V.P.GOPALAN NAMBIYAR, J. -
(1.) THIS is an appeal against the judgment of a learned Judge of this Court, dismissing O.P. 725 of 1971, on the ground of delay and laches. The two writ petitioners were employees under the Kottayam Orient Bank Ltd. They will be referred to in this judgment as petitioners. The Ist petitioner joined the Bank on 2 -1 -1954 and was an 'Agent' in one of the 'Branches' of the Bank, from 1 -3 -1955 to 16 -6 -1961. He is a graduate of the Madras University, was a J.C.O., and claims to be well -qualified for preferment and promotion. The 2nd petitioner, likewise, was 'Agent' from 1 -2 -1947 to 30 -5 -1960. He was transferred to the Central office of the Bank and was working there till 17 -6 -1971. He had studied upto B.A. class, although not taken the degree, and has experience in banking. In pursuance of Ext. P1 Scheme prepared by the Reserve Bank, under Section 45, Clause (4), Sub -clause (4) of the Banking Regulation Act 1942, and sanctioned by the Government of India, under Section 45, (7) of the Act, the Kottayam Orient Bank was to be amalgamated with the State Bank of Trayancore. Under Clause (13)of the Scheme, the Employees of the Transferor Bank, other than those specified in the Schedule were to continue in service and be deemed to have been appointed in the Transferee Bank at the same remuneration, and on the same terms and conditions, as were applicable to such employees before 18 -12 -1960. Under Clause (15), the Transferee Bank was, on the expiry of a period, not longer than three years from the sanctioning of the Scheme, to grant the employees of the transferor Bank the same remuneration and the same terms and conditions of service as are applicable to the employees of the corresponding rank or status of the transferee Bank, subject to the qualifications and experience of the said employees of the transferor Bank being the same as, or equivalent to, all such other employees of the transferee Bank. Under Clause (19), doubts in regard to the interpretation of the provisions of the Scheme are to be referred to the Reserve Bank of India, whose opinion shall be conclusive and binding on both the transferee and the transferor Banks.
(2.) THE petitioners and other employees of the Kottayam Orient Bank were absorbed in the State Bank of Travancore, the transferee Bank, on and from 16 -5 -1961 under Clause (15) of the Scheme. There was an outer limit of three years for granting to them, the same terms and conditions of service as are applicable to employees of the corresponding rank or status in the transferee Bank. The material date for purpose of Clause (15) was fixed as 1 -7 -1963. The petitioners claimed fitment in the appropriate cadre in the transferee Bank. But they were aggrieved, as their designation was converted to that of clerks in the transferee Bank, and also because, persons with inferior qualifications than they, were allowed to hold posts of officers in the transfer -e -Bank. This latter, according to them, amounted to discrimination. Although this was pleaded, at the stage of the argument, Sri Hardyal Hardy who appeared for the appellants conceded that he cannot usefully urge the case of discrimination.
According to the petitioners, they were dissatisfied with the fitment made in the transferee Bank and made the representations; Ext. P6 dated 18th October, 1963, and Ex. P1 dated 30 -10 -1963, are copies of these representations. Meanwhile, the petitioners would have it that one Elias complained by O.P. No. 76 of 1964 in this Court against the fitment given to him in the Kottayam Orient Bank. The writ petition was dismissed in the first instance, by one of us ; but was allowed on appeal, by a Division Bench ; which decision was confirmed on further appeal, by the Supreme Court. The judgment of the Supreme Court dated 10 -7 -1970 is reported in A.I.R. 1971 S.C. 143. The petitioners would have it that emboldened by this decision of the Supreme Court, they filed Exts.P2 and P3 representations dated 11 -11 -1970 and 18 -11 -1970, to the General Manager of the State Bank of Travancore (2nd respondent), but no reply was given to their representations. The counter -affidavit of the 2nd respondent in paragraph 4 would admit the receipt of this representation. There is no express averment that any reply was given to these representations. The petitioners filed representations Exts. P4 and P5 dated 4 -2 -1971 and 5 -2 -1971 to the Reserve Bank of India, praying that a direction may be given to the 2nd respondent to assign the appropriate rank and status and emoluments totherefrom 1 -7 -1963. The petitioners, therefore, prayed for a writ of mandamus to the 3rd respondent to dispose of the representations filed before it and for other appropriate writ or direction to the respondents to fit the petitioners in their appropriate rank and status in the State Bank of Travancore, as officers entitled to the emoluments of the said post from 1 -7 -1963.
(3.) THE defence to the petition was mainly that the petitioners had been barred by delay and laches. In addition to these, it was pleaded that by their conduct they had abandoned the relief claimed or at least brought about such a change of situation and circumstances, as to render it inequitable and inappropriate to grant them relief under Article 226. The pleas found favour with the learned single Judge.;