Petitioner was posted as Senior Bank Manager in the Faizabad Branch of Allahabad Bank. He has been put under suspension vide Suspension order dated 07/06/2019 as disciplinary proceedings against him are contemplated from the acts of misconduct while discharging the duties at the Bank. Petitioner filed the writ petition (Service matter) challenging the legality of the aforementioned service order as more than one year has passed and the respondent bank has failed to conclude the disciplinary proceedings till date, thus the petitioner cannot be put under suspension for indefinite period.
HELD: Hon’ble High Court accepted the contention of the petitioner and was pleased to put stay on the suspension order.
“IN THE COURT OF HON’BLE ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT, LUCKNOW BENCH
SERVICE SINGLE No. – 10440 of 2020 [Rohit Narain v. Allahabad Bank Thru. Chairman Kolkatta & Others]
Hon’ble Alok Mathur,J.
1. Heard Mr. Abhishek Khare, learned counsel for the petitioner and Mr. Anurag Srivastava, learned counsel for the respondent bank.
2. By means of the present writ petition the petitioner has challenged the legality and validity of the order of suspension dated 07/06/2019 passed by the General Manager and the competent authority of the Allahabad Bank thereby placing the petitioner under suspension as disciplinary proceedings against him are contemplated from the acts of misconduct while discharging the duties at Faizabad Branch of the respondent Bank.
3. It has been submitted by the counsel for the petitioner that till date no charge sheet has been served upon the petitioner despite expiry of nearly one year, and therefore in the light of the fact that no disciplinary proceedings are contemplated against the petitioner the impugned order of suspension is clearly illegal and arbitrary and has been passed in the most malafide manner, contrary to the purpose as indicated in the said order.
4. He further submitted that continuance of the petitioner under suspension for more than one year is clearly punitive in nature, and as no disciplinary proceedings is contemplated and therefore, by means of the impugned order of suspension, the petitioner has been meted out to the punishment, rather than to facilitate conduct of any enquiry, and therefore the said order is illegal, arbitrary and liable to be set aside.
5. It was further submitted that there is no mention in the suspension order about the nature of charges against the petitioner, and therefore, it is clear that there was no material with the respondents to form an opinion for passing of the impugned order, and therefore on this ground also the impugned order is violative of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and arbitrariness is writ large on the face of the said order.
6. The counsel for the petitioner also placed on record a show cause notice dated 03/03/2020 wherein there is detail of certain allegations regarding cash shortage discovered from an ATM and the petitioner was required to reply to the said show cause notice within 7 days failing which disciplinary proceedings would be initiated against him for his acts of omission and commission. It is submitted that at the time of passing of the impugned order of suspension there was no material with the respondents and the same was passed in the most illegal and arbitrary manner, and there is no provision under the Rules or Regulations governing the service conditions of the petitioner with regard to the show cause notice being issued prior to issuance of the charge sheet and therefore the entire proceedings against the petitioner are without any basis or material and therefore are illegal, arbitrary and malafide.
7. Sri Anurag Srivastava, learned counsel appearing for the respondent Bank admitted that no charge sheet has been given to the petitioner but took pains to assure the Court that certain enquiry into the allegations made against the petitioner is under way and the charge sheet would be issued shortly. He also submitted to the Court that General Manager (Human Resources) is the appointing authority of the petitioner, and further admitted that in the Rules governing the service conditions of the petitioner there is no provision for issuance of a show was notice prior to issuance of a charge sheet. He prayed that this Court may pass suitable orders with regard to expeditious disposal of the enquiry against the petitioner, and the respondent Bank would conclude the enquiry in the time so fixed by this Court.
8. I have heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record.
9. By means of the impugned order dated 07/06/2019 the petitioner was placed under suspension by the competent authority wherein it was recited that certain disciplinary proceedings are contemplated against the petitioner for his alleged act of misconduct. There was no mention of the nature of charges or any indication as to whether the misconduct would entail a minor punishment or a major punishment.
10. The instant writ petition has been filed after more than one year when the order of suspension was passed, but no charge sheet has been given to the petitioner detailing the allegations levelled against him for which purpose disciplinary proceedings may be conducted after giving adequate opportunity of hearing to the petitioner.
11. The purpose of passing a suspension order is only to facilitate the conduct of a departmental enquiry, and it is not as a measure of punishment nor is the purpose of keeping the person under suspension without holding any departmental proceedings. This view was taken by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of Ajay Kumar Chaudhary vs. Union of India and Others reported in (2015) 7 SCC 291, wherein the Apex Court held as under:
“21. We, therefore, direct that the currency of a Suspension Order should not extend beyond three months if within this period the Memorandum of Charges/Chargesheet is not served on the delinquent officer/employee; if the Memorandum of Charges/Chargesheet is served a reasoned order must be passed for the extension of the suspension. As in the case in hand, the Government is free to transfer the concerned person to any Department in any of its offices within or outside the State so as to sever any local or personal contact that he may have and which he may misuse for obstructing the investigation against him. The Government may also prohibit him from contacting any person, or handling records and documents till the stage of his having to prepare his defence. We think this will adequately safeguard the universally recognized principle of human dignity and the right to a speedy trial and shall also preserve the interest of the Government in the prosecution. We recognize that previous Constitution Benches have been reluctant to quash proceedings on the grounds of delay, and to set time limits to their duration. However, the imposition of a limit on the period of suspension has not been discussed in prior case law, and would not be contrary to the interests of justice. Furthermore, the direction of the Central Vigilance Commission that pending a criminal investigation departmental proceedings are to be held in abeyance stands superseded in view of the stand adopted by us.” (Emphasis added)
This has been noticed that the view of the Hon’ble Apex Court in re: Ajay Kumar Chaudhary (supra) has been expressed in a case where the rules categorically provides that if the incumbent is placed under suspension he should be given charge sheet within three months and if the charge-sheet is not provided to those employees, the competent authority shall reconsider the same. Since the charge-sheet was not issued in the case of Ajay Kumar Chaudhary in three months, therefore, the Apex Court observed that the currency of suspension order should not be extended beyond three months, if within this period memorandum of charges / charge-sheet is not served on the delinquent officer / employee.”
12. As per the Allahabad Bank Officers and Employees (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1976 the suspension can be resorted only where a departmental proceedings is contemplated or pending. For ready reference Regulation 12 quoted here in below:-
“12. SUSPENSION : (1) An officer employee may be placed under suspension by the competent authority (a) where a disciplinary proceeding against him is contemplated or is pending ; or
(b) where a case against him in respect of any criminal offence is under investigation, inquiry or trial.”
13. In the present case, even after expiry of one year no charge sheet has been served upon the petitioner, and therefore on the face of it, there is serious doubt as to whether any enquiry is contemplated against the petitioner. In absence of any enquiry, a person cannot be kept under suspension for an indefinite period of time, which raises strong presumption that the order of suspension been passed in a malafide manner and also that there was no material with the competent authority at the time when the delinquent was placed under suspension. We strongly deprecate the manner in which the petitioner who is a very senior Bank Manager, has been kept under suspension for a period of more than one year without been served the chargesheet. Considering the judgment of the Hon’ble apex court in the case of Ajai Kumar Chaudhary (supra), and also the facts of the instant case, the petitioner has a prime facie case in his favour for staying of the order of suspension.
14. In light of the above the impugned order of suspension dated 07/06/2019 is hereby stayed. It shall be open for the respondent bank to take work or not to take work from the petitioner.
15. Let a counter affidavit be filed by the respondents within a period of 4 weeks and also an affidavit be filed by the competent authority/appointing authority of the petitioner detailing the reasons for not furnishing the charge sheet to the petitioner even after expiry of one year from the order of suspension.
Order Date :- 26.6.2020”
NOTE: Readers can get the copy of the aforesaid order from the Allahab High Court website i.e. http://elegalix.allahabadhighcourt.in/elegalix/StartWebSearch.do