Gauhati High Court: Authorities Have Power to Determine and Select Best Method to Utilize Employee’s Services

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A writ petition was filed by the petitioner under article 226 of the constitution where the petitioner has challenged transfer orders issued by the State Bank of India (Bank) and requested a directive allowing him to join at Dadara, Kamrup, or Raha as per the order. In the case, Mrinal Chandra Das vs The State Bank Of India on 20 July, 2021, the petitioner further agrees that he might be assigned to any location near Guwahati so that he can properly care for his ailing mother, who also has a disability.

Facts of the Case 

The petitioner was assigned to the Bank’s Nagaon Main Branch as a Deputy Manager. An office order was issued while the petitioner was working there, upgrading him to Assistant Branch Manager and transferring him to the Dadara Branch. The petitioner was not freed from the Nagaon Branch, however, allegedly due to a lack of officers. Within a short period of time, another order was issued, revoking the previous order of transfer and sending the petitioner to Ziro, Arunachal Pradesh. The petitioner promptly filed a submission for modification of the transfer order, as well as a writ petition in this Court. In the meantime, the Bank authorities acted and, by order, changed the impugned order and assigned the petitioner to the Raha Branch as Branch Manager. 

However, even before the petitioner arrived at his new assignment in Raha, the Bank authorities issued another order of transfer, canceling the previous one and reassigning him to Ziro in the state of Arunachal Pradesh. The petitioner had again sought the authorities by filing two representations in which he underlined his elderly mother’s ill-health and handicap. The current writ petition was brought since no action was seen to be taken, and this Court, while issuing notice, came to prima facie finding of arbitrariness and unreasonableness on the part of the authorities, and the impugned order consequently stayed till further order.

Arguments before the court 

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The petitioner’s learned Senior Counsel has also called this Court’s attention to several documents relating to his mother’s illness, which includes osteoporosis, backache, and osteoarthritis in both knees. The Bank’s policy on transfers has also been brought to the fore. According to the circular, employees are offered some concessions in matters of regular transfer if their dependents have an impairment, such as hard of hearing. A certificate of incapacity for the petitioner’s mother, issued by the Joint Director of Health Services, is also included in the abovementioned submission.

The Bank’s learned Senior Counsel has argued that the above-mentioned certificate appears to be out of date, and hence is much after the cause of action. On behalf of the Bank, it is claimed that the Bank was unaware of the writ petition’s filing and that the order of modification was made by the Bank independently and without being notified of the writ petition’s filing. This Court’s attention has also been directed to the averments stated in the affidavit-in-opposition, which contain all of the grounds.

Interpretation of the Court

It is seen that the petitioner was sent to Guwahati, Sonapur, and Nagaon, according to the records. Guwahati, Sonapur, and Nagaon are self-contained postings issued by the Bank on their own initiative. Though it appears that the order transferring the petitioner to Raha was issued after considering the petitioner’s representations and giving the benefit of the doubt that the Bank was unaware of the petitioner’s filing of, the said order was an independent action of the Bank without any direction from this Court, and the writ petition was withdrawn as a result. Though it is the respondent Bank’s prerogative to deploy any officer at any location, as it falls under the definition of any other authority under Article 12 of the Indian Constitution, it has an obligation to operate fairly, reasonably, and transparently.

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In the landmark case of Police Commissioner of Police, Bombay Vs. Gordhandas Bhanji, the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that public orders issued by public authorities are intended to affect the actions and conduct of those to whom they are addressed and must be construed objectively using the language used in the order itself.

Judgment

 The Court concluded that without even considering the matter of the petitioner’s mother’s handicap, this Court concludes that a case for interference has been established. As a result, the writ petition is granted, and the impugned judgment directing the petitioner’s transfer to Ziro is reversed. As a result, the petitioner may be allowed to stay in Nagaon or transferred to Dadara or Raha. This Court is also of the opinion that, because the petitioner’s representation has already been favorably considered, if the Bank is unable to transfer the petitioner to either of the two locations, namely, Dadara or Raha, the Bank may, if the exigency so requires, transfer and post the petitioner to any post in or near Guwahati, taking into account the petitioner’s elderly mother’s illness.

Click here to view full judgement


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