Orissa High Court Sets Aside Suspension of SBI Officer by its Disciplinary Authority, says there was Violation of Principle of Natural Justice

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In this present case of Lalitendu Dash v. State Bank of India & Others, the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India has been made to quash the impugned order passed by the Appointing Authority as well as the Appellate Authority.

Brief Facts of the Case

The petitioner joined the State Bank of India as a Probation Officer on 16/04/1990 and on August 2008 he was promoted as Chief Manager in the Global Markets Unit, Kolkata, till he was dismissed by the impugned order dated 29/10/2013.

The petitioner while continuing as a Chief Manager was served with the Suspension Order dated 17/01/2012 with a clear direction that during the period of suspension, he shall attend the office every day and should keep himself readily available to the Bank whenever required. The suspension order disclosed the reason of suspension of the petitioner as ascertainment of certain serious and grave irregularities alleged to have been committed by the petitioner during his tenure as Chief Manager in the Global Markets, Kolkata, in connection with some remittances received from the State Bank of India, New York Branch.

Therein the petitioner was advised to submit his explanation involving the lapses/irregularities alleged to have been committed by him, according to which the petitioner submitted his explanation in his report, therein his para wise comments refuting all the allegations against him but the authority was not satisfied with the response of the petitioner and again asked him to submit his written statement of defence within ten days along with all documents and list of witnesses he is taking the support.

The petitioner by submitting his explanation denied all the charges on the premises that not only he had worked with utmost devotion and integrity but also on the premises that there has been no pecuniary loss to the Bank on account of the alleged action. The Disciplinary Authority is not satisfied with his explanation entrusted the enquiry to the Asst. General Manager, Global Markets, Kolkata for regular hearing and enquiry.

The Disciplinary Authority since was junior to the Appointing Authority, asked the petitioner to make his submissions on the enquiry report. The Appointing Authority before passing the final order gave a scope of personal hearing to the petitioner for making his submission on the proposed punishment for dismissal from service. After providing the opportunity of hearing the Appointing Authority communicated the penalty by awarding punishment of dismissal from service in terms of Rule 67(j) of the State Bank of India Officers Service Rule.

An appeal was made by the petitioner in the Appellate Authority, and the Authority confirmed the order of the Appointing Authority i.e., the order of punishment.

Arguments before the Court

Petitioner’s Counsel contended that there is no examination of aggravating and mitigating circumstances and alleged that the entire transaction proceeded on an erroneous premise that the submission made by the delinquent regarding past performance and highlights of his career as a matter of record, which cannot be considered, as a mitigating factor for the lapses of serious nature, the delinquent was held responsible.

The appellate order is also challenged on the premises that the Appellate Authority has disposed of the matter without calling for relevant material based on which the Appellate Authority could have applied its mind to at least deal with the quantum of punishment. The order of the Disciplinary Authority/Appointing Authority is also challenged on the premises that there was no opportunity of hearing to the petitioner and also alleged that the Appointing Authority simply relied on the recommendation of the Disciplinary authority and did not disclose its view for imposing dismissal.

Lastly, it is argued that the final order of punishment was predetermined and as such not maintainable in the eye of law.

Respondent’s counsel contended that the writ petition has lack of territorial jurisdiction in this Court, to satisfy this submission the learned counsel referred the case of Navinchandra N. Majithia v. State of Maharashtra [AIR 2000].

The learned counsel contended that the charges were being insignificant instances are of no relevancy to entertain the writ petition in this Court and also the Court had limited scope of review in the matter of Disciplinary Authority.

High Court’s View and Final Judgement

Firstly, the Court decided on the statement of “territorial jurisdiction”, for which this Court referred the case of Oil and Natural Gas Commission v. Utpal Kumar Basu [AIR 1994], considered that Article 32 provides that every High Court shall have power ‘throughout the territories concerning which it exercises jurisdiction’, to issue to any person or authority, any directions for the enforcement of any Fundamental Rights.

Considering the submissions of the learned counsel of the petitioner, this Court finds, finally, petitioner attacked the decision of Appointing Authority on the premises of violation of the Principle of Natural Justice in as much as the Appointing Authority dismissed the petitioner from service heavily relied upon the view/opinion of the Disciplinary Authority.

Finally, this HC considered that there was an involvement of a post-decisional hearing, the hearing undertaken violated the Principle of Natural Justice. Accordingly, this Court has declared all the reports bad and set aside the orders and remitted the matter back to the Appointing Authority for issuing a fresh show cause to the petitioner along with the view of the Disciplinary Authority for submission of the written defence by the petitioner.

Thus, the Writ Petition succeeds.


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