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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

the legality of the judgment of the High Court setting aside an order dated 11.03.1999 passed by the State Bank of India dismissing the charged officer (respondent) from service in exercise of powers conferred under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.= in Lakshmi Devi Sugar Mills Ltd. v. Pt. Ram Sarup; AIR 1957 SC 82 held where a workman intentionally refuses to participate in the inquiry, cannot complain that the dismissal is against the principles of natural justice. Once the inquiry proceed ex parte, it is not necessary for the Inquiring Authority to again ask the charged officer to state his defence orally or in writing. We cannot appreciate the conduct of the charged officer in this case, who did not appear before the Inquiring Authority and offered any explanation to the charges levelled against him but approached the High Court stating that the principles of natural justice had been violated. 26. We are also conscious of the fact that even if the Inquiring Authority set the charged officer ex parte that would not absolve him from deciding that the charges levelled against him were proved or not. In other words, no punishment could be imposed without an inquiry. We notice in this case the Inquiring Authority had elaborately considered the charges levelled against the charged officer and also the materials produced by the bank because some evidence is necessary to establish the charges. In some cases, proof may only be documentary and in some cases oral. The requirement of proof depends on the facts and circumstances of each case. Appellant - Bank in this case has succeeded in establishing the charges levelled against the delinquent officer and was rightly dismissed from service which called for no interference by the High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. 27. In view of the above-mentioned reasons, we find it difficult to support the judgment of the High Court. Consequently, the appeal is allowed and the impugned judgment is set aside with no order as to costs.


                                                                  REPORTABLE
                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                        CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                       CIVIL APPEAL NO.  263  OF 2013
               [Arising out of SLP (Civil) No. 34118 of 2011]

State Bank of India and Ors.                   .. Appellant(s)
                                   Versus
Narendra Kumar Pandey                            .. Respondent(s)

                               J U D G M E N T

K. S. Radhakrishnan, J.



      Leave granted.

2.    We are, in this case, concerned with the legality of the  judgment  of
the High Court setting aside an order dated 11.03.1999 passed by  the  State
Bank of India dismissing the charged officer (respondent)  from  service  in
exercise of powers conferred  under  Article  226  of  the  Constitution  of
India.

3.    The charged officer, herein, while he was functioning  as  the  Deputy
Manager of the Bank was served with a charge-sheet dated 15.02.1995  by  the
Joint Manager (Operations) [Disciplinary Authority] stating  that  while  he
was posted as officer JMGS-I at  Government  Business  Branch,  Kanpur,  and
Accountant and officiating Branch Manager  at  Kalpi  Road  (Kanpur)  Branch
from 21st May 1985 to 20th October 1987 and 21st October 1987  to  22nd  May
1991 respectively had failed to discharge his duties with utmost  integrity,
honesty, devotion and diligence and acted in a manner unbecoming of  a  Bank
Official and  highly  prejudicial  to  the  Bank’s  interest  in  deliberate
violation of Rules 50(3), 50(4), 50(9) and 60(2) of the State Bank of  India
Officers Service Rules (in short ‘the Service Rules’).

4.    Altogether, 12 charges were framed against  him.   Charges  are  given
under for easy reference:

Charge No.1

      You raised a number of spurious entries by debiting  LOCL/LIT  A/c  at
Kalpi Road Branch, Kanpur and afforded  fictitious  credit  to  the  Current
Account No.7/12 in the  name  of  Shri  O.S.  Srivastava  and  Savings  Bank
Account No. 9095 in the name of  Shri  Surinder  Kumar.   Both  the  account
holders were fictitious/non-existent.  Although the account opening form  in
the case of Shri O.S. Srivastava is not traceable, it is apparent  from  the
account  opening  form  of  Shri  Surinder  Kumar,  that  the  account   was
allowed/authorized by you.  It shows your alleged involvement in the fraud.

Charge No.2

      You granted and opened under your authentication Demand Loan  Accounts
in the name of Fictitious/non-existent persons against pledge of  fictitious
NSCs with a view to avail yourself the Bank’s funds  unauthorisedly  and  in
an illegal manner.

Charge No.3

      You availed a conveyance loan for Rs.78,000/- for purchase of  a  Car.
The proceeds of the loan were credited to your  account  on  28.05.1988  and
were withdrawn by you in cash the same day but  you  did  not  purchase  the
vehicle within a month of availment of loan as per Bank’s instructions.

Charge No. 4

        i) You got issued a number of cheque books on your savings bank and
           current account, although only few cheque leaves  were  used  by
           you.  The  requisite  cheque  book  requisition  slips  or  your
           specific requests for issue of cheque books are  not  available.
           Thus, your  act  of  getting  issued  several  cheque  books  to
           yourself  without  exhausting  the  earlier  ones,   is   highly
           irregular on your part and in contravention of the  Bank’s  laid
           down instructions

       ii) You utilized a cheque leaf bearing no.  422276  for  drawing  on
           your savings bank  account  no.  5603  with  Kalpi  Road  Branch
           although the cheque book containing this cheque leaf was  issued
           to  some  other  account  holder  and  has  been   recorded   as
           “surrendered and destroyed” in the Branch books.  Thus, you have
           taken  unauthorized  possession  of   the   cheque   which   was
           incorrectly shown as destroyed in the Branch books.

      iii) A few Savings Bank Cheque books have been found  to  be  missing
           from the branch as no record for issue of these cheque books  to
           account holders is there in the Branch Books.

Charge No.5

      You deliberately withheld DD Purchase documents received at the Branch
by not responding these by debit to the relative accounts, with  a  view  to
providing undue benefits to the customers at the bank’s cost.

Charge No.6

      You misutilised the Bank’s funds by negotiation of fake instruments as
DD on Patna.  These DDs were returned unpaid subsequently  and  the  amounts
were made good by you either in cash or through your savings bank account.

Charge No.7

      You negotiated cheques drawn on local branches  at  Kanpur  as  DD  to
yourself in utter disregard to Bank’s laid down instructions.



Charge No.8

      Although no STDR/TDR existed in the name of Shri  O.S.  Srivastava  in
branch books, you made false noting in  the  cheque  referred  and  returned
register against the entries in respect of two cheques drawn by him  on  his
current account to give misleading  information  that  Shri  Srivastava  had
STDR/TDR.  The balance in the  account  of  Shri  O.S.  Srivastava  was  not
sufficient  to  pay  these  cheques.   Due  to  the  false  and   misleading
information furnished by you to the then Branch Manager, these cheques  were
allowed on both the occasions.

Charge No.9

      Your  savings  bank  account  no.  5603  shows  numerous  debit/credit
transactions (other than salary and allowances) which you  did  not  explain
(sic) for heavy amounts.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS BRANCH, KANPUR

Charge No.10

      Your Savings Bank Account No.38 with Govt.  Business  Branch  (Kanpur)
shows frequent credit transactions  (both  cash  and  transfer)  other  than
salary for heavy amounts which you could not explain properly.

Charge No.11

      In your Savings Bank Account No. 38, while  most  of  the  withdrawals
from the account were made by way of withdrawal  forms,  you  got  4  cheque
books issued and utilized  approximately  15  cheques  only.   You  did  not
advise, how the remaining cheque, were utilized.  It is noticed that out  of
unutilized cheques, one cheque bearing no.  835524  was  issued  by  you  on
17.9.1987 favouring SBI SEE Co-op. Credit Society Ltd.  Unnao  for  Rs.500/-
on Kalpi Road (Kanpur) Branch, where no Savings Bank Account  in  your  name
existed in the books  of  that  Branch.   Thus,  you  have  misutilised  the
facility, and issued the cheque without funds in your account.

Charge No.12

        i) You issued  a  Cheque  no.315083  dated  4.4.86  for  Rs.6030.08
           favouring M/s Society Jewellers which was returned unpaid due to
           insufficient balance in your account no.38.   On  representation
           of the cheque on 23.4.86, it was  paid  after  cash  deposit  of
           Rs.6,000/- by you.  Thus, you issued cheque without  maintaining
           sufficient balance in your account.

       ii) You issued  cheque  no.  315830  dated  23.6.87  for  Rs.4,061/-
           favouring  M/s  Bhagat  Ram  Jai  Narain   without   maintaining
           sufficient balance in your  savings  Bank  Account  No.38.   The
           cheque could be paid when  you  deposited  Rs.14,000/-  cash  on
           24.6.87.

      iii) Your such actions were highly prejudicial to the Bank’s interest
           and unbecoming of Bank Official.



5.    Along with  the  chargesheet,  statements  of  allegations  were  also
annexed.



6.    The charged officer was  informed  that  it  was  decided  to  hold  a
departmental inquiry against him in terms of Rule 68(2)(ii) of  the  Service
Rules read with Rule 67 in support  of  the  above-mentioned  charges.   The
charged officer was given 15 days time to submit his statement  of  defence.
The charged officer submitted  his  reply  on  29.03.1995  denying  all  the
charges.  On 24.03.1995, the charged  officer  sought  permission  from  the
Bank for inspection of the relevant documents, which was  permitted  by  the
Bank on 29.04.1995.  The Disciplinary Authority vide  letter  No.  Vig/96/11
dated 08.05.1996 appointed the  Inquiring  Authority  to  inquire  into  the
charges levelled against the charged officer as per the charge  sheet  dated
15.02.1995.  The Inquiring Authority issued a  notice  dated  11.05.1996  to
the charged officer informing him of the holding of the preliminary  hearing
on 11.06.1996.  From  11.06.1996  to  07.11.1997,  the  Inquiring  Authority
conducted inquiry on 17 dates and many a times the inquiry was adjourned  on
the request of the charged officer.  He chose to remain absent  on  as  many
as 7 dates of hearing.



7.    We find from the records that the Inquiring  Authority  permitted  the
charged officer to inspect the records  in  the  presence  of  investigating
officer and fixed the  date  on  20.06.1997.   Due  to  some  inconvenience,
nothing  transpired  on  20.06.1997  and  another  date   was   fixed   i.e.
21.07.1997.   Consequently,  last  opportunity  was  given  to  the  charged
officer to go through the documents and  submit  a  list  of  documents  and
witnesses.  The charged officer, it is seen, did not avail  the  opportunity
and remained absent on  21.07.1997.   On  06.11.1997,  the  charged  officer
walked out of the inquiry.  The Inquiring Authority, however, continued  and
concluded ex parte on 07.11.1997.

8.    We notice that the charged officer did not  even  choose  to  nominate
his defence representative in spite of various opportunities  given  by  the
Inquiring Authority.  The presenting officer had sent his written  brief  on
08.12.1997 but no written brief was sent by the  charged  officer.   He  was
given time  upto  14.01.1998.   The  presenting  officer  had  informed  the
Inquiring Authority that a list of  bank  documents  was  forwarded  to  the
charged officer vide his letter dated 21.05.1997  but  the  charged  officer
did not accept the same.  The presenting officer  was  in  fact  present  on
13.09.1997 and 14.06.1997 in the bank office but  the  charged  officer  did
not report for the inspection of the bank documents on those days  as  well.
The Inquiring Authority had written a letter dated 25.06.1997 informing  the
charged officer that the presenting officer had been instructed  to  forward
a list of bank documents and witnesses by  30.06.1997  and  get  the  bank’s
documents inspected by him in his presence before 12.07.1997  that  was  the
last opportunity given to the  charged  officer.   The  same  was  also  not
availed of.  In the said  circumstances,  the  Inquiring  Authority  had  no
other alternative but to conduct  the  inquiry  ex  parte.   The  presenting
officer then produced original documents before the Inquiring Authority  and
after elaborate consideration of the charges, the statements of  allegations
and the supporting documents and after hearing the presenting  officer,  the
Inquiring Authority came to the conclusion that charge nos. 1, 2, 3,  5,  7,
8, 9, 10 and 12 were proved.  Charge nos.4,  6  and  11  were  found  to  be
partly proved.  The Inquiring Authority vide  his  report  dated  15.01.1998
concluded that the charged officer had failed to discharge his  duties  with
utmost integrity, honesty, devotion and diligence  and  acted  in  a  manner
unbecoming  of  a  bank  official  and  highly  prejudicial  to  the  Bank’s
interest.  The Disciplinary Authority later considered the relevant  records
of the case, including the findings  of  the  Inquiring  Authority  and  the
submission made by the charged officer and submitted his  recommendation  to
the appointing authority.   The appointing authority,  after  going  through
the relevant records of the  case,  the  charge-sheet,  proceedings  of  the
inquiry, written briefs of the  presenting  officer,  the  findings  of  the
Inquiring Authority etc.,  decided  to  dismiss  the  charged  officer  from
service in terms of Rule 67(j) of the Service Rules read  with  Rule  68  of
the Service Rules.  The order was passed to that effect on 11.03.1999.   The
charged officer was also informed that he has  a  right  of  appeal  to  the
appellate authority as per Rule 69 of the Service Rules.



9.    The charged officer without availing of  the  remedy  of  a  statutory
appeal approached the High Court under Article 226 of  the  Constitution  of
India.  The High Court, however, took the view that the  presenting  officer
had failed to discharge his obligation of making available the list  of  all
the documents and witnesses to the charged officer.   The  Court  held  Rule
68(2)(ix) contemplates that the Inquiry officer must ensure supply  of  list
of documents and witnesses to be  relied  on  by  Bank  in  support  of  its
charges.  The Court took the view that the presenting officer did not  place
anything on record to show when the list was made available to  the  charged
officer.  Further, it was also noticed that the bank had failed  to  examine
any witnesses in  respect  of  the  charges  and,  therefore,  the  findings
recorded by the Inquiring Authority could  not  be  sustained.   The  Court,
therefore, allowed the writ petition and quashed the  impugned  order  dated
11.03.1999 with liberty to hold  a  fresh  inquiry.   There  was  a  further
direction to the Bank to pay arrears of subsistence allowance  treating  the
period of his absence as deemed suspension.



10.   Shri Harin P. Rawal, learned Additional  Solicitor  General  appearing
for the Bank, submitted that the  High  Court  has  committed  an  error  in
interfering with the order of dismissal especially when the charged  officer
had an alternative remedy of appeal under Rule  69  of  the  Service  Rules.
Learned  counsel  also  submitted  that  the  list  of  bank  documents  for
inspection had been enclosed by the presenting  officer  vide  letter  dated
21.05.1997 to the charged officer which the charged officer had  refused  to
accept.   Further,  it  was  also  pointed  out  that  vide   letter   dated
30.05.1997, the presenting officer had enclosed the list of  bank  documents
and requested the charged officer  to  inspect  the  same  at  the  relevant
branch which also the charged officer refused to  accept.   Learned  counsel
also pointed out  that  the  bank  had  given  sufficient  opportunities  to
inspect those documents in the bank’s office, the said fact was  taken  note
of by the Inquiring Authority.  Learned counsel also pointed out that  where
a bank employee who had refused to avail of the  opportunities  provided  to
him in a disciplinary proceeding of defending himself  against  the  charges
of misconduct cannot be permitted to complain later that he had been  denied
a reasonable opportunity  of  defending  himself  of  the  charges  levelled
against him.  Learned counsel  also  pointed  out  that  in  a  disciplinary
proceeding, the standard of proof required is preponderance  of  probability
and not proof beyond reasonable doubt.  The High Court under Article 226  of
the Constitution of India was not justified  in  setting  aside  that  order
especially when the charged officer could have  appealed  to  the  appellate
authority under Rule 69 of the Service Rules.



11.    Respondent  appeared  in-person  and  submitted  that  there  is   no
illegality in the order passed by the High Court  calling  for  interference
by this Court.  The respondent pointed out  that  cogent  reasons  had  been
stated by the High Court in setting aside the order of  dismissal  which  is
unassailable.  Further, it was pointed out that under  Rule  68(2)(ix),  the
Inquiry Officer must ensure supply of the list of  documents  and  witnesses
relied by Bank to support the charges.  There is nothing in  the  record  of
proceeding which would show that the presenting  officer  had  produced  the
list of documents before the Inquiring Authority and hence no  copy  of  the
same was made available to the charged officer as  well.   Further,  it  was
also pointed out that the burden is on the bank  to  establish  the  charges
levelled against the charged officer which the bank had not  discharged  and
the High Court has rightly set aside the order of dismissal.



12.   The first infirmity pointed out by the High  Court  was  that  charge-
sheet did  not  mention  anything  about  the  documents  or  the  witnesses
which/whom it proposed to rely to prove the charges, nor appended  any  list
of documents or witnesses.  The presenting officer had  also,  according  to
the High Court, failed to provide the list of  documents  and  witnesses  to
the charged officer.  Further, the High Court also pointed out that  minutes
of the proceedings would indicate  that  forty  eight  more  documents  were
produced before the Inquiring Authority and the rest of the  documents  were
permitted to be produced on 07.11.1997.  On  07.11.1997,  thirty  four  more
documents were produced and marked as Ex. 51 to 84.   The  High  Court  also
pointed out that no witness was examined by the Bank in support  of  charges
and hence to hold the charges relating to Government Business Branch  proved
was in fact a finding supported with no evidence.



13.   State Bank of India Officers Service Rules are framed in  exercise  of
powers conferred under Section 43(1) of  State  Bank  of  India  Act,  1955.
Chapter XI of the Service Rules deals with conduct, discipline  and  appeal.
Decision to initiate and procedure for disciplinary action is dealt with  in
Rule 68 of the Service Rules.  Admittedly, the provision of Rule  68(3)  had
been  complied  with  and  the  charged  officer  was  given  time  to  file
objections to the charges levelled against him.  The charged  officer  filed
his reply  on  29.03.1995  for  the  charges  levelled  against  him.   Rule
68(2)(v) says that the disciplinary authority shall  where  it  is  not  the
Inquiring Authority,  forward  to  the  Inquiring  Authority  the  following
documents:

     a) A copy of the articles of charge and statements of  imputations  of
        misconduct;



     b) A copy of the written statement of defence, if  any,  submitted  by
        the officer;




     c) A list of documents by which and list  of  witnesses  by  whom  the
        articles of charge are proposed to be substantiated;




     d) A copy of statements of the witnesses, if any;




     e) Evidence proving the delivery  of  the  articles  of  charge  under
        clause (iii);




     f) A copy of the order appointing the “Presenting Officer” in terms of
        clause (vi).







14.   Rule 68(2)(a) states that the  Inquiring  Authority  shall  where  the
officer does not admit all or any of the articles of charge furnish to  such
officer a list of documents by which, and a list of witnesses by  whom,  the
articles of charge are proposed to be proved.



15.   Rule 68(2)(xiii) states that on the date fixed for  the  inquiry,  the
oral and documentary evidence by which the articles of charge  are  proposed
to be proved shall be produced by or on behalf of the Bank.   The  witnesses
produced by the presenting officer  shall  be  examined  by  the  presenting
officer and may be cross-examined by or  on  behalf  of  the  officer.   The
presenting officer shall be entitled to  re-examine  his  witnesses  on  any
points on which they have been cross-examined,  but  not  on  a  new  matter
without the leave of the Inquiring Authority.  The Inquiring  Authority  may
also put such questions to the witnesses as it thinks fit.



16.   Rule 68(2)(xix) states  that  if  the  officer  does  not  submit  the
written statement of defence referred to in clause (iii) on  or  before  the
date specified for the purpose or does not appear in person, or through  the
officer’s representative or otherwise fails or refuses to  comply  with  any
of the provisions of these rules which require the presence of  the  officer
or his representative, the Inquiring  Authority  may  hold  the  enquiry  ex
parte.



17.   We may in  the  light  of  the  above-mentioned  statutory  provisions
examine the correctness of the order passed by the High Court.  The  charged
officer, admittedly, did not choose to nominate his  defence  representative
in spite of several opportunities given by the Inquiring Authority  nor  had
he submitted any written statement to the  Inquiring  Authority.   Time  was
given upto 14.01.1998 to do so but he had not availed of  that  opportunity.
Neither the charged officer nor any defence representative  appeared  before
the Inquiring Authority.  The arguments that were  raised  before  the  High
court of non-compliance of the procedure, could  have  been  raised  by  the
charged officer before the Inquiring Authority, but the same  was  not  done
and he had not co-operated  with  the  inquiry  proceedings.   In  the  said
circumstances, the Inquiring Authority was entitled to hold the  enquiry  ex
parte as provided under Rule 68(2)(xix).



18.   We are of the view that the High  Court  has  committed  an  error  in
holding that the charge-sheet should have mentioned  about  the  details  of
the documents and the names of the witnesses  which  the  Bank  proposed  to
examine and a list to that effect should have been appended  to  the  charge
sheet.  We may point out that the charge-sheet need not contain the  details
of the documents or the names of the witnesses proposed to  be  examined  to
prove the charges or a list to  that  effect  unless  there  is  a  specific
provision to that effect.  Charge-sheet, in other words, is not expected  to
be a record of evidence.  Fair procedure does not mean giving of  copies  of
the documents or list of witnesses along with the charge-sheet.  Of  course,
statement of allegations has to accompany the  charge-sheet,  when  required
by the Service Rules.

19.   We notice the presenting officer had informed the inquiring  authority
that the list of bank’s documents was forwarded to the charged officer  vide
his letter dated 21.05.1997 but the charged  officer  did  not  accept  that
letter.  Charged officer’s related letter would also indicate  that  he  was
advised not to accept the  letter  along  with  its  enclosure.   Presenting
officer had again sent the list of bank’s documents to the  charged  officer
vide his letter dated 27.06.1997, the same was also not responded to by  the
charged officer.  The Inquiring Authority further  directed  the  presenting
officer to make arrangements for the charged official to inspect the  bank’s
documents.  Consequently, the  presenting  officer  vide  his  letter  dated
30.05.1997  and  27.06.1997  made  arrangements  for  inspection  of  bank’s
documents   on   13.06.1997,   14.06.1997,   09.07.1997    and    10.07.1997
respectively.  Presenting officer was  also  present  for  facilitating  the
inspection but the charged officer did not turn up  for  inspection  of  the
bank’s documents.  In fact the Inquiring Authority  himself  had  written  a
letter dated 25.06.1997  to  the  charged  officer  advising  him  that  the
presenting officer had again been instructed to forward the list  of  bank’s
documents  and  witnesses  by  30.06.1997  and  get  the  bank’s   documents
inspected by him in his  presence  before  12.07.1997  which  was  the  last
opportunity given to the charged officer.   One more opportunity  was  given
by the Inquiring Authority to the charged officer  to  submit  the  list  of
defence documents and witnesses by 19.07.1997 but the  charged  officer  did
not give any list of defence documents and witnesses  and  on  most  of  the
days, the charged officer did not appear  before  the  Inquiring  Authority.
On 06.11.1997, the charged officer walked out of the  inquiry.   Under  such
circumstances, the Inquiring Authority had no other alternative but to  hold
the inquiry ex parte.  We are of the view that the Inquiring  Authority  and
the presenting  officer  had  followed  procedures  laid  down  under  Rules
68(2)(v), 68(2)(ix)(a), 68(2)(viii) and 68(2)(xix) of the Service Rules.



20.   We are of the view that the High Court  also  committed  an  error  in
holding that since no witness was examined in support of charges, it  was  a
case of no evidence.  In an ex parte inquiry, in our view,  if  the  charges
are borne out from documents kept in the normal course of business, no  oral
evidence is necessary to prove those  charges.   When  the  charged  officer
does not attend the inquiry, then  he  cannot  contend  that  the  Inquiring
Authority should not have relied upon the  documents  which  were  not  made
available or disclosed to him.  Of course, even  in  an  ex  parte  inquiry,
some evidence is necessary to establish the  charges,  especially  when  the
charged officer denies the charges, uncontroverted documentary  evidence  in
such situation is sufficient to prove the charges.



21.   The Inquiring Authority has examined each and  every  charge  levelled
against the charged officer and the documents  produced  by  the  presenting
officer and came to the conclusion that most of  the  charges  were  proved.
In a departmental inquiry, the disciplinary authority is expected  to  prove
the charges  on  preponderance  of  probability  and  not  on  proof  beyond
reasonable doubt.  Reference may be made to  the  judgments  of  this  Court
reported in Union of India v. Sardar Bahadur; (1972)  4  SCC  618  and  R.S.
Saini v. State of Punjab  and  Others;  (1999)  8  SCC  90.   The  documents
produced by the bank, which were not controverted by  the  charged  officer,
supports all the  allegations  and  charges  levelled  against  the  charged
officer.  In a case, where the charged officer had  failed  to  inspect  the
documents in  respect  of  the  allegations  raised  by  the  bank  and  not
controverted it is always open to the  Inquiring  Authority  to  accept  the
same.



22.   In Bank of India v. Apurba Kumar Saha ;  (1994) 2 SCC 615,
this  court
held:

      “A bank employee  who  had  refused  to  avail  of  the  opportunities
      provided to him in a  disciplinary  proceeding  of  defending  himself
      against the charges of misconduct involving his integrity and honesty,
      cannot be permitted to complain  later  that  he  had  been  denied  a
      reasonable opportunity of defending himself of  the  charges  levelled
      against him and the disciplinary proceeding conducted against  him  by
      the bank employer had resulted in violation of principles  of  natural
      justice of fair hearing”.




23.   The High Court, in our view, under Article 226 of the Constitution  of
India was not justified in interfering with the order  of  dismissal  passed
by the appointing authority after a full-fledged  inquiry,  especially  when
the Service Rules provide for an alternative remedy  of  appeal.   It  is  a
well acceptable principle of  law  that  the  High  Court  while  exercising
powers under Article 226 of the Constitution does not act  as  an  appellate
authority.  Of course, its jurisdiction is  circumscribed  and  confined  to
correct an error of law or procedural error, if any, resulting  in  manifest
miscarriage of justice or violation of the principles  of  natural  justice.
In State Bank of India and Others v. Ramesh Dinkar Punde (2006) 7  SCC  212,
this Court held that  the  High  Court  cannot  re-appreciate  the  evidence
acting as a court of Appeal.  We have, on facts, found  that  no  procedural
irregularity has been committed either by the Bank,  presenting  officer  or
the Inquiring Authority.  Disciplinary proceedings were  conducted  strictly
in accordance with the Service Rules.



24.   This court in State of Andhra Pradesh v. Sree Rama Rao;   AIR 1963  SC
1723 held:

      “Where there is some evidence, which the authority entrusted with  the
      duty  to  hold  the  inquiry  has  accepted  and  which  evidence  may
      reasonably support the conclusion that delinquent officer is guilty of
      the charge, it is not the function of the High Court in a petition for
      a writ under Article 226 to review the evidence and to  arrive  at  an
      independent finding  on  the  evidence  especially  when  the  charged
      officer had not participated in the inquiry and  had  not  raised  the
      grounds  urged  by  him  before  the  High  Court  by  the   Inquiring
      Authority.”




25.   This Court
in Lakshmi Devi Sugar Mills  Ltd.  v. Pt.  Ram  Sarup;  AIR
1957 SC 82 held
where a workman intentionally refuses to participate in  the
inquiry, cannot complain that the dismissal  is against  the  principles  of
natural justice.  Once the inquiry proceed ex parte,  it  is  not  necessary
for the Inquiring Authority to again ask the charged officer  to  state  his
defence orally or in writing.  We  cannot  appreciate  the  conduct  of  the
charged officer in this case,  who  did  not  appear  before  the  Inquiring
Authority and offered any explanation to the charges  levelled  against  him
but approached the  High  Court  stating  that  the  principles  of  natural
justice had been violated.



26.   We are  also  conscious  of  the  fact  that
 even  if  the  Inquiring
Authority set the charged officer ex parte that would not absolve  him  from
deciding that the charges levelled against  him  were  proved  or  not.   
In
other words, no punishment could be imposed without an inquiry.   
We  notice
in this case the Inquiring Authority had elaborately considered the  charges
levelled against the charged officer and also the materials produced by  the
bank because some evidence is necessary to establish the charges.  
 In  some
cases,  proof  may  only  be  documentary  and  in  some  cases  oral.   
The
requirement of proof depends on the facts and circumstances  of  each  case.
Appellant - Bank in this case has  succeeded  in  establishing  the  charges
levelled against the delinquent  officer  and  was  rightly  dismissed  from
service which called for no interference by the  High  Court  under  Article
226 of the Constitution of India.



27.   In view of the  above-mentioned  reasons,  we  find  it  difficult  to
support the judgment  of  the  High  Court.   Consequently,  the  appeal  is
allowed and the impugned judgment is set aside with no order as to costs.





                                            .................................
                                            ..J.
                                            (K. S. Radhakrishnan)






                                            .................................
                                            ..J.
                                            (Dipak Misra)
New Delhi,
January 14, 2013



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