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ICCR Can Investigate & Take Disciplinary Action Against British Council Library Employees On Complaint Of Misconduct: Karnataka High Court

Mustafa Plumber
13 May 2022 8:25 AM GMT
Draft Rules - Karnataka high Court
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The Karnataka High Court has said that a person appointed by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and placed with the British Council Library, is an employee of the British Council Library and it can investigate and take disciplinary action against the employee on complaint of misconduct.

A division bench of JUSTICE P.S. DINESH KUMAR AND JUSTICE M.G. UMA while allowing the petition filed by ICCR and setting aside the order of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) said, "In the facts and circumstances of this case, in our view, the finding recorded by the CAT that ICCR is the appointing and Disciplinary authority is not sustainable and British Library is the employer."

Case Details:

ICCR had approached the court challenging an order dated February 16, 2017, passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) by which it had held that, "Irrespective of the MoU between ICCR and the British Council, ICCR is the appointing and Disciplinary Authority, because, the formal appointment order was issued by the ICCR. It was directed to reinstate the applicant."

The petitioner (employee) had approached the court challenging the order so far it denied back wages to him during the interregnum from the date of his termination (October 16, 2014) till his reinstatement and permits the appointing authority to issue a fresh charge memo and hold an inquiry.

Petitioner submissions:

Central government counsel K.S. BHEEMAIAH appearing for ICCR submitted that ICCR is not the employer. The Applicant was appointed as Manager with British Council and ICCR only facilitates the British Council in terms of the MoU. Therefore, the direction against ICCR to reinstate is unsustainable in law.

Respondents submissions:

Advocate A R Holla, appearing for the employee, submitted that the applicant has been terminated without holding a proper enquiry. Therefore, that portion of the CAT's order denying back wages is bad in law

Court findings:

The bench said the ICCR and British High Commission have entered into a collaboration for administration of British Libraries in India. Then it referred to the offer letter issued by ICCR to the applicant. It then observed, "It is clear that the applicant was appointed with the British Library. In terms of the Facilitation MoU and the British Library Standing Instructions, ICCR has offered the job for and on behalf of the British Library."

Further, the bench said,

"It is relevant to note that unlike the 'employee-employer' relation in other cases, in the instant case, the appointment has been made for the post of Manager in the British Library. The British High Commission and the ICCR have entered into an MoU for Management of British Libraries. The British High Commission has agreed to disburse the budgetary amount through ICCR for British Libraries. ICCR is a Society under the Ministry of external affairs. It is recorded in the MOU that it has been entered into to strengthen the existing bonds of friendship between ICCR and the British High Commission."

It added, "Therefore, this is a distinct case wherein, a Foreign Country is running its Libraries in various cities in India and has taken the assistance of ICCR to disburse the budgetary amount. It is not in dispute that the offer letter was for a placement with the British Library."

Following this, it held, "In our view, the finding recorded by the CAT that ICCR is the appointing and disciplinary authority is not sustainable and British Library is the employer."

As regards back wages to employees on reinstatement as per CAT order, the bench went through the various correspondences between the British Council and the employee and said, "Applicant refused to participate in the enquiry proceeding. He has not availed of opportunities to refute the allegations levelled against him."

Further it said,"A careful perusal of the entire record shows that applicant has indulged in correspondence than appearing before the Enquiry Officer and defending his case. As recorded hereinabove, the offer letter makes it clear that either the applicant or the ICCR could terminate the employment by issuing one month's notice or paying one month's salary in lieu of the notice. The ICCR has exercised the latter option."

Then the bench opined, "It is settled that Courts shall not substitute their opinion with the findings recorded by the Disciplinary Authority, except under extraordinary circumstances such as violation of principles of natural justice or the punishment being grossly disproportionate. In the case on hand, several opportunities have been given to the petitioner to defend his case."

It held, "Therefore, in our view, no interference is warranted with the order of termination."

Accordingly the bench allowed the petition filed by ICCR and quashed the order issued by CAT and dismissed the petition filed by Merchant.

Case Title: INDIAN COUNCIL FOR CULTURAL RELATIONS & others v. AJAY MERCHANT & Anr

Case No: W.P. No.32335 OF 2017

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Kar) 158

Date of Order: 6TH DAY OF MAY, 2022

Appearance: Advocate K.S. BHEEMAIAH, FOR P1; Advocate ROYCHAYDHARI a/w Advocate P. KAMALESAN, FOR P2; Advocate GOWHAR UNNISA, FOR P2 & P3); Advocate A.R. HOLLA, ADVOCATE FOR R1

Click Here To Read/Download Order


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