19 Jun 2023 9:42 AM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has upheld the dismissal order passed by the Management of Syndicate Bank against a former Manager accused of misconduct. A single judge bench Justice S Vishwajith Shetty sitting at Dharwad said,“While considering the question of proportionality of sentence imposed on a delinquent, the Court should also take into consideration the nature of duty performed by him...
The Karnataka High Court has upheld the dismissal order passed by the Management of Syndicate Bank against a former Manager accused of misconduct. A single judge bench Justice S Vishwajith Shetty sitting at Dharwad said,
“While considering the question of proportionality of sentence imposed on a delinquent, the Court should also take into consideration the nature of duty performed by him and other relevant circumstances which go into the decision making process...If the delinquent was holding a responsible post and if he has breached the trust and acted with dishonesty he is required to be dealt with iron hands. If honesty and integrity are in built requirements for the post held by him, no lenient view can be taken against him.”
It thus dismissed the petition filed by Gururaj Havanur challenging the order passed by General Manager Syndicate bank, upholding his dismissal and holding back his pension.
The court said, “Where a person deals with public money, highest degree of integrity, honesty and trustworthiness is a must and there cannot be any compromise on the same. Any misplaced sympathy or benevolence would have the effect of mitigating the seriousness of the charges and therefore the Courts are required to be cautious of the same.”
The petitioner was alleged of misconduct by violating the rules and norms of the Bank while processing the loans to agriculturists. The Disciplinary Authority, after hearing parties being not satisfied with the reply of the petitioner had passed an order of dismissal against him in September 2014 (after his superannuation). Aggrieved, the petitioner had preferred an appeal which was dismissed by the Appellate Authority.
The petitioner submitted that the management was biassed against him, as a decision was already taken for conducting an enquiry against the petitioner, even before he had submitted a reply to the article of charges. He was not supplied with the documents alongwith charge sheet, it was alleged.
It was also contended that on the date of passing the order of dismissal, the petitioner had already attained the age of superannuation and had retired from service and therefore, the continuation of the enquiry against the petitioner after retirement was bad in law.
Referring to the chargesheet issued to the petitioner, the bench said “A perusal of the same would go to show that in the preamble of the said document, it has been mentioned that petitioner was placed under suspension with effect from 23.12.2010 pending enquiry into the alleged misconduct committed by him. By mentioning that the suspension order was passed pending enquiry, it cannot be said that the management was biassed against the petitioner.”
It held “Suspension orders are always passed pending enquiry against an employee and therefore, the contention of the petitioner that the enquiry held against him is bad in law as the management was biassed against him, as it had already decided to hold an enquiry even before he had submitted his reply to the article of charges is meritless.”
Noting that separate charges have been framed against the petitioner in respect of each of the allegations made against him by the management and in support of the charges even the particulars of the documents and the persons to whom the loan was sanctioned is mentioned, the bench held “There is no merit even in the contention of the petitioner that the charges against the petitioner are vague in nature.”
Rejecting the contention that continuation of enquiry after retirement was bad in law, the bench referred to Rule Rule 20(3)(iii) of the Syndicate Bank (Officers’) Service Regulations, 1979. It said “The regulations of the respondent – Bank provides that the departmental enquiry initiated against an employee while in service can be continued even after his retirement. On attaining age of superannuation, such employee ceases to be in service, but for the purpose of enquiry will continue as if he was in service until final orders are passed.”
The court also took into account that the judgment in the case of UCO Bank v. Rajendra Shukla cited by the petitioner to contend that punishment of dismissal cannot be passed after superannuation. However, it noted that the same has been overruled by the Apex court in Chairman cum Managing Director, Mahanadi Coalfields Limited vs. Rabindranath Choubey.
The bench said “In a case of proven misconduct, when the statute empowers the disciplinary authority for passing appropriate punishment and if the punishment imposed is upheld by the appellate authority, the Courts / Tribunals have very little scope to interfere.”
Finally it observed “Serious charges of misconduct have been made against the petitioner and as against proven misconduct, the disciplinary authority had thought it fit to pass an order of dismissal against the petitioner. Unless the punishment is shockingly / strikingly disproportionate or harsh, in normal circumstances, this Court cannot interfere with the same and that too when the said order of punishment has been confirmed by the Appellate Authority.”
It added “The courts cannot act as appellate authority and reappreciate the evidence and give a finding of its own.”
Following which it dismissed the petition.
Case Title: Gururaj Havanur And The Management of Syndicate Bank & ANR
Case NO: WRIT PETITION NO. 109981 OF 2015
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Kar) 227
Date of Order: 14-06-2023
Appearance: Advocate Anant P Savadi for petitioner.
Advocate Suresh S Gundi for respondent.
Click Here To Read/Download Order