S GOVINDA MENON Vs. UNION OF INDIA
HIGH COURT OF KERALA
S GOVINDA MENON
UNION OF INDIA
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(1.) This appeal is brought, by certificate, against the judgment of the High Court of Kerala dated January 5, 1966 dismissing Original Petition No. 1 of 1964 filed by the appellant.
(2.) The appellant, Sri. S. Govinda Menon is a member of the Indian Administrative Service. He was the First Member of the Board of Revenue, Kerala State & was holding the post of Commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments. On the basis of certain petitions containing allegations of misconduct against the appellant in the discharge of his duties as Commissioner the Kerala Government instituted certain preliminary enquires and thereafter started disciplinary proceedings against the appellant and also placed him under suspension under R.7 of the All India Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955, hereinafter called the 'Rules'. A copy of the charges together with a statement of certain allegations was served on the appellant who thereafter filed a written statement of defence. After perusing the written statement the Government passed orders that his explanation was unacceptable and that the charges should be enquired into by an Enquiry Officer to be appointed under R.5 of the Rules. Accordingly Sri T. N. S. Raghavan, a retired I. C. S. officer was appointed to hold the inquiry. The appellant then filed the present writ petition before the High Court of Kerala praying for grant of a writ of certiorari to quash the proceedings initiated against him and for a writ of mandamus calling upon respondent No. 2, State of Kerala, to allow him to function as the First Member of the Board of Revenue. As no application for stay was made and as no order of stay was passed by the High Court Sri T. N. S. Raghavan proceeded with the inquiry and submitted his report to the Union Government finding the appellant guilty of charges 1 to 4 and 9. The Union of India, alter consideration of the report, issued a 'Show Cause Notice' Ex. P-9. The appellant thereafter filed an application before the High Court for amendment of the writ petition. The prayer in this amended petition was for the issue of a writ of prohibition restraining the first respondent Union of India from proceeding further in pursuance of the 'Show Cause Notice' and also for quashing the same. The application for amendment was allowed by the High Court. The main contention of the appellant was that the proceedings initiated against him were entirely without jurisdiction as no disciplinary proceedings could be taken against him for acts and omissions with regard to his work as Commissioner under the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act, 1951 (Madras Act XIX of 1951), hereinafter called the 'Act' and that the orders made by him being of quasi judicial character can be impugned only in appropriate proceedings taken under that Act. After hearing the arguments advanced on both sides, Mathew, J. rejected the objections raised by the appellant regarding want of jurisdiction and held that the respondents bad power to proceed with the inquiry into the charges. S. Velu Pillai, J on the other hand, took the view that quasi judicial decisions became final and conclusive if they were not set aside or modified in the manner prescribed by the statute and if the decisions are not so challenged, their correctness or legality must be taken to be conclusive, and such quasi judicial decisions cannot form the subject matter of charges in disciplinary proceedings against the appellant. Velu Pillai, J. held that the Union Government had therefore no jurisdiction to proceed with the inquiry on the first part of charge 1, charge 2, the first part of charge 3 and charge 4, but the Union Government had jurisdiction to proceed with the inquiry with regard to the second part of charge No. 1, the second part of charge No. 3 and charge No. 9. In view of this difference of opinion the matter was placed before Govinda Menon, J. who agreed with the view taken by Mathew, J. and in the result the writ petition of the appellant was dismissed.
(3.) It is necessary at this stage to set out the charges levelled against the appellant. Charges 1 to 4 relate mainly to the conduct of the appellant in sanctioning 30 leases regarding the private forest lands of 5 Devaswoms and charge No. 9 concerns the refusal by the appellant to attend a conference convened by the Chief Secretary to consider certain important matters connected with the national emergency. In 17 of the leases relating to the first charge the period of the lease is 36 years. In one case the period is 96 years and in the rest of the leases the period of lease is 99 years. The total area covered by all the leases comes to over 50,000 acres. Charges 1 to 4 and 9 read as follows:
"1. That you, Shri S. Govinda Menon, I. A. S., while employed in the Government Service as member. Board of Revenue and Commissioner, H. R. & C. E. (Administration) Department from 1 2 1957 to 19 10 1962 issued sanctions granting leases of extensive and valuable forest lands belonging to the Devaswoms under your control as Commissioner such as (1) Pulpally Devaswom, (2) Kallaikulangara Emoor Bhagavathi Temple, (3) Nadivilla Vallathu Devaswom, (4) Kottiyoor Devaswom, (5) Mundayanparamba Devaswom etc., in utter disregard of the provisions in the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Act, 1951 and the rules issued thereunder. In several cases you had yourself initiated the proposals for leases which should have been made by the trustee and acted in judgment on them by sanctioning the leases. In many cases of the leases aforesaid and otherwise generally in regard to the control and supervision exercised by you over the administration of endowments, your conduct has been such as to render you unfit for the performance of your statutory duties under the Madras Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Act or as a responsible Officer of the Government.
2. That you had fixed the premium for lease, the rental and the timber value arbitrarily disregarding whether they were beneficial to the institutions as you were required to do under the Act and you thereby caused wrongful gain to the lessees and wrongful loss to the Devaswoms.
3. That you not only initiated proposals for the leases and sanctioned them yourself, but also took further action for putting the lessees in possession of the lands and to fell the trees thereon for which you had no authority under the Act and the Rules. In particular you attempted to influence the Collector of Kozhikode, the statutory authority for the sanctioning of leases of private forests under the M. P. P. F. Act by causing your Personal Assistant to write to the Personal Assistant to the Collector thereby bringing the weight of your Official position as his official superior in your capacity as 1st Member, Board of Revenue, to bear upon him and influence the Collector in the performance of his statutory duty.
4. That you sanctioned the lease of extensive forest lands with valuable tree-growth belonging to various Devaswoms to your relations, neighbours and friends contrary to the provision in R.3 of the All India Services (Conduct) R.1954, which enjoins every member of the service to maintain absolute integrity in all official matters.
9. That on 29 10 1962 you refused to attend a conference of the Members of the Board of Revenue and the Inspector General of Police which was called together by the Chief Secretary in the Secretariat to discuss important matters connected with the national emergency and was thereby guilty of gross dereliction of duty and of discourtesy to the Chief Secretary.";
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