Court may substitute penalty imposed on employee without remanding matter to employer on unfair harassment

Delhi High Court: A Division Bench comprising of Rekha Palli and Siddhartha Mridul, JJ. dismissed an appeal filed against the order of a Single Judge of the High Court whereby he allowed the petition of the respondent-employee against the order of his dismissal from service.

The respondent was removed from service by the appellant-bank. He was working as a Chief Inspector, Inspection and Control Division with the bank. He was removed after conducting an inquiry in which he was found guilty on the charge of committing irregularities and not discharging his duties with utmost integrity while working in the Credit Department of the erstwhile New Bank of India. The fulcrum of articles of charge was that he recommended to the Board of the bank for a grant of loan to a party regardless of the shortcomings involved in it. The respondent’s appeal against the order of removal was dismissed by the Appellate Authority. Thereafter, he preferred a writ petition against the same before the Single Judge who modified the order of removal to that of compulsory retirement. The appellant contended that in case the Single Judge was of the view that the penalty imposed on the respondent was inappropriate, he should have remitted the matter back to the disciplinary authority. It was submitted that the Single Judge overstepped his powers.

The High Court gave due consideration to the contentions made by the parties. The Court noted that the loan concerned was initiated by the officers junior to the respondent and finally approved by the Board. Even the Board failed to notice the alleged shortcomings in the loan proposal which was approved. The case against the respondent was only on account of procedural irregularities and not for any misconduct, financial irregularities or misappropriation. Furthermore, the chargesheet was issued after an inordinate delay of more than 7 years. The fact that respondent rendered unblemished service for 29 years remained uncontroverted. The Court was of the view that considering the time period which had already elapsed and only with the aim to shorten the litigation for a senior citizen, the Single Judge took upon himself the task of modifying the penalty. The only effect would be that in the evening of his life, the respondent would at least get some retiral benefits. It was observed that there may be situations where the writ court considers it unfair harassment or otherwise unnecessary to direct fresh inquiry by the competent authority and may pass a considerable order itself. Holding thus, the contention put forth by the appellant was rejected. The appeal was, thus, dismissed. [Punjab National Bank v. M.L. Bansal,2018 SCC OnLine Del 11385, decided on 20-09-2018]

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