HARISHCHANDRA HOTCHAND SAIJANI Vs. SYNDICATE BANK
HIGH COURT OF GUJARAT
HARISHCHANDRA HOTCHAND SAIJANI
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(1.) A loss of even a petty article may understandably cause concern to a Nationalized Bank true but should the management feel out raged and lose sense of proportion when an article of private properly of a trifling value (a pant piece) belonging to one of its Assistant Managers is found missing from his residence ? Is it such a momentus matter that a Nationalized Bank should expend (waste ?) its public time and public funds for setting the machinery of its Law department in motion ? And to go to the length of persecuting an employee (a Clerk) suspected of a petty theft notwithstanding an order of acquittal rendered by a competent Court ? And must it waste thousands in litigation for this trifling matter of no consequence to the mighty Bank ? These reflections are ignited by the present petition under Article 226 of the Constitution instituted by a Clerk in a Nationalized Bank in order to challenge the legality and validity of disciplinary proceedings initiated against him way back in 1976 on the grouted that the proceedings are without jurisdiction. The proceedings stemmed from an accusation levelled against the petitioner that he had committed the theft of a pant piece from the residence of the Assistant Manager. The petitioner was prosecuted in regard to this accusation and was tried by the learned Chief Judicial Magistrate of Jamnagar at Jamnagar in Criminal Case No. 11102 of 1976. The learned Magistrate after recording evidence and hearing the parties came to the conclusion that the prosecution had failed to establish its case. In this view of the matter the petitioner was acquitted of the offence under sec. 380 of the Indian Penal Code in connection with the aforesaid accusation by the judgment and order dated December 31 1977 as per Annexure `K. Even so the respondent Bank insists on continuing the disciplinary proceedings initiated on February 5 1976 as per the chargesheet at Annexure A. Thereupon the petitioner has approached this Court by way of the present petition.
(2.) The legality and validity of the proceedings commenced by Annexure A dated February 5 1976 have been challenged on the following grounds:-
That the proceedings relate to a criminal offence for which he was prosecuted and that according to the relevant rules no disciplinary proceeding could be initiated before the termination of the criminal case. The impugned proceedings were initiated before the criminal case was decided and were therefore altogether without Jurisdiction.
The disciplinary proceedings were without jurisdiction in view of the fact that the accusation levelled against the petitioner taken at its face value did not constitute gross misconduct within the meaning of clause 19.5 of the bipartite settlement that being the basis of the disciplinary proceedings.
The petitioner having been acquitted by a Court of law it was not open to the management to initiate proceedings for the alleged misconduct on the same facts.
(3.) The facts are not in dispute. The alleged theft took place on 15th December 1975. The theft related to an article belonging to an officer of the Bank and not to any article belonging to the Bank itself. It was an accusation of theft levelled by one citizen against another and not by the Bank itself against one of its employees. In regard to the accusation stemming from the alleged incident of theft the petitioner was suspended on January 13 1976 Some three weeks thereafter disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him on February 5 1976 And much later (about five months thereafter) prosecution was instituted against him on July 10 1976 Thus it is an admitted position that the disciplinary proceedings were initiated long before the prosecution was instituted against the petitioner. And this prosecution resulted in the acquittal of the petitioner by a judgment and order of the competent Court rendered on 31st December 1977 as per Annexure K. It is not in dispute that the order of acquittal has not been challenged by way of an appeal or revision and that it has become final. And yet the Management wants to proceed with the disciplinary proceedings. The questions indicated hereinabove have been raised in the context of these undisputed facts.;
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