The Uttarakhand High Court refused to follow a Supreme Court judgment that had held that failure to issue of a charge sheet to the delinquent employee within three months from the date on which he was placed under suspension is fatal, and he would be entitled for reinstatement.
The division bench comprising of Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan and Justice Alok Kumar Verma quoted earlier judgments of the Supreme Court to hold that mere delay in conclusion of disciplinary proceedings or criminal cases or long period of suspension would not render the order of suspension invalid.
The court was considering a writ appeal in which the contention taken, placing reliance on the judgment of the Supreme Court in Ajay Kumar Chaudhary vs. Union of India, was that, since no charge sheet has been issued to the employee within three months of his being placed under suspension, he was required to be reinstated into service. It was also contended that he cannot be continued under suspension beyond the period of three months, unless a charge sheet is issued in the interregnum. In this case, it was submitted that, more than a year had elapsed since the employee was placed under suspension, and till date no charge sheet had been served upon him.
Though the bench noted that the said judgment supports the case of the employee in this case, it examined whether the High Court is bound to follow the said two Judge bench SC judgment when the earlier Constitution Bench judgments of the Supreme Court have held to the contrary.
The bench said that the opinion expressed by larger benches of the Supreme Court, in preference to those expressed by smaller benches of the Supreme Court, should be followed. When a smaller bench of the Supreme Court lays down a proposition contrary to and without noticing the ratio decidendi of the earlier larger Benches, such a decision will not become the law declared by the Supreme Court so as to have a binding effect under Article 141 of the Constitution on all the Courts within the country, it added. The court said:
"The attention of the Supreme Court, in Ajay Kumar Choudhary , was not drawn to its earlier judgments in Ashok Kumar Aggarwal ; Sanjiv Rajan; L. Srinivasan and Deepak Kumar Bhola, wherein it was held that mere delay in conclusion of disciplinary proceedings or criminal cases or long period of suspension would not render the order of suspension invalid. This Court may not, therefore, be justified in quashing the order of suspension following the judgment of the Supreme Court in Ajay Kumar Choudhary, as that would require it to ignore the Constitution bench judgments of the Supreme Court in Khem Chand; R.P. Kapur and V.P. Girdroniya , as also the other judgments of the Supreme Court in Ashok Kumar Aggarwal ; Sanjiv Rajan ; L. Srinivasan; and Deepak Kumar Bhola."
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