1. The petitioner, M. Muniswami, was a lineman, grade I, employed under the State Electricity board at the time we are concerned with. Three charges were framed against him, one relating to the filing of a false petition against a superior officer, another leaving the station before the actual sanction of casual leave and the third, unauthorized extension of casual leave. Enquiry into these charges was held by the Divisional Engineer, Vellore, on 19 September 1964, and subsequent dates when witnesses were examined, but it is not in dispute that the lineman had applied for leave and was actually on leave on the dates when the enquiry was held and witnesses were examined in support of the charges. The petitioner had been sanctioned leave for the purpose of attending on his sick wife. In view of his having been on leave, he asked for postponement of the enquiry. The postponement was refused and the witnesses were examined on the ex parte basis by the enquiry officer. After that enquiry, the officer took into account the explanation submitted by the petitioner on 16 November 1964, presumably after he had returned from leave, found the petitioner guilty of the charges and reduced him to the rank of wireman for a period of one year. There was a further rider to the order stating that his case for restoration to the post of lineman, grade I, would be considered after the period of one year, only if he shows good conduct. The petitioner has filed this writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash the above order.
2. Several grounds were raised by the petitioner for his relief including the ground that the punishment meted out to him was in excess of what he was told it would be in the show-cause memorandum. What appears to be the most important objection to the enquiry is that when the petitioner had been sanctioned leave for attending on his ailing wife, the authorities should have granted him an adjournment of the enquiry, and not insisted on his partaking in the enquiry during a period when he was on leave which was already sanctioned by the appropriate authority. There is no point in granting an officer leave for purposes which the authorities found to be valid, and then insisting at the same time that he should, instead of availing himself of the leave, attend a departmental enquiry. If the leave had been sanctioned for a proper cause and if the leave had not been cancelled and the petitioner recalled to duty, it was improper for the officer to hold an enquiry during the petitioner's absence on leave. On this preliminary objection alone, I am of the opinion that there has been a violation of natural justice in the procedure which the punishing authority adopted in the present case. I allow the writ petition and quash the order ofpunishment. It is open to the authorities, if they so consider it necessary, to conduct an enquiry afresh, against the petitioner in the proper manner, and give him the necessaryopportunities to meet the charges. The petitioner will get costs of the writ petition. Advocate's fee Rs. 100.