PUNAM CHAND Vs. COLLECTOR AJMER
HIGH COURT OF RAJASTHAN
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(1.) THIS is an appeal against the order of the Collector, Ajmer, dated 11-4-1966,1 whereby he ordered the appellant, Shri Punamchand to be reduced in his present time scale by two stages on the ground that while working as an L. D. C. in the office of the Sub-Divisional Officer, Kekri, he showed negligence and indifference and in certain cases exceeded his authority in issuing permits and delivering them to the persons who were not entitled to receive them. The Collector held that in doing so, Shri Punamchand had not acted in good faith and that his malafide intention stood clearly established.
(2.) TWO procedural objections have been raised against the order of the Collector. Firstly, it is contented that the appellant was not given a reasonable opportunity of being heard as required under Article 311 (2) of the Constitution. It is stated that before the amendment of 6-10-63, it was enough for the disciplinary authority to give a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken in regard to him, but after the amendment, it is incumbent upon the disciplinary authority to give the delinquent officer a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of the charges before a penalty can be imposed on him. It is argued that although in the notice issued under sec. 311 (2) on 16-12-1965, the appellant was allowed to represent his case personally, if he so liked, he was not given this opportunity although he had sought the same through his reply dated 15-1-1966. It is contended that this lapse vitiates the enquiry.
In order to appreciate this argument, it would be desirable to reproduce Article 311 (2) as it now stands: "no such person as aforesaid shall be dismissed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges against him and where it is proposed, after inquiry, to impose on him any such penalty, until he has been given a reasonable opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed, but only on the basis of the evidence adduced during such inquiry. "
It will be seen that this provision contemplates action in two stages. The first stage relates to the enquiry to be held before in action proposed to be taken against the delinquent officer. The second stage relates to the decision with regard to the action to be taken against him.
It is contemplated that no delinquent officer shall be dismissed or reduced in rank except after an enquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges against him and where it is proposed after the enquiry to impose on him any such penalty, no such action will be taken until he has been given a reasonable opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed. It would, thus be seen that the opportunity of being heard has to be given during the course of the enquiry contemplated at the first stage in which he has been informed of the charges, but after the enquiry what is required is to give him a reasonable opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed.
To my mind, therefore, technically, the delinquent officer is not entitled to claim a second opportunity of being heard after the enquiry. At this stage, it would be sufficient compliance of law if he is given a reasonable opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed. However, in the circumstances of the present case, there is some weight in the argument that the delinquent officer was allowed to appear personally in case he so desired in terms of the notice issued to him under Art. 311 (2) and in his reply he had sought for a personal representation, but it does not appear from the impugned order that this opportunity was given to him.
Under these circumstances, the delinquent officer may well claim that a reasonable opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed was withheld from him as he might have used the opportunity to appear in person to elaborate his arguments.
The second contention raised by the appellant is more weighty. It is his contention that the notice issued to him on 16-12-65, is invalid as it violates the provisions of rule 16 (10) of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules 1958. It is his contention that the enquiry officer in his report to the disciplinary authority had exonerated him of malafide intentions. It is stated that all that the enquiry officer could find against him was a few irregularities and inadvertent errors occasioned by heavy load of work. Therefore, if the Collector decided to differ with the Enquiry Officer, it was incumbent upon him to furnish to the appellant a statement of his findings together with brief reasons for disagreement. It is argued that the notice issued by the Collector suffers from the defect that although it indicates the disagreement of the Collector with the findings of the Enquiry Officer in respect of charges Nos. 1 and 3, yet it does not give any reasons for the disagreement. It is, further, urged in respect of the other charges that the findings of the Collector are rather vague and couched in general terms, with the result that the appellant was not sure what specific charge he was required to rebut. This contention must prevail.
In the result, I receipt this appeal and remit the case to the Collector for proceeding further in the matter from the stage of issuing a proper notice as required under rule 16 (10) of the Rajasthan Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, after giving brief reasons for disagreement with the findings of the Enquiry Officer. .
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