Decided on February 25,2013

Sec /G M , Distt Coop Bank Ltd Appellant
Registrar, Coop Societies Respondents


BARIN GHOSH,.J. - (1.) IN the instant case, respondent -writ petitioner, an employee of the appellant, was charge -sheeted. He was asked to give a reply to the charge -sheet within 15 days. Respondent -writ petitioner gave a reply to the charge -sheet denying the charges. In such view of the matter, an Inquiry Officer was appointed. Inquiry Officer did not give any notice to the respondent -writ petitioner indicating that he will be holding the inquiry on the dates specified. No inquiry was, therefore, conducted. However, a purported inquiry report was submitted. The said inquiry report could not be acted upon, inasmuch as, the same is vitiated by not holding any inquiry. Copy of the inquiry report was not served upon the respondent -writ petitioner. On the basis of the inquiry report and accepting the views expressed therein by the Inquiry Officer, the Disciplinary Authority concluded the matter, and thereby, punished the respondent -writ petitioner. The punishment was of withholding one increment for one year. The disciplinary proceeding, in the instant case, is governed by the statutory Rules known as 'U.P. Co -operative Societies Rules Employees Service Regulations, 1975. The said Rules provide for punishments, which include withholding of increment. The said Rules provide that a chargesheeted employee may be awarded appropriate punishment. A proviso thereto further specifies that in case of reduction in rank, removal from service or dismissal from service, recourse to disciplinary proceedings must be taken. The procedure for disciplinary proceedings prescribes that 15 days time is required to be given to the delinquent to answer the charges levelled. In the instant case, the same was done. Though, a disciplinary proceeding was initiated, which could entail an order directing reduction in rank or removal from service or dismissal from service, but still then, it was argued before us by the learned counsel that the Disciplinary Authority could award any other punishment to the respondent -writ petitioner, and thereby, insinuated without even holding an enquiry. If we accept the submission, thus made, we will make the law a mockery. Once a Disciplinary Authority has appointed an Inquiry Officer, it becomes obligatory on the part of the Disciplinary Authority to ensure that the Inquiry Officer discharges his statutory duties. In the event he has not done so, it becomes obligatory on the part of the Disciplinary Authority to ensure that the Inquiry Officer has discharged his statutory obligations. The statute in the instant case prescribes that in disciplinary proceedings principles of natural justice shall be observed. If the date of inquiry is not known to the delinquent, the question is how he can expect natural justice from the Inquiry Officer. It may be possible that without taking recourse to the disciplinary proceedings, minor penalties, like censure, withholding of increment, imposition of fine, recovery of loss etc., can be imposed, but in such cases the Disciplinary Authority, while issuing the charge -sheet and obtaining a reply thereon, is required to act himself as Adjudicator, and thereupon to adjudicate whether the charge stands established or not. No sooner he appoints an Inquiry Officer and delegates the power of inquiry, a part of adjudication, to the Inquiry Officer, it becomes obligatory on his part to ensure that, that part of adjudication, namely, inquiry has been done in the manner the statute has prescribed.
(2.) THAT having not been done in the instant case, the learned Judge has interfered with the order of punishment. We see no reason to interfere with the same. However, having regard to the fact that a charge -sheet has been issued and the same remains outstanding, it is our obligation to direct the Disciplinary Authority to inquire into the charges in accordance with the mandate contained in the statute and complete the same as quickly as possible. In other words, the disciplinary proceeding is restored at the level of the inquiry. Having regard to the respect that the Inquiry Officer has shown to principles of natural justice, we direct his removal with a further direction upon the Disciplinary Authority to appoint a suitable person as Inquiry Officer.
(3.) THE last contention in the present appeal is with regard to interference with the suspension order. The fact remains that the statute, while permitting suspension to be affected, directs that no employee shall ordinarily remain under suspension for more than six months except when he is charged in a criminal case. In the instant case, the respondent -writ petitioner remained under suspension not only for more than six months, but the fact remains that at the time while he was punished, his suspension was brought to an end. That being the situation, we do not interfere with the order appealed against dealing with the suspension. The outcome of the suspension, i.e. the entitlement of the respondent -writ petitioner during the suspension period, shall be determined by the Disciplinary Authority at the conclusion of the disciplinary proceeding, as is the mandate of the statute. The appeal is disposed of accordingly.;

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