R.N.Misra, J. -
(1.) PETITIONER , an employee under the State Government, was attached to the Berhampur Engineering School as a Senior Instructor (Motor Mechanic) in 1975. He was implicated in a criminal charge of attempting to commit theft and G. R. Case No. 648 of 1975 was registered against him. On 4 -9 -1975, he was placed under suspension as per the order under Annexure -1 on the ground that he had been arrested by the police. During the pendency of the criminal case, a disciplinary proceeding was initiated against him and in March, 1976, a set of four charges were framed and the Petitioner was called upon to show cause against discharge or dismissal from service or imposition of other suitable punishment. The four charges were: (I) Petitioner was found on 2 -9 -1975 to have concealed himself in the workshop with an intention of stealing valuable materials from the stores; (ii) 10 kgs. of copper wire in charge of the Petitioner were found missing and since the Petitioner was the custodian, he was liable to compensate for the loss; (iii) On verification of the stocks of which Petitioner was in charge, a shortage of mercury worth about Rs. 1294/ - was noticed for which Petitioner was also liable; and (iv) Three self -starters and some other materials were found missing from the stores of which Petitioner was in charge.
The Deputy Director of Industries. Southern Zone, was appointed as the Inquiring Officer. Petitioner submitted his explanation indicating that the first charge was the subject matter of the pending criminal case. He pointed out that the subject matter of the second charge had already been inquired into and he had furnished an explanation and a decision had been taken for recovery of half of the price of the materials. Petitioner claimed the third charge and pleaded that there was no shortage of mercury in his charge. With reference to the last charge, he had already been placed under suspension and the police case had already been initiated and he had no occasion to verify the stocks item by item particularly with reference to the non -serviceable articles in respect of which the charge had been framed. He claimed that if there was a proper verification, these articles would have been actually found.
(2.) PETITIONER was acquitted of the criminal charge. The Inquiring Officer by his report dated 6 -9 -1976 came to hold that the first and third charges had not been established; in regard to the second charge, on his own showing the Petitioner was liable to the tune of 50 per cent of the loss and in regard to the fourth charge, it was not necessary to make any inquiry as the articles, were unserviceable as indicated in the charge itself. He ultimately recommended that a sum of Rs. 129.06 being the price of 50 per cent of the missing copper wire should be recovered from the Petitioner and for the other 50 per cent, the Junior Instructor and the Peon would be liable as already suggested by the Principal of the School. The disciplinary authority, i. e. opposite party No. 1, however, did not accept the report of inquiry and held that the Petitioner was guilty of second, third and fourth charges and accordingly the fun amount of Rs. 258.12 representing the price of the missing copper wire, Rs. 1294/ - representing the price of the shortage of mercury and Rs. 35/ - being the price of the missing articles, totalling Rs. 1587.12/ - should be recovered from the Petitioner and two increments of his without cumulative effect should be stopped. The period of suspension should be treated as such (Annexure -5). Petitioner preferred an appeal but failing to obtain any relief has approached this Court for quashing the order of punishment. According to Mr. Patnaik for the Petitioner, if the disciplinary authority disagreed with the findings of the Inquiring Officer, he was required to give a brief statement of the reasons for non -acceptance. As in Annexure -5 no reason had been given, the order finding the Petitioner guilty of the charges is not sustainable. It is next contended that the Petitioner had not admitted his guilt in regard to the second charge. According to counsel, there is no evidence at all to support any of the charges and, therefore, the order imposing punishment is vitiated. It is also maintained that there was no order of suspension in the disciplinary proceeding and, therefore, Rule 91 of the Orissa Service Code had no application and it was not open to the disciplinary authority to give the direction that the period of suspension should be treated as such.
(3.) RULE 15(12) of the Orissa Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1962 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Rules of 1962') provides:
Orders passed by the disciplinary authority shall be communicated to the Government servant who shall also be supplied with a copy of the report of the inquiring authority and where the disciplinary authority is not the inquiring authority, a statement of its findings together with brief reasons for disagreement, if any, with the findings of the inquiring authority unless they have already been supplied to him and also a copy of the advice, if any, given by the Commission and, where the disciplinary authority has not accepted the advice of the Commission, a brief statement of the reasons for such nonacceptance.
Relying on this provision, learned Counsel for the Petitioner has taken the stand that when the disciplinary authority did not accept the inquiry report, he was obliged to assign reasons. That reasons had not been given by the disciplinary authority is not disputed by learned Standing Counsel. In fact, in the counter affidavit it has been conceded that reasons do not appear in the order of the disciplinary authority. Learned Standing Counsel, however, contends that Sub -section (12) appearing in Rule 15 of the Rules of 1962 lays down the procedure for imposing major penalties and, therefore, where a minor penalty as in the instant case has been imposed, reliance cannot be placed on Sub -rule (12) for claiming that reasons should have been given. Rule 15(1) specifically provides:
Without prejudice to the provisions of the Public Servants (Inquiry) Act, 1850, no order imposing on a Government servant any of the penalties specified in Clauses (vi) to (ix) of rule (13) shall be passed except after an inquiry held as far as may be in the manner hereinafter provided.
It is conceded that the punishment in question is not one provided for in Clauses (vi) to (ix) of Rule 13. We are, therefore, prepared to accept the contention of learned Counsel for the Petitioner that Sub -rule (12) is not applicable.
Even if Sub -rule (12) is not applicable, it was appropriate for the disciplinary authority to indicate reasons for differing from the Inquiring Officer. Undoubtedly, the proceeding is quasi -judicial inasmuch as a set of charges are framed against an officer, he is given an opportunity of offering an explanation and on the basis of an objective assessment of the materials, a conclusion is required to be reached culminating in imposition of a penalty. In the circumstances, if reasons be not required to be furnished, the action of the disciplinary authority is likely to be arbitrary and since an appeal is provided and the matter is justiciable otherwise, the superior forums would not be in a position to know the basis for reversal of the findings of the Inquiring Officer in hands of the disciplinary authority. Thus even though Sub -rule (12) of Rule 15 may not be applicable, in all fairness the delinquent public officer should have been provided with the reasons for non -acceptance of the findings of the Inquiring Officer.;