General Manager (Operation – … vs Krishna Kumar Bhardwaj on 18 February, 2022


Try out our Premium Member services: Virtual Legal Assistant, Query Alert Service and an ad-free experience. Free for one month and pay only if you like it.

Supreme Court of India

General Manager (Operation – … vs Krishna Kumar Bhardwaj on 18 February, 2022

Author: Ajay Rastogi

Bench: Ajay Rastogi, Abhay S. Oka

                                                                 NON­REPORTABLE

                                   IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                                   CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
                                 CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 1458          OF 2022
                               (Arising out of SLP(Civil) No(s). 13615 of 2021)


         GENERAL MANAGER(OPERATION­1)/
         APPELLATE AUTHORITY,
         UCO BANK & ORS.                                         ….APPELLANT(S)


                              VERSUS


         KRISHNA KUMAR BHARDWAJ                                  ….RESPONDENT(S)



                                             JUDGMENT

Rastogi, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. The instant appeal is directed against the judgment and order

dated 19th February, 2021 passed by the Division Bench of the High

Court of Allahabad setting aside the disciplinary proceedings and
Signature Not Verified

consequential punishment inflicted upon the respondent initiated
Digitally signed by
JAGDISH KUMAR
Date: 2022.02.18
16:06:00 IST
Reason:

pursuant to the charge­sheet dated 15th May, 1993.

1

3. The respondent while working as an officiating Manager and

posted at Taharpur, Bhabisa, Muzaffarnagar, committed gross

irregularities in discharge of his duties and for the alleged

misconduct, he was served with the charge­sheet along with the

articles of charges/statement of allegations dated 15 th May, 1993

under Regulation 6 of the UCO Bank Officers Employees’(Conduct)

Regulations, 1976(hereinafter being referred to as the “Regulations

1976”). The articles of charges followed with the statement of

allegations served upon the respondent delinquent dated 15 th May,

1993 are reproduced hereunder:­

“Head Office UCO Phone: Office 246432
10, B.T.M. Sarani, Bank 246365,
Brabourne Road, 248947
Calcutta­700001 233997
Fax ­0522­245432
Gram: “AGM UCO”

STD CODE : 0522
Zonal Office 23, Vidhan Sabha Marg,
Lucknow­226 001 (U.P.)

ARTICLES OF CHARGES
Mr. K.K. Bhardwaj, PFM No.23213, while functioning as Manager of Taharpur Bhabisa
branch had indulged in several acts of omission and commission for which he is
hereby charged as under:­

1) He had opened two S.B. account Nos. 3646 and 3647 on 24.12.91 without
obtaining proper introduction and completion of necessary formalities. He thus
failed to discharge his duties with utmost honesty, integrity, diligence and
devotion. This was violation of Regulation (3) of UCO Bank Officers Employees’
(Conduct) Regulations, 1976.

2

2) While depositing huge amount of Bank’s cash in the currency chest branch at
Meerut, he did not follow the procedure laid down in the Bank’s Manual of
Instructions (Cash) and also deviated from the past practice followed by the
branch for such cash remittances. He thus failed to discharge his duties with
utmost honesty, integrity, diligence and devotion. This was violation of Regulation
(3) of UCO Bank Officers Employees’ (Conduct) Regulations, 1976.

3) By opening the two accounts without getting proper introduction, allowing huge
transactions therein, issuing false certificates he facilitated unscrupulous persons
to derive pecuniary benefits under Govt. amnesty schemes to which they were not
entitled. He thus, failed to discharge his duties with utmost honesty, integrity,
diligence and devotion. This was violation of Regulation (3) of UCO Bank Officers
Employees’ (Conduct) Regulations, 1976.

4) Shri Bhardwaj remained absent from his duties for a period of several months
without proper sanction of leave, as per Bank’s rules. He thus failed to discharge
his duties with utmost honesty, integrity, diligence and devotion. This was
violation of Regulation (3) of UCO Bank Officers Employees’ (Conduct)
Regulations, 1976.

                                                                               Sd/­
                                                                          Zonal Manager
                                                                 (Disciplinary Authority)”


                              UCO                Phone: Office    246432
10, B.T.M. Sarani,            Bank                               246365,
Brabourne Road,                                                  248947
Calcutta­700001                                                  233997
                                                 Fax ­0522­245432
                                                 Gram: "AGM UCO"
                                                 STD CODE : 0522
                                               Zonal Office 23, Vidhan Sabha Marg,
                                                 Lucknow­226 001 (U.P.)


                         STATEMENT OF ALLEGATIONS

Mr. K.K. Bhardwaj (PFM No.23213) was earlier posted as Manager of Taharpur
Bhabisa branch. During his tenure as Manager of the said branch, he had indulged
in various acts of omission and commission. The details of such acts are given below:­

1) While working as Manager of the Taharpur Bhabisa branch, he had opened two
S.B. accounts bearing Nos. 3646 and 3647, on 24.12.91 in the names of Shri Ashok
Kumar Sharma and Shri Narender Goel as stated in the relative account opening
forms, without proper introduction. However, the names of the account holders were
written as Ashok Sharma and Narender Kumar Goel in the ledger. For opening these
two accounts, Mr. Bhardwaj had for unknown reasons, obtained more than .one set
of account opening forms against each of the two accounts. The accounts were
3
apparently introduced by one Mr. Yameen and one Mr. Akshay Kumar whose
signatures were not verified. Mr. Bhardwaj did not make discreet enquiries about the
identity of the persons before opening the accounts. The accounts were opened and
huge transactions were allowed to be conducted through the accounts. Later, it was
revealed that the names of the account holders were fictitious. On 14.1.92, one of the
two account holders known to the Bank’s staff as Narender Kumar Goel called on the
branch; asked for the Manager and asserted that Rs. 15 lacs given by him to the
Manager for depositing with the Meerut currency chest branch of the Bank, has not
been deposited by him.

2) While depositing cash in the currency chest at Meerut on 24.12.91, amounting to
Rs. 24 lac and Rs. 20 lac on 1.192, Mr. Bhardwaj did not follow the procedure laid
down in the Bank’s Manual of Instructions (Cash) and also deviated from the practice
followed by the branch to remit cash through a clerk/peon and armed guard of
Kandhla branch. The transactions relating to the two accounts mentioned in para­1
above, were personally handled by Mr. Bhardwaj right from the stage of receiving the
cash from the account holders to the stage of depositing the cash in the currency
chest at Meerut.

3) The Income Tax Department had sent a letter to Taharpur Bhabisa branch
enclosing therewith photo copies of three certificates, all dated 4.1.92, favouring Mr.
Pawan Vir Singh, Mrs. Sarjit Kaur and Mrs. Jyoti Sachdeva which were issued by
Taharpur bhabisa branch under signatures of Mr. K.K. Bhrdwaj, Manager. In the
certificates the accounts were stated to be NRE accounts which was not correct, as
there were no such NRE accounts at the branch.

The Directorate of Investigation, New Delhi had conducted search u/s 132 of IT
Act
, of SB A/c No. 3646 and 3647 in the names of Shri Ashok Kumar Sharma and
Shri Narender Goel respectively with UCO Bank, Taharpur Bhabisa. It was found that
there was a balance of Rs. 95,500 /­ in the account of Shri Narender Kumar Goel and
Rs.3,17,000/­ in the account of Shri Ashok Kumar Sharma. The total amount of
Rs.4,12,500/­ in these accounts was subsequently seized vide Panchnama dated
8.4.1992.

The ledger of the Bank shows that Shri Narender Goel had deposited
Rs.21,00,000/­ on Dec. 24, 1991 and Shri Ashok Kumar Sharma had deposited
Rs.7,00,000 /­ on 4.1. 92 and Rs. 20,00,000/­ on 24.12.91 in the Bank. The money
was withdrawn from these accounts by getting DDs issued in favour of various
persons. During an enquiry by the Directorate of Investigation, it was found that the
Demand drafts were issued in the names of persons who were residents of Delhi and
these drafts were allegedly claimed to have been made from the Non­Resident
(External) accounts. The persons who had received these drafts claimed exemption
under the amnesty scheme which was in force upto 31.3.1992 under which any
draft/ gift received from Non Resident External accounts had immunity from Income
Tax.

In spite of best efforts, the Directorate of Investigation could not trace the
persons in whose names the accounts were these. The letters sent to them on the
address available in Bank’s record came back with the remark that those persons did
not exist. Also nothing could be made out from the account opening forms regarding
genuineness of the persons. The Income Tax Department, therefore, reached the
4
conclusion that the accounts were opened in the fictitious names by branch manager
Mr.K.K. Bhardwaj and that the money so deposited was the undisclosed money of the
branch Manager. Accordingly, notice under Rule 112 A read with Section 132(s) of IT
Act was issued by Income Tax Authorities. The reply to the notice was not found
satisfactory by them and the Asstt. Commissioner of Income Tax accordingly
estimated the undisclosed income as Rs. 48,20,000/­. The amount of tax calculated
on the income was Rs. 26,70,800/­ and interest payable on the tax was Rs.
2,97,731/­. Therefore, the total amount required to satisfy the liability came to Rs.
29,68,531/ ­. The Asstt. Commissioner accordingly issued orders to retain the seized
amount i.e. Rs. 4,12,500/­ as the tax liability was much higher.

Shri K.K. Bhardwaj was responsible for opening the two SB accounts in fictitious
names in an irregular manner, allowing huge transactions therein, issue of
certificates regarding the accounts and all consequences thereof.

4. Shri K.K. Bhardwaj remained absent from duties w.e.f. 9 .1. 92 for a period of
several months without proper sanction of leave, as per Bank’s Rules.

Sd/­
Zonal Manager
(Disciplinary Authority)”

4. After the inquiry was conducted in terms of the procedure

prescribed under the scheme of Regulations 1976, the inquiry

officer finally held the respondent guilty for charge nos. 1,2 and 3

and charge no. 4 was not found to be proved. The disciplinary

authority, after affording opportunity of hearing and after due

compliance of the principles of natural justice, confirmed the

finding recorded by the inquiry officer in his report dated 30 th

September, 1995 held the respondent delinquent guilty and

imposed punishment vide Order dated 12th August, 1996.

5. The extract of order of the disciplinary authority dated 12 th

August,1996 is as under:­
5
“Now, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me by UCO Bank Officer
Employees (Discipline & Appeal) Regulation 1976, I hereby award the
following penalties upon Shri KK Bhardwaj in terms of Regulation­4 of the
said regulation :­

1. Charge No. 1 ­Proved : Reduction to lowest stage
in the present time scale.

2. Charge No. 2 ­Proved : Reduction to lowest stage in
the present time scale, i.e.
the Basic pay be reduced to
Rs.2100/­ (in the old Scale)

3. Charge No. 3 ­Proved: If any claim is raised against
the Bank by the Income Tax
Deptt. it be recovered from
the retiral benefits of Mr.
Bhardwaj, as admissible
to him, as per Bank’s rules.

4. Charge No. 4 .. Not proved”

6. On appeal being preferred, the appellate authority while

upholding the guilt in reference to charge nos. 1,2 and 3 modified

the punishment by an Order dated 14 th November, 1998. The

relevant part is as under:­

“Charge No. 1 … Proved .. The Basic pay of Shri Bhardwaj
be reduced by 13 stages
from Rs.3660/­ to Rs.

2100 (Old Scale, revised
Rs.4250/­) plus increments for
passing CAFIB (if any allowed) in
the tire scale of pay for a period
of 2 years w.e.f. 12.8.96. He will
earn increments of pay during
the period of reduction and that
on the expiry of this period, the
reduction will have the effect of

6
postponing his future increments
of pay.

Charge No. 2 … ­do ­do­

Charge No. 3 ­do­ ­do­

Charge No. 4 .. Not proved … Exonerated.

All the punishments will have a concurrent effect.”

7. The order dated 14th November, 1998 inflicting penalty came

to be challenged by the respondent delinquent in a writ petition

under Articles 226/227 of the Constitution before the learned

Single Judge of the High Court of Allahabad.

8. The learned Single Judge and also the Division Bench have

proceeded on the premises as if the appellate authority by its Order

dated 14th November, 1998 held the respondent guilty only in

reference to charge no. 1 and that is the reason for which the

punishment was modified and for charge nos. 2 and 3, the

respondent employee was exonerated.

9. The admitted fact is that the finding of guilt in reference to

charge nos. 1,2 and 3 which was proved by the inquiry officer as

indicated in the report of inquiry was confirmed by the disciplinary

authority and also by the appellate authority and as a matter of

7
fact, the appellate authority while upholding the guilt in reference

to charge nos. 1, 2 and 3 took a lenient view and modified the

punishment vide its Order dated 14 th November, 1998. The High

Court had proceeded further and recorded a finding that charge no.

1 was completely vague and better particulars were completely

missing and after holding that charge no.1 was not specific and

clear the respondent was deprived to reply, set aside the

disciplinary proceedings and the order of penalty by its judgment

and order dated 19th February, 2021 which is a subject matter of

challenge in appeal before us.

10. Learned counsel for the appellants submits that the learned

Single Judge and also the Division Bench of the High Court have

proceeded on an assumption that the appellate authority has not

only modified the punishment but has exonerated the respondent

employee from charge nos. 2 and 3 which is factually incorrect and

the record clearly manifests that charge nos. 1,2 and 3 which were

proved by the inquiry officer, after holding inquiry in terms of the

procedure prescribed under the scheme of Regulations 1976, was

confirmed by the disciplinary/appellate authority and thus, the

8
premise on which the Division Bench has proceeded in passing the

order impugned is not sustainable.

11. Learned counsel further submits that the finding which has

been recorded by the Division Bench in the impugned judgment

that charge no. 1 was vague and does not disclose the material

particulars and that is the reason prejudice has been caused to the

delinquent employee in submitting reply and to present his defence

before the inquiry officer is also factually not substantiated from the

record for the reason that the article of charge no. 1 is specific and

explicit and the delinquent employee had participated in the course

of inquiry at all stages and it was never the case of the respondent

that charge no. 1 was vague or it lacked material particulars or in

the absence of details being furnished to him, fair opportunity of

hearing has been denied or the principles of natural justice have

been violated. In the given circumstances, the interference made by

the High Court in the impugned judgment deserves to be interfered

by this Court.

12. Learned counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, has

not disputed the factual matrix which has been recorded in

9
reference to charge nos. 1,2 and 3 proved by the inquiry officer and

confirmed by the disciplinary/appellate authority but further

submits that even from the record of inquiry, the finding which has

been recorded by the disciplinary/appellate authority and

confirmed at all stages still the punishment, in the given

circumstances, which has been inflicted upon him even if examined

from the record of inquiry, is not supported by the material on

record and consequently the punishment inflicted upon him has

been rightly set aside by the High Court.

13. Admittedly, the High Court has proceeded on the premise that

charge no. 1 is proved and the respondent delinquent has been

exonerated in reference to charge nos. 2 & 3 which is factually

incorrect and not supported by the material on record. The option

available with this Court is either to remit the matter back to the

High Court to examine the record of inquiry and decide the matter

afresh in accordance with law or to decide it on merits.

14. Learned counsel for the respondent at this stage, submits that

the disciplinary inquiry is of the year 1993 and the matter if

remitted back to the High Court may cause great prejudice to him

10
and made a humble request to decide the matter on merits since

remitting the matter back at this belated stage may not be in the

interest of the employee.

15. We have heard learned counsel for the parties on merits and

with their assistance perused the material available on record.

16. From the record of inquiry, it clearly manifests that the inquiry

officer, after holding inquiry as per the procedure prescribed under

Regulations, 1976 held charge nos. 1,2 and 3 proved and the

disciplinary as well as appellate authority has confirmed the finding

of guilt of all the three charges. At the same time, punishment was

inflicted by the disciplinary authority after upholding finding of guilt

recorded by the inquiry officer but the appellate authority, while

upholding the finding of guilt, took a lenient view and modified the

punishment by its order dated 14th November, 1998.

17. So far as the scope of judicial review in the matters of

disciplinary inquiry is concerned, it has been settled that the

constitutional courts while exercising their power of judicial review

under Articles 226 or 227 of the Constitution would not assume the

role of the appellate authority where jurisdiction is circumscribed
11
by limits of correcting errors of law or procedural errors leading to

manifest injustice or violation of principles of natural justice. At the

same time, the power of judicial review is not analogous to

adjudication of the case on merits as an appellate authority.

18. It was never the case of the respondent delinquent even before

the High Court that the departmental inquiry was not conducted in

accordance with the procedure prescribed under the Regulations,

1976 or there was violation of any provision of Regulations, 1976 or

fair opportunity of hearing was not afforded to him in the course of

inquiry or there was violation of the principles of natural justice.

19. We have gone through the record of inquiry with the

assistance of learned counsel and, in our considered view, the

finding which has been recorded by the inquiry officer in reference

to charge nos. 1,2 and 3 is duly supported with the material on

record and after revisiting the record of inquiry, has been confirmed

by the disciplinary/appellate authority. At the same time, while

upholding the guilt of the respondent delinquent, the appellate

authority took a lenient view and modified the punishment by an

Order dated 14th November, 1998.

12

20. So far as the finding which has been recorded by the High

Court in reference to charge no. 1 being vague and unclear, which

has deprived the respondent delinquent in submitting reply is

concerned, it is factually incorrect. The article of charge no. 1 is

clear and specific and leaves no ambiguity in understanding the

delinquent in submitting his response. Even it was never the case

of the respondent that because of charge no. 1 being vague or

unclear, he was unable to submit reply to participate in the course

of inquiry.

21. In our considered view, the premises on which the High Court

has proceeded even in reference to charge no. 1 is unsustainable

and deserves to be set aside.

22. Consequently, the appeal succeeds and is allowed. The

judgment of the Division Bench dated 19th February, 2021 is

accordingly set aside. No costs.

23. Pending application(s), if any, stand disposed of.

…………………….J.

(AJAY RASTOGI)
13
………………………J.

(ABHAY S. OKA)
NEW DELHI
FEBRUARY 18, 2022

14



Source link