Decided on October 13,1992



- (1.)At issue, in this writ petition is as to whether inspite of the fact that the period of suspension is treated as on duty in an order passed in disciplinary proceedings against an employee, can the disciplinary authority, order withholding of the pay during the suspension period as a measure of punishment.
(2.)The facts, briefly stated, are thus: The petitioner was first recruited as Junior Engineer in the Electricity Department of Government and thereafter, after promotion as Divisional Engineer, his services were transferred and placed at the disposal of the 1st respondent-Board during the year 1973 and three years later, he was promoted to the post of Superintending Engineer (Electrical). While working so in the said post, he was placed under suspension on 28-2-1983 in a disciplinary action initiated against him. The charges levelled are 8 in number which are extracted below:
CHARGE NO. 1 : An amount of Rs.603.96 lakhs was spent on revetments (293.49 lakhs) and backfilling of foundations with R.R. masonary (Rs.251.47 lakhs) or the lower Sileru-Bommur 220 K.V.D.C. line utilising the unit rates provided in the contract for revetments and backfilling of foundations. Though quantities were not specified in the contract, the quantities executed by the two firms of contractors are 23949 cum. under backfilling with R.R. masonary and 23261 cum. under revetments. According to your tour diaries furnished by you, you had inspected the line on 10 occasions between July, 1979 and February, 1982. During the inspection you ought to have -noticed huge revetments being constructed on the line at almost all locations in the hills reach and backfilling of foundations with R.R. Masonary without other alternatives being considered or estimates being sanctioned or the matter being brought to the notice of the Chief Engineer / Electricity (Projects) and the Board to enable consideration of the possibility of avoiding / reducing expenditure on the items. Due to your negligence and lack of control the field officers acted arbitrarily and, in connivance with the contractors, were responsible for the huge expenditure under backfilling with R.R. Masonary and revetments, under the clock of unquantified items and unitrates. As Superintending Engineer incharge of the T.L.C. lines it was your duty to have exercised control on the progress of work, both financial and physical, and brought the excesses to the notice of the competent authority in time.

CHARGE NO.2:No estimates appear to have been got sanctioned and approved by the competent authority to incur such heavy expenditure against revetments and backfilling with R.R. masonary. Also no action was taken by you to get the contract value enhanced or the revised estimate sanctioned for the line when expenditure had already begun to exceed the sanctioned estimates and contract values. This is a serious financial irregularity involving violation of codal provisions for which you are responsible.

CHARGE NO.3: Instructions were issued in Memo No. CPT / 322 / Tech. / 4 / 81, dated31-3-81 to dispense with the practice of backfilling with R.R. masonary. Even after the above instructions, these works continued to be got executed. You failed to follow the instructions issued by the Chief Engineer's office and to check the action of the field officers thereby committing grave dereliction of duty.

CHARGE NO.4: During the execution of the work, it ought to have come to your notice that the length of the line had increased and that the erection costs have gone up. You ought to have taken action to submit the revised estimate and sent proposals for enhancement of the face value of the contract and obtained approval of the competent authority instead of allowing the expenditure to be incurred without authority.

CHARGE NO.5: A 9 K. M. 220 KV line (single circuit) was got executed through M/s. Toco Engineering without any sanctioned estimate or valid contact. Anamount of about Rs. 106 lakhs was spent on the erection of this line out of which about Rs.73 lakhs was incurred on revetments. You had not powers or authority to incur such huge expenditure without any sanctioned estimate or authorisation from the APSE Board. You thus violated all codal and financial rules and put the Board to an additional commitment of Rs. l06 lakhs which ultimately becamea burden on the resources of the Board.

CHARGE NO.6: Wet type of foundations were adopted for all angle twoers even in rocky soils resulting in increase of excavations and concrete voluments by about 3 times. You did not obtain the approval of any authority for these excess. You thus failed to discharge your duties properly and caused loss to the Board.

CHARGE NO.7; The enormous increase in the cost of construction of line is due to: (1) adoption of wet type foundations for B & C single tower even in normal / rocky locations (2) mass concreting of foundations wherever stubs are extended in respect of the twoers located in hill slopes; (S) indiscriminate use of provisions of backfilling of foundations with R.R. masonary available under unit rates; and (4) not using hillside extensions. Had you inspected the line regularly you would and ought to have noticed all these aspects of execution of the work and accordingly checked the excesses and expenditure. You neglected your duties in this regard thus allowing the field officers to take advantage of your inaction and indiscriminately use the provision of backfilling of foundations with R.R. masonary available under unit rates causing heavy loss to the Board.

CHARGE NO.8: The Executive Engineers were sending copies of bills passed by them to you. The Budget estimates and revised estimates from the Divisions were being compiled by you in your office and forwarded to the board and the Chief Engineer. In the course of normal review procedure you could have easily verified the progress of work on the line and expenditure which had gone far beyond the estimated value. You did not devote your time and attention to this matter and allowed the field officers to pay the bills without reference to the provisions in the estimates. Thus you allowed the work to be executed with scant regard for financial prudence. This is a serious lapse on your part involving violation of financial and codal provisions.
The petitioner had refuted the said charges and filed an explanation stating that the Enquiry Officer had deliberately omitted the policy decisions of the board and revised financial procedures introduced by the Board which had direct bearing on the execution of the works in question; that as the electricity line was passing through the Hilly terrain, it required heavy revetment with back filling with R.R. Masonary and that the cost was not remitted properly and the realistic cost could be determined only at the advanced stage of construction and that the Board was fully aware of these factors leading to the escalation of the costs and after verifying the same, the funds were provided. The petitioner also imputed lack of technical knowledge on the part of the Enquiry Officer on the ground that the enquiry of this nature involves technical expertise The Enquiry Officer has submitted his report after conducting the enquiry to the effect that the expenditure incurred on the execution of the work in question has far exceeded . the actual estimate and that the same can be attributed to the petitioner. The same is accepted by the disciplinary authority. The disciplinary authority has held that the charges levelled against the petitioner were proved, but by taking a lenient view had inflicted the punishmervt of with holding of pay and allowances during the suspension period, reducing the same to that of the subsistence allowances drawn already. But the suspension period as such, was treated as on duty. The petitioner had appealed, but unsuccessfully. Mr. Y.Suryanarayana, the learned counsel for the petitioner, raised the following contentions: (1) that the enquiry report was not supplied in full and was dissected and was supplied in parts and the same has violated the principles of natural justice; (2) that the order of both, the disciplinary authority and the appellate authority, are bereft of reasons and as such, they are unsustainable; (3) that, in any event, even if the enquiry is valid there is no power for the disciplinary authority to impose the punishment inflicted as the treating of period of susppnsion as on duty ipso facto takes within it the right of getting all the pay and allowances, as if there is no break in service and that the inflictment of punishment of withholding pay and allowances reducing the same to that of subsistence allowance drawn during the period of suspension is not provided by the regulations concerned and as such, the order is bad.
(3.)Dealing with the first contention, it is pertinent to mention that the enquiry related, not only to the petitioner but several officers involved therein. As the enquiry report ran into several pages and being more voluminous, the disciplinary authority thought it fit to supply such part of the enquiry report which was relevant and pertinent so far as the petitioner is concerned. I have called for the entire report and I am quite satisfied that the portion of the enquiry report which was furnished to the petitioner was all that relevant and as such, the petitioner was not prejudiced by the said furnishing of the relevant portion of the enquiry report and as such, I reject this contention and hold that there was no infraction of principles of natural justiceon this score. As such, the decisions cited by Mr. Y. Suryanarayana, the learned counsel for the petitioner reported in State of Gujarat vs : K.G. Teredesai, State of U.P. vs. Mohd. Sharif and Union of India vs. Mohd. Ramzan Khan are of no help to the petitioner. On the other hand, the decision rendered in Chandrama Tewari vs. Union of India cited by Mr. C.V. Mohan Reddy, the learned counsel for respondents to the effect that non-supply of copy of document having no bearing on charges relating to the delinquent do not infract principles, of natural justice supports the view which I have taken, while rejecting the contention of the petitioner on this aspect.

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