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Naresh Chandra Gangopadhyay Vs. Director of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectService
CourtKolkata High Court
Decided On
Case NumberA.F.O.O. No. 239 of 1956
Judge
Reported inAIR1959Cal100
ActsConstitution of India - Article 311(2); ;Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1936 - Rule 7; ;Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeals) Rules - Rule 49
AppellantNaresh Chandra Gangopadhyay
RespondentDirector of Fisheries, Government of West Bengal and ors.
Appellant AdvocateNiharendu Dutta Majumdar, ;Joy Gopal Ghosh and ;Saumendra Nath Mukherjee, Advs.
Respondent AdvocateAnil Kumar Das Gupta and ;Somendra Chandra Basu, Advs.
DispositionAppeal allowed
Cases ReferredOm Prakash Gupta v. The State of Uttar Pradesh
Excerpt:
- .....preferred the present appeal.6. a great deal of controversy appears to have taken place before the learned judge as to whether the appellant had continued to be a mere probationer in government service or had become a confirmed member by reason of his having been retained in employment after the expiry of the probationary period. the learned judge held that the appellant had continued to be a probationer and i find no good reason to dissent from that view. it is quite true that the probationary period was for two years only and that even after the expiry of that period, the appellant had not been discharged but kept on in service. at the same time, he had not been confirmed. it has also to be noticed that by the very terms of his appointment, he was to be confirmed only if he satisfied.....
Judgment:

P. Chakravartti, C.J.

1. On 27-10-1944, the appellant, Naresh Chandra Gangopadhyay, was appointed a District Fishery Officer along with several other persons. He was put on probation for a period of two years and the order of appointment specifically provided that he would be confirmed in service 'on the satisfactory completion of the period of probation and the passing of a departmental examination, which may be prescribed during the period.' No departmental examination was held during the probationary period, but the appellant was allowed to continue in service. An examination was held in 1951 and the appellant did appear in it, but was unable to pass. Up to the time when the proceedings out of which this appeal has arisen were commenced, he had not passed the departmental examination. We are informed that he passed it while he was under suspension.

2. On 22-9-1951, the appellant was placed under suspension by an order passed on that date. Along with the order, a charge-sheet containing as many as five charges was served on him. Those charges related principally to alleged irregularities in monetary dealings and also failure to maintain proper accounts. The charge-sheet, after reciting the charges, directed the appellant to show cause within a fortnight why disciplinary action under Rule 7 of the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules. 1936 should not be taken against him. Both the order of suspension and the charge-sheet were signed by one Dr. Baini Prasad who was the Director of Fisheries at the time.

3. The appellant showed cause by means of a lengthy document submitted on 14-11-1931. On the 7th of December following, he received a telegram from the Director of Fisheries, directing him to see the Director on the 10th of December next in connection with the explanation furnished. Ho did see the Director on that date and something like an enquiry was held at which another Officer as also a stenographer was present. What happened exactly on the 10th of December is a matter of dispute between the parties, but this much is clear that the enquiry was not concluded on that date. It appears from a letter of the Director that he thought that the appellant was obstinately refusing to furnish further explanation as to certain points raised by him in his memorandum and that he was insisting on the points being formally reduced to writing and formally served on him before he would undertake to answer them. The appellant's version is different. Be that as it may, the Director finally asked the appellant to appear before him once again on the 13th of December. The appellant did not appear on that date, but on the previous clay left a letter addressed to the Director at his Office by which he explained his own point of view. As the appellant failed to appear on the 13th of December, the Director treated his examination as closed and made a report which was adverse to the appellant. The report was duly considered by Government and they came provisionally to the conclusion that the appellant 'should be punished with discharge from Government service under Rule 49 (vi) of the Civil' Service (C.G.A.) Rules.' By a notice dated 14-5-1952, an Assistant Secretary to the State Government called upon the appellant to submit within fifteen days any representation that he might desire to make as to why he should not be punished in the aforesaid manner.

4. The appellant did make a representation, but it found no favour with the authorities. They consulted the Public Service Commission and on the recommendation received from that body, they finally decided that the appellant should be discharged from Government service. Thereafter, by an order dated 28-3-1953, he was discharged.

5. The appellant then moved this Court under Article 226 of the Constitution against the Director of Fisheries, the Secretary in the Department of Forests and Fisheries and the State of West Bengal for a writ of mandamus, commanding them to rescind the orders passed against him or to forbear from giving effect to them. The usual additional prayers for writs of certiorari and prohibition were also made. A Rule was issued on the application, but at the final hearing it was discharged by Sinha, J., by an order dated 29-5-1956. Aggrieved by that order, the appellant preferred the present appeal.

6. A great deal of controversy appears to have taken place before the learned Judge as to whether the appellant had continued to be a mere probationer in Government service or had become a confirmed member by reason of his having been retained in employment after the expiry of the probationary period. The learned Judge held that the appellant had continued to be a probationer and I find no good reason to dissent from that view. It is quite true that the probationary period was for two years only and that even after the expiry of that period, the appellant had not been discharged but kept on in service. At the same time, he had not been confirmed. It has also to be noticed that by the very terms of his appointment, he was to be confirmed only if he satisfied both of two conditions, one of which was satisfactory work during the probationary period and the other of which was the passing of a departmental examination. Admittedly, he did not pass a departmental examination during the probationary period and obviously his work was not considered satisfactory. It may have been wrong for Government not to hold a departmental examination within the probationary period and the appellant, if he was so minded, might have taken appropriate steps at the appropriate time for forcing Government to hold a timely examination. This point, however, which is somewhat in the appellant's favour, loses a great deal of its force, if one remembers that when the examination was ultimately held in 1951, the appellant failed to pass it. Be that as it may, whatever might have been the reason for Government not confirming him, the fact remains that he was not confirmed and if he was not confirmed, he could not claim any status other than that of a probationer.

7. The learned Judge found the status of the appellant to be a complete answer to the grievance made by him. The grievance was that he was entitled to the benefit of Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India and, therefore, he was entitled to a proper enquiry into the charges against him and proper opportunities to show cause both against the charges and, if the charges were found proved, against the action proposed to her taken against him. Sinha, J., disposed of the appellant's complaint by holding that since his status in Government service was no more than that of a probationer and since under the very terms of his employment, he would be liable to be discharged, if his work was not found satisfactory, it could not be said that he had been penalised, if his service had been terminated in the view that he had failed to render satisfactory service. What had happened, according to the learned Judge, was that the conditions under which the appellant had entered employment in the Fisheries Department had been worked out in a normal manner and, consequently, no question of any penalty arose at all.

8. The learned Judge also pointed out that the appellant had been proceeded against under Rule 7 of the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1936 and that, according to the explanation appended to that Rule, the discharge of a person appointed on probation during the period of probation would not amount to removal or dismissal within the meaning of the Rule. On the basis of the explanation the learned Judge held that since the appellant was only a probationer and since he had been discharged during the period of his probation, he had neither been dismissed nor removed and, therefore, he could not complain that the protection of Article 311(2) had not been made available to him.

9. A point had been taken before the learned Judge that the enquiry which had been held was not a proper enquiry at all. It was said that the Director of Fisheries, having himself framed the charges and having been virtually in the position of a complainant, should not have constituted himself the Enquiring Officer as well. Other complaints were also made as to irregularities in the course of the enquiry. The learned Judge found it unnecessary to decide whether what had taken place could be said to have been an enquiry as contemplated by Article 311(2) or the relevant Service Rules, because, in his view, the appellant having been a mere probationer, was not entitled to an enquiry of that kind at all.

10. On the broad features of the case, the learned Judge held that it could not fairly be said that the appellant had had no opportunity for establishing his innocence. He pointed out that the authorities had proceeded on documents which had been fully dealt with by the appellant in his representations and that he had been given opportunity to show cause against both the charges and the penalty proposed to be imposed on him. Accordingly, the learned Judge concluded that even if Rule 55B of the Fundamental Rules applied, it could not be said that the benefit of that Rule had been withheld from him. I should explain here that Rule 55B provides that where it is proposed to terminate the employment of a probationer, whether during or at the end of the period of probation, for any specific fault on account of his unsuitability for the service, he shall be apprised of the grounds of such proposal and given an opportunity to show cause against it. There is no such Rule amongst the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1936, and that explains why the learned Judge said 'even if Rule 55B applies.'

11. It appears to me that the view taken by the learned Judge of the proceedings had against the appellant is not warranted by the facts. It is quite true that his status was that of a probationer, as the learned Judge has held and as I think he rightly held. But the mere fact that the appellant was a probationer could not by itself exclude him from the benefit of the Constitutional protection. If the service of a probationer is terminated merely on the ground of his work being unsatisfactory and terminated in accordance with the terms of the employment, no question of any penalty being imposed, it is true, arises. But even a probationer can be proceeded against for misconduct and proceedings with a view to imposing a penalty can be taken against a probationer as well. If, on the facts of the case, it appears that what the authorities did was not merely to terminate the employment of the probationer, because his work had not been found up to the required standard, but they had proceeded on some ground extraneous to the terms of service and had intended to punish the probationer on that ground, Article 311(2) would obviously be attracted. As I have explained elsewhere, a probationer will normally servo up to the end of the probationary period and then be either confirmed, if his work has been found satisfactory, or discharged, if the reverse has been the case; but if before me probationary period is over or if although the period is over, the Government servant concerned is still holding the status of a probationer, some misconduct if alleged against him and proceedings are started with a view to punishing him for such misconduct, it can by no means be said that no more is being done than the terms of the employment are being worked out. To such a case, as I have already said, the provisions of Article 311(2) will apply.

12. Before dealing with the facts of the case may point out that the argument drawn by the learned Judge from Rule 7 of the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1936, does not, with respect, appear to me to be correct. Under the Explanation to Rule 7, discharge of a probationer during the period of probation does not I amount to removal or dismissal from service. The I meaning of that provision is that if a person, appointed on probation, is discharged during the period of probation, such discharge will not be a penalty of removal within the meaning of clause (vi) of Rule 7, nor a penalty of dismissal within the meaning of clause (vii) of the same Rule. In such a case, therefore, there would be no question of proceeding under Rule 7 at all, because Rule 7 only provides for imposition of penalties by way, inter alia, of removal from service or dismissal. The fact, therefore, that the authorities in the present case proceeded under Rule 7 of the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1936, proves rather than disproves that they were proceeding against the appellant with a view to imposing a penalty. The explanation to Rule 7 is an exception and if a case comes under the exception, Rule 7 will not apply at all and no proceedings under that Rule can be taken.

13. Turning now to the facts of the case, it appears from the charge-sheet that the charges all related to specific instances of misconduct on the part of the appellant. The proceedings begin with an order of suspension which, by itself, indicates that it was not as a case of a probationer that the appellant's case was being considered. If it was a question of merely examining the record of the appellant with a view to taking a decision as to whether he should or should not be confirmed, it could hardly be appropriate to serve him with a charge-sheet. Not merely was a charge-sheet served, but, as I have already pointed out, the appellant was asked to show cause why disciplinary action under Rule 7 of the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules should not be taken against him. The structure of the proceedings, again, was the structure of an enquiry such as prescribed by Rule 55 of the Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules. A charge-sheet was served, cause was directed to be shown against the charges, then an enquiry of a kind was held, at the end of the enquiry a particular penalty was tentatively decided on, then the appellant was asked to show cause why that penalty should not be imposed and ultimately it was imposed. The succession of these steps, coupled with the fact that the authorities were on their own admission proceeding under Rule 7 of the Bengal Subordinate Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, shows conclusively that they were holding an enquiry with a view to imposing a penalty, if the charges were proved. The matter is clinched by the letter of 14-5-1952, which an Assistant Secretary to the State Government addressed to the appellant. There it was stated that Government bad come to the conclusion provisionally that the appellant should be 'punished' with discharge from Government service and he was asked to show cause why he should not be 'punished' in the manner stated. After all these, it cannot possibly be contended that it was not punishment which the authorities had in view, but merely the termination of the appellant's service in accordance with the terms of his employment.

14. Mr. Das Gupta, who appeals for the respondents, was asked by me whether he could, in view of these facts, contend that the appellant had been treated merely as a probationer and whether it was not a fact that the authorities had proceeded against him for alleged misconduct with a view to punishing him therefor. He would not directly concede that the true view of the facts was the latter, but was frank enough to say that it looked as if it was so. In my view, it does not merely look that it was so, but it was in fact so.

15. It must, therefore, be held that the appellant was entitled to the protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution and that, therefore, was entitled to a proper opportunity at a proper enquiry to show cause against the charges framed against him. The learned Judge has undoubtedly held that even if the appellant was entitled to the Constitutional protection, he had in substance got it, because the authorities had proceeded on nothing which he had not dealt with in his representations and because two opportunities, one to show cause against the charges and another to show cause against the proposed punishment, had in fact been given. I think that this is not a correct view of the facts. I pass over the appellant's objection that the so-called Enquiring Officer was the complainant himself, but an enquiry had to be directed to be held and the appellant had to be given proper notice thereof. All that happened after he had submitted the explanation was that he was asked by a telegram to appear before the Director of Fisheries in connection with a representation made by him. What happened subsequently I have already stated. The learned Judge has said that the appellant could not complain that he had not been given an opportunity to call witnesses, because he had never asked for such an opportunity. It appears to me that since no Enquiry Committee or Enquiring Officer had ever been appointed and the appellant had merely been asked to see the Director of Fisheries which he did at least once, it cannot fairly be said that an occasion had arisen when he could ask for an opportunity to call witnesses. There was nothing to indicate to him that what was being held by the Director of Fisheries was anything but an interview between a superior Officer and a subordinate Officer and that it was a formal enquiry at which he would be entitled to call witnesses. It is true, as the learned Judge has observed, that the appellant had not specifically asked for an opportunity to call any evidence, but I do not think that anything ever happened which could put him in mind that he was appearing at a formal enquiry and that he was to ask for an opportunity to tender evidence, if he wished to tender evidence. I am, therefore, of opinion that since no Enquiry Committee or Enquiring Officer was ever appointed and all that happened was that the appellant was summoned for interview with his superior Officer, it cannot be said that having had an opportunity to call evidence, the appellant had not claimed it and that therefore he is estopped.

The result, as I see it, is that the appellant being entitled to a proper enquiry and entitled to an opportunity to snow cause thereat in a proper manner was not granted such an opportunity. The order passed against him cannot, therefore, be sustained.

16. The next question is what order we should make. In my view the proper order to make will be not merely to quash the order passed against the appellant, but also to give further directions. Certain charges were framed, the appellant submitted his explanation and the position is that thereafter the matter did not proceed according to law and that all that happened subsequently must be quashed as having been illegal. This, however, will not affect such portion of the proceedings as was legal which will remain valid to be proceeded with and concluded if desired.

17. For the reasons given above, this appeal is allowed, the order of the learned Judge dated 29-5-1956, is set aside and the order of discharge dated 28-3-1953, passed against the appellant by the State Government is quashed. We direct further that if Government be so minded, they will be at liberty to continue the proceedings in accordance with law from the stage at which the appellant had furnished his explanation of the charges framed against him but no enquiry had yet been held and pass such orders as may be lawful and proper according to the result of such proceedings.

*(As regards the order of suspension passed against the appellant, the order of his discharge being now quashed, it will be governed, so far at least the period subsequent to the date of the order of discharge is concerned, by the principles laid down by the Supreme Court in the case of Om Prakash Gupta v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, : (1956)ILLJ1SC (A)).

18. The appellant will have the costs of this appeal from respondent No. 3, the State of West Bengal hearing fee five gold mohurs.

S.C. Lahiri, J.

19. I agree.


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