V.D. Tulzapurkar, J. -
(1.) By this writ petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution the petitioner one Minoo Maneckshaw Kalifa, an employee of the Central Bank, is challenging the legality and/or validity of the decision of respondent No. 1 (Union of India) to impound his passport under Sec. 10(5)(c) of the Passports Act, 1967, which was communicated to him by respondent No. 2 (Regional Passport Officer, Bombay) by his letter dated November 25, 1971.
(2.) The facts giving rise to the petition may be stated. Petitioner Minoo Maneckshaw Kalifa, who belongs to a middle class family, joined the service of the Central Bank of India Ltd. on July 16, 1951 as a clerk in the Bank's Head Office at Bombay and later on worked in various capacities such as Junior Officer, Accountant and Agent of local branches. In or about July 1969 since he was likely to be transferred to the London Office of the Central Bank, which had by then become a statutory Corporation pursuant to the nationalisation of the former Central Bank of India Ltd., he applied for a passport and he was issued a passport bearing No. 1 -797339 dated July 28, 1969 valid upto July 27, 1972. On October 18, 1969 by an Office Order he was appointed as an Accountant in the London Branch of respondent No. 3 (Central Bank of India) ; he joined the London Office in that capacity on October 24, 1969 and worked as such Accountant upto March 31, 1970. On April 1, 1970 he was promoted as Acting Manager of London Office on resignation of one Sami J. Patel, who was till then the Manager of the London Office, and he was confirmed as the Manager of the London Office on May 1, 1970. When he first went to London in October 1969 he had taken his wife and two minor children with him, who are still residing there. By a letter dated December 30, 1970 addressed by one Mr. P. Krishna Iyer, Officer on Special Duty in the Head Office at Bombay of respondent No. 3, the petitioner was called upon to give explanation in respect of certain alleged irregularities and certain unauthorised actions in respect of certain accounts maintained in the London Office; the petitioner gave his explanation about these matters by his letter dated January 18, 1971. However, thereafter by another Office Order dated March 5, 1971 one Shri J.B. Kamath was appointed as the Manager of London Branch in place of the petitioner and on April 8, 1971 the petitioner was relieved from his post at the London Office and was asked to report to Bombay Office as early as possible. In the meanwhile as he had not enjoyed any privilege leave since his transfer to London Office in October 1969, he applied for four to six weeks' privilege leave and on April 16, 1971 he was informed that the Head Office had granted four weeks' leave to him and that he should report at Bombay on or before May 15, 1971, which leave was further extended by a fortnight by the Head Office. According to the petitioner, he had worked hard and with sincerity and devotion and therefore had risen from the rank of a mere clerk to the rank of Branch Manager but from the circumstances in which his transfer from London to Bombay Office had been effected and the reasons for which it was effected, he felt that he did not enjoy full confidence of his employers and that in the interest of both he should leave the employment and therefore by his letter dated May 15, 1971 addressed to the Manager of London Office he tendered his resignation. Pending consideration of his letter of resignation the petitioner with a view to show his bona fides left London on May 29, 1971 and arrived in Bombay on the following day, leaving behind his family in London and after his arrival he reported for duty on May 31, 1971. It appears that since May 1971 - - Mr. Ashok Desai stated since middle of May 1971 - - respondent No. 3 was contemplating holding a departmental enquiry against the petitioner in respect of the matters about which petitioner's explanation had been sought. On June 17, 1971 the petitioner was served with a charge -sheet which contained three charges against him; the first charge related to the Account of M/s. Ahmed Bros., the second pertained to the Account of M/s. Montex Ltd. and the third to the Account of M/s. G.R. Irani & Co. The allegations in the charges were that in connection with the aforesaid three accounts he had committed irregularities and acted unauthorisedly and in disregard of the Head Office instructions. By his letter dated June 24, 1971 he submitted his reply. Thereafter a full -fledged departmental enquiry was held by one S.R. Tipnis, Regional Manager, Maharashtra into these charges levelled against the petitioner and after completing the enquiry on July 21, 1971, the Enquiry Officer submitted his report on August 9, 1971. It may be stated that the petitioner's explanation regarding the second and third charges was accepted and he was completely exonerated in that behalf but so far as the first charge was concerned, the Enquiry Officer took the view that the decisions in connection with the operation of the account of M/s. Ahmed Bros, had been taken by the petitioner in joint consultation, deliberation and concurrence of his three colleagues as per instructions contained in the Order of Appointment of the petitioner as the Manager of London Branch and as such the petitioner alone could not be held responsible for taking such decisions and for the consequences thereof but that as an executive head of the branch he was responsible for not making adequate arrangements to maintain close follow -up of the advances through controlled checks. However, the Enquiry Officer unhesitatingly came to the conclusion that the actions taken by the petitioner in respect of the account of M/s. Ahmed Bros, were taken bona fide and in good faith and in the honest belief that under the circumstances in which, he was placed they were in the best interest of the Bank. Having regard to the petitioner's family connection with the Bank (the petitioner's father was also an' employee of the Bank) and having regard to his past record of service, the Enquiry Officer recommended that it would be proper and fair to take a sympathetic view of the lapses on the part of the petitioner and he proposed that the petitioner should be censured and a note should be taken to that effect in his Service Record. On this report no action one way or the other has so far been taken by the Custodian of respondent No. 3.
(3.) During the course of departmental enquiry i.e. between June and August 1971 at one of the hearing the petitioner was informed by one D.V. Taneja, Personnel Manager of respondent No. 3, that the petitioner's passport had been impounded since the departmental enquiry was pending; but since no official communication was received by him, the petitioner did not take any serious notice about it. However, after the departmental enquiry was con -eluded, the petitioner, in view of the report submitted by the "Enquiry Officer, reasonably expected that his resignation would be accepted and necessary action for releasing his passport to him would be taken. But when he found that no action was being taken in that behalf for quite some time, the petitioner by his letter dated October 6, 1971 addressed to the Custodian of respondent No. 3, requested the latter to expedite acceptance of his resignation and further requested that the Bank should write to the Government department concerned requesting for cancellation of the order impounding his passport, so that he could return back to London at the earliest to join his wife and children. He also mentioned in the said letter that he had received offers of employment from leading reputable concerns at London which he was most anxious to avail of and as such his letter of resignation be accepted without delay. On November 19, 1971 the petitioner received a reply from D.V. Taneja on behalf of respondent No. 3 informing him that his resignation was still under consideration and in the meantime he had been posted as Joint Superintendent in Personnel Department at Bombay and that he should join his duty immediately. Pursuant to this letter the petitioner started working as Joint Superintendent in the Personnel Department from November 22, 1971. "While he was so working he received a letter dated November 25, 1971 from respondent No. 2 informing him that it had been decided to impound his passport under Sec. 10(3)(c) of the Passports Act, 1967 and that he should surrender his passport to the office within a week from the date of receipt of the letter by him. The petitioner was further informed by that letter that as the decision to impound his passport had been taken by the Central Government no appeal would lie against it. By his attorney's letter dated December 16, 1971 addressed to respondent No. 2, copy of which was also forwarded to the Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi, the petitioner after setting out the relevant facts challenged the aforesaid decision of the Central Government on various grounds and demanded withdrawal or cancellation of the said decision and in default threatened legal action and since the demand for justice was not conceded, he approached this Court on February 4, 1972 with the present petition whereby the decision of the Central Government to impound his passport has been challenged on several grounds.;