1. The writ petitioner is the appellant before this Court. He was appointed as Store Keeper in the Wood Working Unit cum Training Centre, Pondicherry, with effect from 18th March, 1965, as per the order of the Director of Industries, Pondicherry, dated 30th March, 1965. The Wood Working Unit was inspected and stock verified by Thiru T.S. Vijayaraghavan, Stores Superintendent, Pay and Accounts Office, Pondicherry, from May, 1969 to June, 1969. As per the inventory taken by him there was shortage of stock worth about Rs. 93,542.91. The matter was enquired into by the Vigilance Department, Pondicherry, at the instance of the Director of Industries. As a result of the said enquiry, the Director of Industries, who is also the disciplinary authority, framed four charges against the appellant and held an enquiry under Rule 14 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965. Out of the four charges levelled against the appellant, the Enquiry Officer held that charges 1 and 2 had been proved and proposed to impose on him the penalty of dismissal from service. The appellant was issued a show cause notice on 30th September, 1972, calling upon him to show cause why he should not be dismissed from service. The appellant submitted his explanation on 2nd November, 1972, and after consideration of that explanation, the Disciplinary Authority, by its order dated 6th November, 1972, dismissed the appellant from service. The appellant thereafter filed an appeal before the Government of Pondicherry, on 9th December, 1972, and the appeal was dismissed on 30th January, 1973. Thereafter the appellant filed a Writ Petition before this Court for quashing the order of dismissal. The two contentions raised in the writ petition are--
(1) The appellant was considerably handicapped in putting forward his defence, as the filing of documents and the examination of the witnesses by the department were done without prior notice to him; and
(2) While taking charge of the wood working unit, the Administrative Officer instructed him to take charge of the stock without physical verification, and as the Administrative Officer conducted the enquiry, there was an element of bias, and the enquiry stands vitiated.
2. A learned single Judge of this Court, held:
(1) The appellant's case that he was instructed to take charge without physical verification of the stock by the Administrative Officer has not been established.
(2) Where there is some evidence which the authority entrusted to hold the enquiry has accepted, and if such evidence reasonably supports the conclusion reached by the competent authority, it is not the function of the High Court to review the evidence and arrive at an independent finding on the same evidence:
and in this view, the finding of the Disciplinary Authority on the first charge cannot be interfered with(3) With regard to the second charge, it has been substantially admitted by the appellant and he has merely given certain extenuating circumstances, and that will not exonerate the appellant from the second charge.
On these findings the learned single Judge of this Court confirmed the order of dismissal passed by the Competent Authority and dismissed the writ petition. Against the order of dismissal of the writ petition, the appellant has filed the present appeal before this Court.
3. The learned Counsel for the appellant contended that the Enquiry Officer was the Administrative Officer at the time when the appellant took charge as store keeper in the wood working unit and it was on his instructions he took charge and signed the registers without a physical verification of the stock and he is not competent to hold the enquiry. Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation, Hyderabad and Anr. v. Sri Satyanarayana Transport (Private) Ltd., Guntur and Ors. : AIR1965SC1303 the learned Counsel for the appellant contended that the person trying a cause in quasi-judicial proceedings must not only act fairly, but must be able to act above suspicion of unfairness, but his previous conduct gives ground for believing that he cannot act with an open mind and deal with the matter before him objectively, fairly, and impartially, any enquiry conducted by him is vitiated on the ground of personal bias. Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in Dr. G. Sarana v. University of Lacknow and Ors. : (1977)ILLJ68SC the learned Counsel further contended that in deciding the question of bias, human probabilities have to be taken into consideration, and if there is a possibility of bias animating the mind of the Enquiry Officer against the appellant and there is a reasonable ground for believing that he was likely to have been biased, the enquiry conducted and the findings arrived at are vitiated by the doctrine of bias.
4. The plea that the Enquiry Officer had a personal bias and his previous conduct gives ground for believing that he cannot act with open mind, is based on the allegation that the Enquiry Officer while functioning as the Administrative Officer at the time the appellant took charge, instructed him to take charge without physical verification of the stock, and he just obeyed the orders of the Administrative Officer. The appellant had taken charge as Store Keeper from P.W. 4. The evidence of P.W. 4 is that physical verification of the stores was actually done by the appellant from 18th March, 1965 to 31st March, 1965 in the presence of the Head Carpenter Navakody, Mr. Kannan, a skilled worker and some other trainees of the wood working unit. The appellant has signed the handing over statement (M.A.I) and taking over statement (M.A.2) on 30th March 1965, duly countersigned by the then Manager. The evidence of P.W. 4 thus establishes beyond doubt that the appellant took over the stock after physical verification. When examined by the Enquiry Officer, on 4th July, 1972, the appellant has given the following statement:
Enquiry Officer : Have you not checked up at least some items in the stock physically before taking over charge?
Venkatesan : No.
Enquiry Officer : Then how many days will it take just to sign the handing over papers and registers?
Venkatesan : 13 days.
Enquiry Officer : Why so much time?
Venkatesan : There might have been some practical difficulties which I do not remember now.
Enquiry Officer : What would be the practicals difficulties just for signing the papers? Can you at least refresh or recollect and tell me?
Venkatesan : I do not remember.
The above answers given by the appellant, to the questions put by the Enquiry Office only probabilise the fact that he took over charge only after physical verification of the stock. More over it is significant to note that the appellant has nowhere stated, during the course of the enquiry, that he signed the registers without physical verification of the stock as instructed by the Administrative Officer. The evidence does not establish that at the instance of the Administrative Officer the appellant signed the registers without verifying the stock. As the plea of bias is built up on an allegation which is not substantiated by evidence, the plea has to be rejected.
5. At no stage of the Enquiry the appellant objected to the Administrative Officer holding the enquiry, on the ground that he is personally biased and that he cannot act in a fair and impartial manner. If what the appellant now alleges is true, he would have certainly objected at the earliest opportunity and protested against the Administrative Officer holding enquiry in this case. Having not done so and having acquiesced in the Administrative Officer conducting the enquiry, it is too late for the appellant to raise the plea that the Administrative Officer has a personal bias and the enquiry conducted by him is vitiated on account of that bias.
6. In the explanation submitted by the appellant on 12th July, 1971, he has stated that in his letter dated 27th July, 1969, he has requested the Administrative Officer to put an end to the practice of issuing stores without proper requisition and posting, in the stock register. The appellant has also given a list of stores which were handed over to him and acknowledgment obtained subsequently. The learned Counsel for the appellant contended that these documents should have been sent for by the Enquiry Officer and marked as Exhibits and considered by him, and since this has not been done, the whole enquiry is vitiated. The learned Counsel further contended that Exhibit M.A.11, the copy of the report of the Stores Superintendent, to the Chief Secretary was not furnished to the appellant and he has been deprived of a reasonable opportunity to properly defend himself in the domestic enquiry conducted by the Enquiry Officer. In support of this contention, the learned Counsel relied on the decisions of the Supreme Court reported in Estate of Madhya Pradesh v. Chintaman Sadashiva Waishampayan A.I.R. 1961 S.C.1623. State of Maharashtra v. Bhaishankar Avalram Joshi and Anr. : 3SCR917 and The Kesava Mills Co., Ltd. and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors. : 3SCR22 . It is significant to note that this plea is taken up for the first time only in the appellate Court. Even in the writ petition there is no allegation that the documents were not sent for and that a copy of Exhibit M.A. 11 was not supplied to the appellant, and there was thus denial of reasonable opportunity to the appellant in the domestic enquiry. There is also nothing to indicate that the appellant wanted these documents to be filed as exhibits and that it was refused by the Enquiry Officer. As pointed out by the Supreme Court in State of Maharashtra v. Bhaishankar Avalram Joshi and Anr. : 3SCR917 . whether a reasonable opportunity has or has not been afforded to the Government servant depends upon the facts of each case and it must also be shown that the Governments ervant was prejudiced on account of the non-supply of the copies of the documents. Exhibit M.A. 11 is a report submitted by the Stores Superintendent to the Chief Secretary, and non-supply of a copy of this report could not have had the effect of depriving the appellant of a reasonable opportunity to defend himself in the domestic enquiry. Absolutely no prejudice has been caused to the appellant by the Enquiry Officer not sending for the documents referred to in the explanation submitted by the appellant on 12th July, 1971. The documents in question are merely to substantiate the plea of the appellant that some stock issued on the basis of the instructions issued by the higher authorities have not been entered and if those issues were entered, the shortage will not be much. The issue of articles referred to in the written explanation submitted by the appellant and which have not been given credit, are only a few in number, and it can in no way disprove the charge No. 1 levelled against the appellant. The plea that the appellant has lost a reasonable opportunity of presenting his case on account of the Enquiry Officer's failure to send for the documents and furnish a copy of Exhibit M.A. 11, cannot be accepted as the appellant had in fact an effective opportunity to defend himself against the charges framed against him. In all cases where Administrative Officers are functioning as Enquiry Officers, the duty is not so much to act judicially, but to act fairly and the enquiry authority in the instant case has certainly conducted the enquiry fairly, impartially and in a reasonable manner. The plea of the learned Counsel for the appellant that there was lack of reasonable opportunity to put forth his defence cannot be accepted and has to be rejected.
7. In the decision reported in Channabasappa Basappa Happali v. The State of Mysore : 2SCR645 it was held:
At a departmental enquiry facts have to be proved and the person proceeded against must have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and to give his own version or explanation about the evidence on which he is charged and to lead his defence. Where the delinquent admitted all the relevant facts on which the decision could be given against him it could not be said that the enquiry was in breach of any principles of natural justice.
In the instant case the appellant in his written explanation admitted that he did not make entries pertaining to those scantlings issued on 31st August, 1965, then and there and the entries were made only after the verification of the stock by Thiru T. S. Vijayaraghavan in May-June, 1969. Since the second charge has been admitted by the appellant, the plea of violation of the principles of natural justice, cannot survive, so far as the second charge is concerned. In State of Orissa v. Bidyabhushan Mahapatra : 1SCR648 the Supreme Court held that where the punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority on a Government servant was based on two charges and when the matter came before the Court it is held that one of the two charges was established, it is not for the Court to consider whether the charge taken to be proved alone would have weighed with the Disciplinary Authority while punishing the public servant especially when the punishment can be supported on any of the charges. In the decision reported in State of Andhra Pradesh v. C. Venkat Rao : (1976)ILLJ21SC the Supreme Court held that where there is some evidence which the authority entrusted with the duty to hold the enquiry has accepted and that evidence reasonably supports the conclusion reached by the Competent Authority, it is not the function of the High Court to review the evidence and arrive at an independent finding on that evidence. As there is some evidence in support of the findings given by the Disciplinary Authority in respect of the first two charges, we see no reason to interfere with those findings.
8. In the result, the appeal fails and stands dismissed, in the circumstances without costs.