapani Naidu, the Headmaster of the School, without obtaining the previous permission of the District Education Officer, Tanjore West, was not in order with reference to Clause (7)(i)(b)(ii) of the agreement entered into by the appellant with the management of the school.
As the defect referred to above has vitiated the proceedings of the enquiry, the order terminating the services of the appellant has become null and void. The Director therefore directs that V. Sarangapani Naidu be reinstated in service forthwith.
5. Rajagopalan, J., held that the order of the Director of Public Instruction was vitiated by a wrong assumption that the termination of the appellant's services was on the ground of incompetence and it was because of this wrong assumption that the Director of Public Instruction held that the failure to obtain the previous permission of the District Educational Officer rendered the terminaton of the services of the appellant invalid. As there was no evidence for the finding of the Director of Public Instruction that the appellant was, or must be deemed to have been, discharged from service for incompetence, and as the appeal was allowed only on the basis of that finding, the learned Judge was of opinion that the order of the Director of Public Instruction should be set aside. He accordingly directed the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the order of the Director of Public Instruction.
6. This appeal can be disposed of on a short ground. We have carefully read the impugned order of the Director of Public Instruction and we are clearly of opinion that the order is not solely based on the ground that the permission of the District Educational Officer, Tanjorc West, had not been obtained before the appellant's services were terminated on the ground of incompetence. The order appears to us to be based on two alternative grounds. No doubt, the first ground was very briefly dealt with and, if we may say so, rightly that ground is that if the charges were completely ignored, then the punishment, that is to say the dismissal, was invalid on that account. Obviously, this has reference to the terms of the agrreement. Clause 7 of the agreement, in so far as it is material for the purposes of this appeal, runs thus:
7. (1) That the School Authority shall have the power to terminate the services of the said Teacher when he becomes a permanent member of the staff of the said school.
(a) Without notice for any or all of the following reasons:
Wilful neglect of duty; serious misconduct; gross insubordination; mental unfitness; suspension or cancellation of teacher's certificate by the Director of Public Instruction under the Madras Educational Rules.
(b) With three months' notice or three months' salary in lieu thereof for the following reasons : Incompetence, retrenchment, physical unfitness, or any other good cause.
(i) the School Authority shall not terminate the services of the said Teacher whether summarily or otherwise without informing him in writing of the grounds on which he intends to take action and giving him what in his view is a reasonable opportunity for stating his case in writing, and before coming to a final decision, shall duly consider his statement and if he so desires give him a personal hearing. * * *
7. In this case, the order of the management is on the footing that Clause 7(i)(b) is the relevant provision because in their order of dismissal they direct three months' salary to be given to the appellant in lieu of three months' notice. Under that provision, a teacher's services could be terminated only for certain stated reasons, viz., incompetence, retrenchment, physical unfitness or any other good cause. Under proviso (i) the teacher should be informed of the ground on which the authority intends to take action, viz., to terminative his services. In the present case, no doubt, a charge of incompetence and other charges were framed against the appellant and he was informed of them. But the management of the School did not eventually enquire into the charges and did not come to any finding on any of the charges. The resolution of the Governing Body of the School, in unambiguous terms, states that the management was terminating the services of the appellant irrespective of the charges. No doubt there is a statement that in the opinion of the management the appellant's services were to be terminated in the interests of the institution and because of strained feelings between the headmaster, i.e., the appellant, and the management. It is highly doubtful if these reasons would fall within the category 'any other good cause' found in Clause 7(1)(b) of the agreement. Even assuming they did, the teacher, i.e., the appellant, was never informed that these were the grounds on which the managment intended to terminate his services, it is clear to us--and it appears to have been equally clear to the Director of Public Instruction-that if the termination of the services was irrespective of the charges, that is to say if the charges were completely ignored, then the punishment was invalid on that account.
8. Having said so, the Director of Public Instruction dealt with the case on the alternative basis, viz., on the basis that the charges were also taken into account. We agree with Rajagopalan, J., that it was not necessary, really, for the Director to have dealt with the case on this basis in the face of the clear language of the resolution of the management. We would certainly have agreed with Rajagopalan, J., in his final order if the order of the Director of Public Instruction had been based solely on the ground that the services of the appellant were wrongly terminated on the ground of incompetence wihout obtaining the previous permission of the District Educational Officer. But as we have already stated, we do not read the order of the Director that way. We think that the order consists of two separate parts, and so far as the first part is concrned, viz-, the part in which the Director says that the termination becomes invalid if the order of the managment was irrespective of the charges, that is completely ignoring the charges, it stands by itself. It was not disputed before us that if the managment terminated the services of the appellant in contravention of the provisions of Clause 7 of the agreement, the appellant would have a right to appeal to the Director of Public Instruction under Clause 10 of the agreement.
9. In this view, the learned Judge Rajagopalan, J., was wrong in quashing the order of the Director of Public Instruction. The appeal is allowed and the petition filed by the managment, Writ Pcition No. 518 of 1956, is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs either in this appeal or before Rajagopalan, J. In the view we have taken, we have not gone into any of the objections raised by the appellant before Rajagopalan, J.
10. Of course this order of ours will not prevent the management from taking such steps as they may be advised to terminate the services of the appellant in accordance with the terms of the agreement and following the procedure laid down therein.