1. The petition is filed by the Assistant Branch Manager of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, for the records connected with the order of the Zonal Manager, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Madras, dated 29 April 1965, dismissing the petitioner form service as confirmed by the order of the Chairman, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Bombay, dated 3 December 1965.
2. The petitioner joined the New India Assurance as organizer in the year 1955 and was absorbed in the said Corporation as a Development Officer when the Corporation was established in 1956. He was promoted as Class I Officer in September 1962. The petitioner was served with a charge memorandum containing two charges on 20 November 1964. He filed a written statement to the charge memorandum on 3 December 1964, denying the charges. On 16 December 1964, Sri S.T.V. Chari was appointed as enquiry officer. On 12 January 1965, the Divisional Manager framed an additional charge and an enquiry was conducted between 18 and 24 January 1965. On 5 April 1965, a show-cause notice was issued to the petitioner, to which the petitioner sent his reply on 15 April 1965. The Zonal Manager dismissed the petitioner by his order dated 29 April 1965, and an appeal t the Chairman was also rejected on 3 December 1965.
3. Sri Mohan Kumaramangalam, learned Counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the proceedings of the Corporation are vitiated by the fact that principles of natural justice were not observed in the enquiry conducted against the petitioner. Secondly, he submitted that the authorities relied on a letter written by the Accounts Officer, Natarajan, as substantive evidence, without affording an opportunity to the petitioner to question about letter relied on. Thirdly, he submitted that the enquiry officer relied on a confessional statement made by stenographer Natarajan in an enquiry conducted against him without giving an opportunity to petitioner to cross-examine the stenographer Natarajan. Sri V.K. Thiruvenkatachari, learned Counsel for the Life Insurance Corporation of India, took a preliminary objection to the maintainability of the writ petition by the Life Insurance Corporation of India, is not liable to be interfered with in writ proceedings.
4. In order to appreciate the contentions of the counsel, the material facts ma be set out. The Zonal Officer wrote a confidential letter to the Divisional Manager, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Mathurai, enclosing C.R. 7 and C.R. 8 forms and also the pro forma for lapsed details. The Divisional Manager was asked to submit the particulars for deciding the question of confirmation of the petitioner as an Assistant Manager. The Divisional Manager was asked to send the report in a cover marked 'Secret to be opened by the addressee only.' This letter was received at the office of the Divisional Manager. Contrary to the instructions, a letter was sent from the divisional office to the petitioner requiring the petitioner to furnish the details called for by the Zonal Officer. The petitioner came to Madurai and collected the information form the branch office and sent the data sheets to the Divisional Manager, Life Insurance Corporation of India, Medical. It was subsequently found that the figures furnished regarding the number of policies that lapsed, were not correct. By a letter dated 30 June 1964, the petitioner was asked to explain the difference in figures given by him and the figures that were reported by the branch office. That petitioner replied on 5 July 1964. He stated that on receipt of the letter from the divisional office on 19 July 1963, he went to the office of the Divisional Manager, Madurai, on 25 July 1963 and collected the information and furnished the figures that were given to him by the branch office to the divisional office and returned to Tirunelveli.
5. There charges were framed against the petitioner which may be extracted in full:
(1) That while you, functioning as Assistant Branch Manager, Development, Tirunelveli, called at Madurai Branch Unit No. 1 on 25 July 1963, to collect some information regarding your lapses and not finding the Branch Manager, requested the assistant in the development section of the branch to give the figures required and in doing this you have done so deliberately with a view to influence the assistant of the branch office not to give the correct figures which would be favourable to you and which will not be an impediment for securing your confirmation as Assistant Branch Manager (Development).
(2) And you are also charged for acting in a highhanded manner ignoring the usual procedure in regard to collection of data from the office through proper channel, and thereby committed an not detrimental to the interests of the Corporation.
(3) That while you functioning as Assistant Branch Manager in 1963 connived with others to see that wrong information with regard to the lapse in given in the date sheet sent to the Zonal Office for considering your confirmation as Assistant Branch Manager (Development), and in doing so, you have committed a serious misconduct and acted in a way detrimental to the interests of the Corporation.
The enquiry officer acquitted the petitioner of charge (1) but found him guilty of charges (2) and (3). It is unnecessary to discuss the merits regarding charges (2) and (3), as the submission of behalf of the petitioner is that the principles of natural justice had not been observed by the enquiry officer. The procedure adopted in the enquiry is stated by the enquiry officer in his report. The Divisional Manager framed charges against R. Natarajan, the petitioner, and one P.R. Rajagopalan of Tirunelveli. An additional charge was also framed against them and the divisional Manager was directed to enquiry into the additional charge also. At the enquiry, the Corporation was represented by Sri S.R. Ayyar, Assistant Zonal Officer. Sri Ayyar presented the case in respect of each chargesheeted person by reading a prepared statement. Copies of written statement were read out by Sri Ayyar. Exhibits were filed by him. The proceedings of the enquiry officer disclosed that the petitioner as well as the three other persons charged and Sri S.R. Ayyar had signed every page of the evidence. The enquiry officer did not follow the normal procedure of examining the prosecution witnesses and allowing the petitioner or other persons the cross-examine these witnesses, followed by an opportunity to the petitioner to explain his case and examine defence witnesses. The enquiry officer, Sri S.R. Ayyar, questioned the petitioner and the other persons charged regarding the various allegations and recorded their answer. The enquiry was conducted on 18 and 19 January 1965 and is recorded in pages form 125 to 229 of the typed sets of document filed by the counsel for the respondents.
6. The case for the Life Insurance Corporation of India against petitioner is briefly as follows.
7. The petitioner came to Madurai and without seeing the officer, who wrote to him the demi-official letter calling for the completed forms, contacted the assistant, Thirumalai, and collected the data and took them to the divisional office where the pro forma figures were manipulated by the stenographer Natarajan for the purpose of giving lapsed figures to the advantage of the petitioner. It is admitted that the lapsed figures, which were subsequently found to be not correct, are in the handwriting of the stenographer Natarajan. The statement of the stenographer Natarajan in the enquiry conducted against him was that he erased totally all the entries in the Cols. (d)(i) and (d)(ii) of the pro forma. Stenographer Natarajan also admitted that he did manipulate the lapsed figures. The enquiry officer was of the view that the stenographer Natarajan would not have altered the figures except with a view to oblige the petitioner and that the petitioner would have been definitely aware of the revision of the figures by stenographer Natarajan. The stenographer Natarajan was not examined as a prosecution witness in the enquiry against the petitioner. The statement, which is relied on by the enquiry officer against petitioner was made by stenographer Natarajan in the enquiry against stenographer Natarajan in which he made the confession. After the confession was made by stenographer Natarajan when the enquiry against the petitioner was recommenced on 24 January 1965, the enquiry officer had recorded as follows:
Sri Ramajunam, after your examination, which lasted till day before yesterday, I have been conducting as enquiry into the charges framed by the Divisional Manager against Natarajan and in the course of the enquiry yesterday. Natarajan made a certain deposition. In the light of that deposition, I felt I should recall you for further examination in connexion with the charges against you and it was for this reason that I telephoned to you yesterday asking you to attend the enquiry today.
A portion of stenographer Natarajan's confession in the enquiry against him was read out to the petitioner. After the statement was red out, the stenographer Natarajan was asked whether the petitioner was with him throughout. The stenographer Natarajan answered that the petitioner was with him when the incident of 25 July 1963 took place. Stenographer Natarajan further stated that the Assistant Divisional Manager, Subbayya, was also present till the end of this process which ended at 5 p.m. on 25 July 1963. Then the enquiry officer put the confessional statement of stenographer Natarajan to the petitioner and asked for his explanation. The enquiry officer stated to the petitioner that according to the stenographer Natarajan, the petitioner discussed the matter with the Assistant Divisional Manager, Subbayya, in his room and that stenographer Natarajan was sent for by the Assistant Divisional Manager, Subbayya, and the petitioner found that the lapsed figures were unfavourable to the petitioner and all these matters were discussed and at the instigation of Subbayya in the petitioner's presence, stenographer Natarajan was asked to correct the figures, which he did. In reply, the petitioner stated that the had deposed in detail previously and he did not want to add anything further. He reiterated that he came to the branch office and showed and letter and the pro forma and the assistant furnished figures and he took the forms to the divisional office at about 4 p.m. and met the Assistant Divisional Manager and according to his instructions, he handed over the pro forma to stenographer Natarajan. The procedure in accepting the confessional statement of R. Natarajan made in the enquiry against him as substantive evidence in the enquiry against the petitioner is questioned. Further it is submitted that the petitioner was not given an opportunity to cross-examine the stenographer Natarajan. It is clear form the proceedings that stenographer Natarajan was present during the enquiry. But the petitioner was not asked whether he would like to cross-examine stenographer Natarajan. As already stated, the procedure of examining the prosecution witnesses, cross-examining them and giving and opportunity to the petitioner to adduce defence evidence was not followed. But the whole proceedings were conducted by the enquiry officer and Sri Ayyar putting questions to the various persons including the petitioner. It may be noted that according to the confession of stenographer Natarajan, Subbayya, Assistant Divisional Manager, was present, and that it was decided that the figures should be altered to suit the requirements of the petitioner. In the enquiry report relating to the petitioner the presence of Subbayya is not mentioned at all. But in the report relating to stenographer Natarajan, the presence of Subbayya is not accepted.
8. Another circumstances, which is submitted as violative if the principles of natural justice, is the reliance by the enquiry officer on the statement of R. Natarajan, the Assistant Divisional Manager's accountant in his letter dated 15 February 1965, that the statement of the petitioner that the accountant asked him to see stenographer Natarajan and hand over the forms to him for further attention is not correct, The denial was made by Natarajan of the accounts Branch by his letter dated 15 February 1965, after the enquiry against the petitioner was closed. The petitioner had no opportunity to explain this circumstance against him.
9. The Supreme Court has laid down in State of Mysore v. Shivabasppa : (1964)ILLJ24SC , that the domestic tribunal exercising quasi-judicial functions are not Courts and, therefore, they are not bound to follow the procedure prescribed for trial of actions in Courts, nor are they bound by strict rules of evidence. They are at liberty to obtain all information material for the points from all sources, by should not act on any information which they may receive unless they put it to the party against whom it is to be used and give him a fair opportunity to explain it. What is the fair opportunity must depend on the facts and circumstances of each case. Generally, the procedure followed is that the petitioner would have an opportunity to adduce all relevant evidence on which he relies, that the evidence of the opponent should be given an opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses examined by the party, and that no material should by relied on against him without his being given an opportunity of explaining them. The Supreme Court held that witness will in its entirety take place before the party charged, who will have full opportunity of cross-examining him, the enquiry will not be vitiated if the statement given by the witness previously behind the back of the party is put to him and admitted in evidence and a copy thereof is given to the party and he is given an opportunity to cross-examine him. It was held that it was unnecessary that the witness should be made to repeat word by word, and sentence by sentence, what all he stated previously. The requirement of natural justice would be fulfilled, if the petitioner is given an opportunity to explain the case against him, to adduce evidence in support of his case and to cross-examine the witness deposing against him. The view expressed by the Supreme Court cited supra has been re-affirmed in Kesoram Cotton Mills' Ltd. v. Gangadhar : (1963)IILLJ371SC and in Kardah & Co. v. their workmen : (1963)IILLJ452SC in dealing with an enquiry should be conducted in the manner stated in State of Mysore v. Shivabasappa : (1964)ILLJ24SC (vide supra), observed that the minimum that is expected where witnesses are not examined from the very beginning at the inquiry in the presence of the person charged is that the person charged should be given a copy of the statements made by the witnesses which are to be used at the inquiry well in advance before the inquiry begins. In Kardah & Co. v. their workmen : (1963)IILLJ452SC (vide supra), the Supreme Court dealing with the case of workmen under the Industrial Disputes Act expressed its opinion that it is desirable that al witnesses on whose testimony the management relies in support of its charge against the workman should be examined in his presence. The decisions in Kesoram Cotton Mills' Ltd. v. Gangadhar : (1963)IILLJ371SC and in Kardah & Co. v. their workmen : (1963)IILLJ452SC (vide supra) were rendered with regard to the disputes under the Industrial Disputes Act. In the case of domestic enquiry by an institution like the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the decision of the Supreme Court in State of Mysore v. Shivabasappa : (1964)ILLJ24SC (vide supra) would be applicable and the principles of natural justice could be said to have been observed, if the petitioner was given an opportunity of cross-examining the witnesses examined by the opposite side and an opportunity to examine his own witnesses and to explain the case against him.
10. It has to be determined whether on the facts of the case, a fair opportunity was given to the petitioner. The material on which the petitioner is found guilty is the confessional statement made by the stenographer Natarajan and the denial by the accounts Natarajan. So far as the confessional statement of stenographer Natarajan is concerned, though the confessional statement made by the stenographer Natarajan was put to the petitioner, it is not tested by the cross-examination. The entire proceedings were conducted by the enquiry officer and petitioner as well as others were only answering the questions put to them and the petitioner was not made aware that he would be entitled to cross-examine stenographer Natarajan on the confession he had made and on which the Life Insurance Corporation of India wants to rely for proving the charges. It may also be noted that stenographer Natarajan has mentioned about the presence of Subbayya during the transaction and no reference is made about the presence of accounts Natarajan in the enquiry officer's report. In the circumstances, I am not satisfied that a reasonable opportunity was given to the petitioner to cross-examine the stenographer Natarajan on the material on which reliance is placed by the Corporation. Further, the Corporation has undoubtedly relied on the denial of the accounts Natarajan that he did not tell the petitioner to see stenographer Natarajan and hand over the forms to him for further attention. On the basis of this denial, the statement of the petitioner is rejected. This denial was obtained only after the enquiry was completed and reliance should not have been placed on this denial without giving an opportunity to the petitioner to explain it. On a consideration of the facts of the case I am not satisfied that the petitioner was given a reasonable opportunity to defend all the charges without any prejudice and was anxious to give a fair opportunity to the petitioner to explain the case against him. But, by observing the procedure which he did, he had unwittingly denied the petitioner a fair opportunity to defend himself.
11. The order of dismissal is, therefore, set aside. The Life Insurance Corporation is at liberty to frame fresh charges and conduct a fresh enquiry against the petitioner.
12. The preliminary objection raised by Sri V.K. Thiruvenkatschari that a proceeding by way of writ petition is not available against an order of dismissal passed by a body like the Life Insurance Corporation of India may also the considered. He referred India may also be considered. He referred to Halsbury's Laws of England, 3rd Edn., Vol. 29, p. 519, Para.99, and submitted that the dismissal of a servant even if it is otherwise than in accordance with the procedure in his contract of service is in effect termination of contract and the servant cannot claim that the contract had not been validly terminated and his remedy is only by way of damages. He also referred to two English decisions reported in Francis v. Municipal Councillors (1962) 3 All E.R. 633 and Vidyodaya University of Ceylon v. Silva (1964) 3 All E.R. 865. In Francis v. Municipal Councillors (1962) 3 All E.R. 633 (vide supra), the Privy Council held that a declaration to the effect that the contract of service still subsisted would rarely be made and would not be made not grant specific performance of contracts of service. The Court distinguished the case Vine v. National Dock Labour Board (1956) 1 All E.R. on the ground that the circumstance in Vine case was very special where the dismissal was shown to have been without proper authority and the labourer should have the benefit of the declaration that he was still in the employment of the National Dock Labour Board (1956) 1 All E.R. (vide supra) the Privy Council held that the contract of employment made by the University with the teachers did not involve more than ordinary contract between the master and servant and that the procedure by a writ of certiorari was not available. The English decisions relied on by the leaned counsel for the respondents would not advance his contention, for the Supreme Court as well as the Madras High Court have uniformly held that a writ would be available against breach of any of the statutory provisions by a public body. The only case of Indian high Courts, which is in favour of the respondents, is Ram Babu Rathaur v. Divisional Manager, Life Insurance Company : AIR1961All502 . The Court held that an employee of the Life Insurance Corporation could not maintain a writ a certiorari, as relationship between the employee and the Corporation was one of master and servant and the general law of master and servant applies to the case. This decision cannot be held to be good law in view of the subsequent pronouncement of the Supreme Court in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Babu Ram Upadhya : 1961CriLJ773 . It has been held that the rules made under a statute must be treated for all purposes of construction of obligation exactly as if they were in the Act, and are to be judicially noticed for all purposes of construction or obligation. In Life Insurance Corporation of India v. Sunil Kumar Mukherjee and Ors. : (1964)ILLJ442SC the Supreme Court dealing with the case of Life Insurance Corporation of India held that where the services of such 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 must be held invalid.
13. The Madras High Court in T.C.M. Pillai v. Indian Institute of Technology 1964 II L.L.J. 311, has held that the dismissal of an Assistant Professor of Metallurgy in the Indian Institute of Technology without observing the mandatory procedure prescribed under the statute would be a nullity and liable to be interfered with in a writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. In v. Ramiah v. State Bank of India 1967 II M.L.J. 519, the Court has held that an order of dismissal by the State Bank is liable to be interested with in writ proceedings. This Court has held that a writ is available against the acts of Life Corporation in Narayanaswami Naidu v. Krishnamurthi : AIR1958Mad343 .
14. Recently the Supreme Court has laid down that the Courts can interfere with the orders of dismissal by the Road Transport Corporation in Mafatlal Narandas Barot v. Divisional Controller, State Transport, Mahasana : (1966)ILLJ437SC and in Calcutta Dock Labour Board v. Jaffar Imam : 1966CriLJ189 . In the face of the overwhelming authorities the preliminary objection raised on behalf of the respondent that the dismissal of the petitioner by the Life Insurance Corporation is not amendable to the writ jurisdiction of this Court, will have to be rejected.
15. In the result, the writ petition is allowed. The Life Insurance Corporation of India is at liberty to frame fresh charges and conduct an enquiry and proceed according to law. There will be so order as to costs.