(1.) NILRATAN Banerjee was an employee of the Life Insurance Corporation of India. He was originally appointed by the hindusthan Co-operative Insurance society Limited on and about 11th March, 1935 and thereafter, upon the constitution of the Life Insurance Corporation of India, the services of said Nilratan Banerjee were transferred to and acquired by the Life Insurance Corporation. The Life Insurance Corporation was constituted by the Life Insurance Corporation Act, being Act 31 of 1956. In 1958 the said Nilratan Banerjee is hereinafter referred to as the appellant. In December 8, 1961 the respondent was promoted as Superintendent by Life Insurance Corporation. Upto 25th February, 1966, the respondent was employed as Superintendent, Adrema (Renewal) at No. 4, Chittarenjan avenue, Calcutta. On the 26th February, 1966, the respondent was transferred as Superintendent, Adrema (New Business) Department at Rallis Building at No. 16, Hare Street, calcutta. It appears between 22nd January, 1966 to 16th June, 1966 six cheques of different dates were encashed by one Sukumar Das Gupta also superintendent of the appellant through the bank account of the respondent with the Central Bank of India Limited, Esplanade Branch, which is next door to the appellant's office at chittaramjan Avenue. The respondent alleged that one R. C. Chowdhury, who had been appointed as Chief Accountant of the Esplanade Branch, informed the respondent that an enquiry was being made by the appellant in respect of cheques encashed by Sukumar Das Gupta through the respondent's bank account. The respondent asserted that he was advised by the Chief accountant to get a receipt from Sukumar Das Gupta. It is further the case of the respondent that on coming to know of the enquiry the respondent voluntarily reported the matter to S. C. Chatterjee, Assistant Divisional Manager of the appellant. The respondent also obtained declaration in writing from Sukumar das Gupta that he had deposited some cheques in the current account of the respondent with the Central Bank, Esplanade Branch. The cheques were all drawn by the appellant, Calcutta Division Office, in favour of various parties and Sukumar Das Gupta stated that they were deposited by Sukumar Das Gupta personally with the bank of the respondent and pay-in-slips were filled in and cheques endorsed by Sukumar Das Gupta. Sukumar Das Gupta further asserted that he had received the full value of the cheques. It is further the case of the respondent that the Divisional Manager, of the appellant enquired of the respondent about the encashment of cheques by Sukumar Das Gupta when the respondent told him the facts and the Divisional manager asked the respondent to submit a report in writing to the Senior Divisional Manager. The respondent on the 19th April, 1968 submitted a report to the Senior divisional Manager of the appellant in writing regarding the alleged facets about the encashment of cheques by Sukumar Das Gupta. The respondent had also stated in the said report that the entire amount covered by the said cheques was duly paid to Sukumar Das Gupta. He also stated that he had helped many persons who were employees of the appellant and did not have Bank Accounts in encashing cheques through his account. In middle of May, 1968 the respondent went on leave due to the contemplated marriage of his daughter in June, 1968. Gn 18th June, 1968 the respondent rejoined his services with the appellant. On the 24th June, 1968 the respondent was served with a notice by the senior Divisional Manager of the appellant. It was in respect of the proceeding under Regulation 39 of the Life insurance Corporation of India (Staff)Regulations, 1960. By the said letter, the respondent was informed that since disciplinary proceedings were contemplated against him for defrauding the Corporation by encashing cheques against the fraudulent refund of deposits issued to various policy holders he was placed under suspension with immediate effect and he was to remain suspended until further order. He was also allowed subsistence allowance at the rate of 1/3rd of his basic pay drawn prior to his suspension. On the same day the Senior Divisional Manager gave notice of the charges of the proceedings under Regulation 39 of Life Insurance Corporation of India (Staff) Regulation, 1960. It is necessary to set out in detail the charges framed which appear at pages 25-26 of the paper book, as follows : "you, Shri Nilratan Banerjee, Superintendent, S. R. No. 3082, attached to Adrema department are hereby charged for the following offence : (1) That in respect of the following cases you credited cheques drawn in favour of various persons to your Bank Account with the Central Bank of India Ltd. , Esplanade Branch, callcutta, and misappropriated the proceeds of these cheques, and thereby you have acted in a manner prejudicial to your good conduct and committed breach of Regulation 24 of Staff regulations, 1960 penalties for which may be imposed on you under Regulation 39 of the Staff Regulations, 1960. Cheque No. OA 835424 Date of Cheques; 8. 2. 1966 Name of the payee Shri A. K. Kundu Amount. Rs. 730. 00 33 oa 445226 22. 1. 1966 Shri N. N. Bakshi Rs. 2,306. 10 24 oa 835425 8. 2. 1966 Shri S. N. Dutt Rs. 1,152. 40 3 p. c. 835894 18. 2,1966 Shri R. K. Majumdar Rs. 2,234. 09 oc 253438 16. 6. 1966 Shri S. Verma Rs. 683. 55 13 371637 12. 4. 1966 Shri S. Sen Rs. 921. 10 rs. 8,027. 24 (2) That by crediting to your Account these cheques which had been fraudulently issued against refund of deposits without the knowledge of the policy-holders concerned, you had been a party to cheat the Corporation and thereby you have acted in a mariner prejudicial to your good conduct and committed breach of Regulation 24 of Staff Regulation, 1960. penalties for which may be imposed on you under Regulation 39 of the Staff Regulation, 1960 "the respondent was further informed of the date by which he was to submit his defence and to state whether he desired to call any witness indicating the nature of their evidence. " It appears that on 30th June, 1968 Sukumar Das Gupta wrote to the respondent setting out the particulars of the six cheques and stating that he had received in full the amounts covered by the said cheques and that he had encashed the cheques and for that purpose had himself filled up the pay-in-slips. He also stated that he had told the respondent that the cheques belonged to his friends and relatives and that in order to help them he had deposited the cheques in the account of the respondent. On 2nd July, 1968, the respondent replied to the charge-sheet. The respondent also gave the names of 4 persons, all employees of the Life Insurance corporation, as witnesses. The said letter is Annexure 'f' to the petition and appears at page 29 of the Paper Book. On the 24th July, 1968, the respondent No. 3, N. Balasubramaniam, Assistant divisional Manager, Life Insurance corporation of India, wrote to the respondent, as follows : "in pursuance of the order dated 16th July, 1968, of the Deputy Zonal Manager, L. I. C. I. , Eastern Zone, appointing me as the Enquiry Officer to enquire into and to report to him on the charges framed against you, in terms of the charge-sheet, i have to inform you that I shall hold the enquiry at the 1st Floor of hindusthan Building, 4, Chittaranjan Avenue at 11. 00 A. M. on 7th August, 1968 and on subsequent days, if necessary. "
(2.) THE respondent was asked to name the employee of the Corporation by whom he wanted to be represented at the time of the enquiry. The respondent was also asked to give the name, designation, and addresses of the witnesses. On the 5th of August, 1968 the respondent replied to the aforesaid letter giving the names of four employees of the Life Insurance Corporation as witnesses. He also stated that he would be assisted by K. G. Goswami, Superintendent, L. I. C. I. , Zonal Office, Provident Fund Section, Calcutta. As regards the witnesses, the respondent stated as follows: "as regards witnesses, I shall be obliged if you will kindly allow the following gentlemen to be present as witnesses who will testify as to the encashment of cheques through my bank account and prove my bona fides in the transaction. " On the 7th August, 1968, the enquiry was held and the respondent attended. As to what happened at the enquiry regarding the witnesses, there is some controversy. It would be necessary to set out first from the report of the Enquiry Officer which is Annexure 'n' to the petition, at page 56 of the Paper Book. It is in the following terms :-"shri Banerjee requested that the above two letters might be treated as documents filed by him before me. He also wanted the following persons to be examined as defence witnesses : -
(1) Sri Debabrata Bose, Assistant Manager, E. D. P. , Calcutta. (2) Sri N. K. Dutta, Retired A. D. M. (Machines), C. D. O. (3) Sri Bibekananda Bose, Section Head, Adrema Department, Calcutta Division Office. (4) Sri K. D. Banerjee, Superintendent, D. P. O. , C. D. O.
(3.) SRI Banerjee informed me that the above persons would depose that some of their cheques had been encashed through his current account and would thus substantiate his statement in defence that he was in the habit of obliging friends and relatives in encashing their cheques. I had of course no objection to their being examined as defence witnesses but pointed out that the fact of encashing the cheques of friends and relatives (other than those under enquiry) could very well be proved from the Bank statement which I was going to call upon from Shri Banerjee. He did not, therefore, [press for their examination and requested that their examination could be dropped. The evidence tendered by Shri Banerjee on the 7th August, 1968 before me is attached herewith as Annexure "b". It appears, pursuant to the letter of the enquiry officer the respondent forwarded the statement of the current account of the Central Bank for the period from 1st January, 1966 to the 30th June, 1966 to him. On the 5th of September, 1968 the Enquiry Officer made the report. On the 10th of January, 1968 the respondent received a letter from the appellant No. 2, Zonal Manager, L. I. C. , intimating the respondent that he had been found guilty of partial misappropriation of the proceeds of the six cheques and that he had also been found guilty of being a party to cheat the Corporation. The respondent was directed to show cause why he should not be dismissed from service which was to reach the appellant No. 2 within three weeks from the date. The respondent thereafter asked for two weeks' time. On the 29th January, 1969, the respondent wrote to the Zonal Manager stating that Sukumar Das Gupta had been dismissed for misappropriation of the proceeds of the same six cheques. According to the respondent, he should be told on what ground Sukumar Das Gupta had been found guilty because to the extent Sukumar Das Gupta was found liable the respondent asserted, he was discharged for the alleged offence. On the 3rd February, 1969 the respondent again wrote to the Zonal Manager stating that he did not receive the report of the Enquiry Officer. Thereafter he has stated that though the four witnesses were available to give evidence the enquiry officer had said that if necessary the witnesses would be examined after the examination of the Bank statement. But that was not done, and as such the respondent stated that he did not have reasonable opportunity and as such no action can be taken against him. By a letter dated 5th of February, 1969 the respondent was supplied with the report of the Enquiry Officer. On the 14th February, 1969 the respondent wrote a letter to the Zonal manager, L. I. C. , which is Annexure 'o' to the petition and in the following terms: "for that I was given no proper opportunity of being heard at the said purported enquiry on August, 7, 1963 inasmuch as I was expressly told by the enquiry officer, Mr. N. Balasubramanian at the said enquiry that the evidence of the said four witnesses was not necessary and in the event he would feel necessary to hear the said witnesses a proper notice thereof would be given. " On the 14th february, 1969 the petitioner moved this Court under Article 226 of the constitution challenging the Show Cause Notice dated 10th of January, 1969. No rule was issued and the Court observed as follows : "in any event, it is premature. It is only after the enquiry proceedings have been finally concluded that the petitioner can on proper grounds come to High Court on an application under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. ";