1. While the petitioner, Raman, was working as Warehouse Superintendent at Karur under the Madras State Warehousing Corporation, the respondent herein, he was served with a charge memo dated 9-5-1968 pointing out certain lapses. Before final orders could be passed on the matter, he was served with a memo of additional charges for alleged lapses of insubordination, indiscipline and dishonesty. On 16-9-1968, he was placed under suspension and was relieved of his duties with effect from 19-9-1968 and thereafter 12 consolidated charges were framed against him. He was asked to show cause before 20-11-1968 as to why he should not be removed from service for those charges. On 4-11-1968, he submitted a letter to the Managing Director stating that he had already submitted his explanation on 22-5-1968 in respect of the charge memo dated 9-5-1968, that he was not responsible for the charges framed against him and that he might be allowed to explain his grievances in an open enquirey. He followed up this by a subsequent explanation dated 22-11-1968 in which he repudiated the allegations made against him in support of the charges and prayed that the charges may be dropped. In that explanation he did not say that an oral enquiry should be held or that any witnesses on his side should be examined. Thinking that the petitioner had not asked for an oral enquirey and overlooking the request already made by him in his communication dated 4-11-1968, the Managing Director considered the explanation and held that the explanation was not acceptable and the charges were proved. On 21-2-1969, the Managing Director passed the following order:
'He is found to be guilty of all the 12 charges now framed against him and the case was submitted to Chairman with the recommendation for removal from service as indicated in the charge memo and the Chairman has agreed with the recommendation made.
As such, according to Regulation No. 12(7) of the Madras State Warehousing Corporation staff Regulation housing Corporation staff Regulations 1965, Thiru S. V. Raman Warehouse Superintendent is removed from the services of the Madras State Warehousing Corporation with effect form 16-2-1968 A. N.'
It is to quash this order that this petition under Article 226 of the Constitution has been filed.
2. The petitioner contends inter alia that the order of the respondents is in violation of the provisions of the Regulations which enjoin upon the Corporation to follow a particular procedure in departmental action, and that the said procedure has been violated and that, as such, the entire proceeding is vitiated. It is also his submission that no opportunity was given to him to prove his innocence in spite of the fact that he had asked for an open enquirey.
3. On behalf of the respondent, a counter affidavit has been filed alleging inter alia that the procedure followed is in accordance with the regulations, that, as the petitioner did not want an oral enquiry to be conducted in his explanation dated 22-11-1968, no oral enquiry to be conducted in his explanation dated 22-11-1968, no oral enquiry was held and that, therefore, the enquiry is not in any way vitiated. It is further contended that the respondent being only a statutory corporation, this petition, filed under Article 226 of the Constitution, is not maintainable. Further, it is contended that under the Regulations, the petitioner is entitled to prefer an appeal to the Chairman of the Executive Committee against the order of the Managing Director and that without exhausting the remedy of the appeal, the petitioner is not entitled to invoke the writ jurisdiction of this court.
4. The respondent, Madras State Warehousing Corporation, is a body corporate established by the Madras State Government by virtue of the powers conferred on them under Section 18 of Warehousing Corporation Act, 1961 (Central Act 58 of 1962). This Act was passed providing for the incorporation and regulations of corporations for the purpose of warehousing of agricultural produce and certain other commodities and for matters connected therewith. This Act confers power upon the Central Government to establish a Corporation by the name of t he Central Warehousing Corporation. The Act defines the functions of the Central Warehousing Corporation under Section 11 of the Act. Chapter III deals with State Warehousing Corporation. It is by virtue of Section 18 that the State of Madras established the respondent Corporation. Section 24 of the Act specifies the functions of the State Warehousing Corporation. The functions are:--
(a) acquiring and building godowns and warehouses at such places within the State as it may, with the previous approval of the Central Warehousing Corporation, determine;
(b) running warehouses in the State for the storage of agricultural produce, seeds, manures, fertilisers, agricultural implements, and notified commodities;
(c) arranging facilities for the transport of agricultural produce, seeds manures, fertilisers, agricultural implements and notified commodities to and from warehouses;
(d) acting as an agent of the Central Warehousing Corporation of the Government for the purposes of the purchase, sale, storage and distribution, of agricultural produce, seeds, manures, fertilisers, agricultural implements and notified commodities; and
(e) carrying out such other functions as may be prescribed.
According to Section 18, the State Warehousing Corporation is a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal, with power to acquire, hold and dispose of property and to contract, and may, by the said name, sue and be sued. It is contended for the respondent that he State Warehousing Corporation is not an 'authority' within the meaning of Article 226 of the Constitution and that, therefore, this petition, filed under that Article, is not competent. Clause (1) of Article 226 of the Constitution runs thus--
'226 (1) Notwithstanding anything in Article 32, every High Court shall have power, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercise jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by part III and for any other purpose.'
Under this Article, this court can issue any of the writs to any person or authority for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose. The word 'authority' is not defined in the Constitution. The word 'authority' occurs in Article 12 in which it is stated that he expression 'the State' includes the Government and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India or under the control of the Government of India. The question arose for consideration before the Supreme Court in Electricity Board Rajasthan v. Mohanlal, : (1968)ILLJ257SC whether the word 'State;' occurring in Article 12 would include the Electricity Board of Rajasthan, a body corporate, constituted under the Electricity Supply Act, 1948 (Central Act 54 of 1948). At page 1862 it is observed:
'The meaning of the word 'authority' given in Webster's Third New International Dictionary which can be applicable is 'a public administrative agency or corporation having quasi-governmental powers and authorised to administer a revenue producing public enterprise. This dictionary meaning of the word 'authority' is clearly wide enough to include all bodies created by a statute on which powers are conferred to carry out Governmental or quasi-governmental functions. The expression 'other authorities' is wide enough to include within it every authority created by a statute and functioning within the territory of India, or under the control of the Government of India, and we do not see any reason to narrow down this meaning in the context in which the words 'other authorities' are used in Article 12 of the Constitution'.
On the above principle, the Supreme Court held that the Electricity Board of Rajasthan was clearly an authority to which the provisions of Part III of the Constitution were applicable.
5. In the instant case, judging from the functions of the State Warehousing Corporation, it is manifest that the respondent-corporation, created under the statute, has powers to carry out certain functions which are quasi-Governmental in nature. No doubt it is a body corporate. But that does not make it any the less an authority enjoined with certain quasi governmental functions.
6. There is a long catena of cases in which it has been held that a person aggrieved can invoke the writ jurisdiction of this court under Article 226 of the Constitution or of the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution against statutory corporations in regard to proceedings against their employees. In Life Insurance Corporation v. Sunil Kumar Mukherjee : (1964)ILLJ442SC the Supreme Court dealing with the case of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, held that where the services of its employees were terminated on the ground that their performance was found poor by the committee specially appointed for the purpose without any enquiry or without giving any opportunity to the concerned employee, the orders are liable to be quashed. In Mafatlal Barot v. Divisional Controller State Transport, Mehsana, : (1966)ILLJ437SC the Supreme Court pointed out that courts can interfere with the orders of dismissal by the Road Transport Corporation. See also D. L. Board Calcutta v. Jaffar Imam, : 1966CriLJ189 . This court also has consistently taken the view that under the writ jurisdiction it can interfere if there is breach of any statutory duty governing a public body even though the relationship between the aggrieved person and the statutory body may be that of an employee employer under a contract of service. See TCM Pillai v. Indian Institute of Technology, ILR (1965) Mad 24 and Ramanujam v. Zonal manager, L.I.C., : (1968)2MLJ21 .
7. For the foregoing reasons I hold that this petition is maintainable.
8. Section 42 of the Act confers power upon the Warehousing Corporation to make regulations for the purpose of giving effect to the provisions of the Act. Sub-section (2) of Section 23 provides that every person employed by a State Warehousing Corporation shall be subject to such conditions of service and shall be entitled to such remuneration as may be determined by regulations made by the Corporation under the Act. By virtue of the powers of making regulations, the respondent has made the Madras State Warehousing Corporation General and Staff Regulations, 1965. Among other things, the regulations provide for the disciplinary action, the punishments that could be imposed, the authorities who could impose the punishment. the authorities to whom appeal should be preferred and the procedure to be followed in imposing penalties. Regulation 13 providing for the procedure to be followed in imposing penalties is almost in pari materia with Rule 17 of the Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules. According to this regulation, the delinquent shall be required, within a reasonable time, to put in a written statement of his defence and to state whether he desires an oral enquiry or only to be heard in person and an oral enquiry shall be held if such an enquiry is desired by the person concerned. It is also provided that at the oral enquiry evidence shall be heard as to such of the allegations as are not admitted and the witnesses who give evidence in support of the charge. After the enquiry is completed, the person charged is entitled to put in, if he so desires, any further written statement of his defence. After the enquiry is completed and after the authority competent to impose the penalty has arrived at a provisional conclusion in regard to the penalty to be imposed, the person charged shall be supplied with a copy of the report of the enquiring authority and be called upon to show cause within a reasonable time, against the particular penalty proposed to be inflicted.
In the instance case, this mandatory provision was flagrantly violated. In answer to the charge memo dated 9-5-1968, the petitioner submitted an explanation on 22-5-1968. When the consolidated charges were framed against him on 16-9-1968, the petitioner gave two explanations, one on 4-11-1968 and the other on 22-11-1968. In the former explanation, he categorically stated that he was innocent of the charges framed against him and that he should be allowed to explain his grievances before the Chairman in an open enquiry. No doubt, the second explanation dated 22-11-1968 was filed after the expiry of the time given to him for submission of hid explanation. But that explanation was not rejected on the ground of late submission. As a matter of fact, that explanation. was taken into account by the respondent and it is read as one of the documents in the proceedings drawn by the respondent. It is obvious that the managing Director lost sight of the explanation dated 4-11-1968 in which the petitioner demanded an open enquiry. Under the erroneous assumption that no request for enquiry was made by the petitioner the Managing Director merely considered the written explanation given by the petitioner and proceeded to hold that all the charges framed against the petitioner were proved by records. This conclusion is vitiated and is unsustainable. The petitioner was also not served with a final memo setting out the provisional conclusion arrived at by the Managing Director with regard to penalty and he was not asked to show cause as to why the said penalty should not be imposed. In this view also, the proceeding is vitiated. In the result. the order of removal of the petitioner from service is unsustainable.
9. The objection that the petitioner is not entitled to apply under Article 226 of t he Constitution without exhausting his remedy of appeal provided under the Regulations, is without substance. No doubt, under the regulations, the petitioner was entitled to file an appeal to the Chairman of the Executive Committee. But in the order passed by the Managing Directory removing the petitioner from service it is stated that the case was submitted to the Chairman with the recommendation for removal of the petitioner from service and the Chairman had agreed with the recommendation made therein. It is rightly contended on behalf of the petitioner that, inasmuch as the Chairman has already come to a conclusion adverse to him it was not incumbent upon the petitioner to exhaust the formalities of an appeal to the Chairman. Therefore, in the peculiar circumstances of this case in which the petitioner was placed, it was not incumbent upon him to prefer an appeal to the Chairman before applying to this court.
10. In the result, the writ is allowed and the order of the respondent dated 21-2-1969 is set aside. There will be no order as to costs. This, however, does not preclude the respondent from initiating fresh proceedings and from dealing with the matter in accordance with law, if so desired.
11. Petition allowed