Disciplinary Proceedings; M. Ramanathan Vs. Secretary To Government [Madras High Court, 05-07-2016]

Contents

Service Law – Disciplinary Proceedings – Environment and Forest Department – Forest Ranger – Delay of ten years in issuing charge memo – Illegal Ganja Cultivation – Allegation that not filed charge sheet in the prescribed form in the Court of law – Held, Conclusions by quasi-judicial authorities should be based on reasons and materials and that an order which does not disclose the reason for its conclusion is liable to be set aside either for non-application of mind or for unreasonableness – In the present case the orders of the respondents 1 and 2 are liable to be set aside for non-application of mind and for failure to consider the grounds giving explanation for his inability to complete the investigation and file charge sheet in the criminal case within six months and his legal submissions – long unexplained delay of ten years in issuing charge memo in the present case vitiate the whole proceedings and the charge memo and the order of punishment inflicted on the petitioner by the third respondent, as confirmed by the respondents 1 and 2, are liable to be quashed.


BEFORE THE MADURAI BENCH OF MADRAS HIGH COURT

CORAM THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE S.S.SUNDAR

DATED: 05.07.2016

W.P(MD)No.813 of 2010

M.Ramanathan .. Petitioner Vs. 1. The Secretary to Government, Environment and Forest Department, Secretariat, Chennai 600 009. 2. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Panagal Buildings, Chennai ? 600 015. 3.The Conservator of Forests, Madurai Forest Circle, Madurai. .. Respondents

For Petitioner : Mr.S.Viswalingam; For Respondents : Mr.R.Anandha Raj Government Advocate

O R D E R

This Writ Petition has been filed, challenging the order passed by the first respondent, vide G.O.(1-D) No.310, Environment and Forest Department, dated 16.10.2009, wherein the punishment inflicted on the petitioner has been confirmed, dismissing the revision petition filed against the order passed by the appellate authority, dated 20.08.2008.

2. The brief facts that are necessary for the disposal of this Writ Petition follows as under:

2.1. The petitioner was serving in the Forest Department from 08.04.1974 to 31.10.2009. When he was serving as Forest Ranger at Gandamanur Range, Madurai Forest Division, for the period from 21.10.1997 to 05.05.1998, the petitioner detected the Ganja cultivation at Kamankal area, within his range and the petitioner arranged for a raid with a huge team of 84 persons and destroyed thousands of Ganja plants worth more than 7.5 crores of rupees.

2.2. After detection of the said grave offence, the petitioner was serving from 21.10.1997 to 05.05.1998 i.e., about 6+ months and handed over charges to his successor one Sheik Umar. The petitioner’s case is that at the time of handing over charge, the petitioner gave his successor a detailed notes regarding the further course of action that are required to be done in connection with the illegal Ganja cultivation. Though FIR was registered in Offence Report No.1/97-98, charge sheet could not be filed by the petitioner before his transfer to other station. The petitioner would state that further investigation revealed the involvement of about 52 anti-social persons, in the commission of such offence and that the investigation could not be completed, during his tenure in that station, because of the fact that the persons involved in the offence were absconding.

2.3. However, a charge memo, dated 05.10.2007, was issued to the petitioner, after a lapse of nearly ten years, by the District Forest Officer, Madurai, under

# Rule 17(a) of the Tamil Nadu Civil Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules.

The gist of the charge against the petitioner is that he had not filed charge sheet in the prescribed form, in the Court of law in relation to the said Ganja cultivation case.

2.4. The petitioner submitted his explanation to the District Forest Officer explaining the difficulties involved in the process of investigation and reason for his failure to file charge sheet during his tenure in the station. Apart from giving explanation for his inability to file the charge sheet before May, 1998, the petitioner has also placed his objection to the issuance of the charge memo after the lapse of nearly ten years. Apart from alleging mala fides, he has also raised legal grounds on the basis of some material events.

2.5. The third respondent, however, after finding that the petitioner is guilty of negligence in performing his duties, imposed a punishment of stoppage of increment for two years without cumulative effect.

2.6. The petitioner, aggrieved by the punishment, filed an appeal before the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, the second respondent herein. Before the second respondent, the petitioner specifically raised an issue relating to the jurisdiction/authority of the third respondent to pass the order of punishment, on the ground that the third respondent, who is not the appointing authority, has no right to issue charge memo and pass orders punishing the petitioner. The petitioner further challenged the punishment on the ground of delay in issuing charge memo and initiating action after a lapse of ten years. Thirdly, the petitioner, referring to the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, stated that the time factor, normally to be followed for filing charge sheet (Section 468 of Cr.P.C.) has not expired and hence, negligence cannot be attributed on his part. The second respondent has also rejected the appeal vide proceedings dated 20.08.2008. Aggrieved by the same, the petitioner has preferred a revision before the first respondent. Though the petitioner has raised various grounds including the jurisdiction of the third respondent and regarding the serious prejudice that was caused to him on account of huge delay of ten years in initiating the proceedings, the first respondent passed an order confirming the order of the second respondent by the impugned proceedings. Aggrieved by the order of the first respondent, the petitioner has filed this present Writ Petition.

3. The learned counsel for the petitioner raised three major grounds. Since the charge memo was issued on 05.10.2007, nearly after a period of ten years from the date of occurrence, according to the petitioner, the inordinate delay which was unexplained, has caused serious prejudice to the petitioner. Secondly, the petitioner continued in the same range only for a period of 6+ months. Though the petitioner gave details and progress of the investigation, till he was transferred from the station, to his successor one Mr.Sheik Umar, who continued in the same range for a period of two years, the said Sheik Umar was allowed to scot-free and no charge memo was issued or disciplinary proceedings taken against the said Sheik Umar. Hence, there is a discrimination and the order of the first respondent confirming the punishment against the petitioner is, therefore, liable to be quashed. Thirdly, the first respondent and the second respondent failed to give any reason in their respective orders, despite the fact that the petitioner has raised various grounds attacking the order of punishment with reference to admitted facts. The petitioner also challenges the order of the third respondent, as one without jurisdiction and hence, pleaded for quashing of the impugned order.

4. The petitioner, pursuant to the charge memo, which was issued to the petitioner, nearly after a period of ten years, submitted his detailed explanation. Though the third respondent proceeded only on the basis that the petitioner himself has admitted his failure to file charge sheet within the period of about 6+ months. When the order of third respondent was challenged before the second respondent, the petitioner has raised all the grounds that are now formulated by the learned counsel for the petitioner before this Court. Surprisingly, the second respondent, without considering the grounds on which the appeal was filed, confirmed the order of third respondent on the ground that charge sheet has not been filed into Court within a period of six months, as if there is a time limit for filing charge memo. Further, the first respondent after recording the fact that the petitioner has raised the same grounds, as were raised before the second respondent, has concluded that no acceptable new ground is raised before him and hence, the revision is liable to be dismissed.

5. On the above factual matrix, the learned counsel for the petitioner relied upon several judgments to substantiate his grounds raised in the present writ petition.

# Delay

6. In the case of

# State of Madhya Pradesh vs. Bani Singh and another reported in 1990 (Supp) SCC 738

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraph 4, has held as follows:

4. … The irregularities which were the subject matter of the enquiry is said to have taken place between the years 1975-1977. It is not the case of the department that they were not aware of the said irregularities, if any, and came to know it only in 1987. According to them even in April, 1977 there was doubt about the involvement of the officer in the said irregularities and the investigations were going on since then. If that is so, it is unreasonable to think that they would have taken more than 12 years to initiate the disciplinary proceedings as stated by the Tribunal. There is no satisfactory explanation for the inordinate delay in issuing the charge memo and we are also of the view that it will be unfair to permit the departmental enquiry to be proceeded with at this stage. In any case there are no grounds to interfere with the Tribunal’s orders and accordingly we dismiss this appeal.?

7. In the case of

# State of Punjab and others vs. Chaman Lal Goyal reported in (1995) 2 SCC 570

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraph 9, has held as follows:

9. Now remains the question of delay. There is undoubtedly a delay of five and a half years in serving the charges. The question is whether the said delay warranted the quashing of charges in this case. It is trite to say that such disciplinary proceeding must be conducted soon after the irregularities are committed or soon after discovering the irregularities. They cannot be initiated after lapse of considerable time. It would not be fair to the delinquent officer. Such delay also makes the task of proving the charges difficult and is thus not also in the interest of administration. Delayed initiation of proceedings is bound to give room for allegations of bias, mala fides and misuse of power. If the delay is too long and is unexplained, the court may well interfere and quash the charges. But how long a delay is too long always depends upon the fact-, of the given case. Moreover, if such delay is likely to cause prejudice to the delinquent officer in defending himself, the enquiry has to be interdicted. Wherever such a plea is raised, the court has to weigh the factors appearing for and against the said plea and take a decision on the totality of circumstances.

8. In the case of

# M. Balakrishnan and 7 others vs. The Corporation of Madurai and another reported in 1995 (II) CTC 589

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraph 9, has held as follows:

9. …. The delay in initiating the disciplinary proceedings in this case cannot be said to have been satisfactorily explained. The initiation of such proceedings at this point of time would result in great prejudice to the petitioners and would also amount to violation of the principles of natural justice.?

9. This Court, in the case of

# The Commissioner, Sankarapuram Panchayat Union, etc. Vs. S.A.Abdul Wahab and others reported in 1996 Writ L.R.677

has held in paragraph 2 as follows:

2. …. It is now well established that if there is unnecessary, unexplained and unjustifiable long delay in initiating departmental proceedings, it will result in causing great prejudice to the person against whom such a proceeding is initiated and it will be a ground for quashing the proceedings.?

10. The Hon’ble Supreme Court, in the case of

# State of Andhra Pradesh vs. N.Radhakishanreported in (1998) 4 SCC 154

has held in paragraph No.19 as follows:

19. It is not possible to lay down any pre-determined principles applicable to all cases and in all situations where there is delay in concluding the disciplinary proceedings. Whether on that ground the disciplinary proceedings are to be terminated each case has to be examined on the facts and circumstances in that case. the essence of the matter is that the court has to take into consideration all relevant factors and to balance and weight them to determine if it is in the interest of clean and honest administration that the disciplinary proceedings should be allowed to terminate after delay particularly when delay is abnormal and there is no explanation for the delay. The delinquent employee has a right that disciplinary proceedings against him are concluded expeditiously and he is not made to undergo mental agony and also monetary loss when these are unnecessarily prolonged without any fault on his part in delaying the proceedings. In considering whether delay has vitiated the disciplinary proceedings the Court has to consider the nature of charge, its complexity and on what account the delay has occurred. if the delay is unexplained prejudice to the delinquent employee is writ large on the face of it. It could also be seen as to how much disciplinary authority is serious in pursuing the charges against its employee. It is the basic principle of administrative justice that an officer enterusted with a particular job has to perform his duties honestly, efficiently and in accordance with the rules. If he deviates from this path he is to suffer a penalty prescribed. Normally, disciplinary proceedings should be allowed to take its course as per relevant rules but then delay defeats justice. Delay causes prejudice to the charged officer unless it can be shown that he is to or when there is proper explanation for the delay in conducting the disciplinary proceedings. Ultimately, the court is to balance these two diverse consideration.?

11. In the case of

# B. Loganathan vs. The Union of India reported in 2000 (III) CTC 351

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraph 12, has held as follows:

12. …. I have already stated that even according to the 2nd respondent, the alleged irregularities had taken place in the year 1982 and even after receipt of the report from the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, Pondicherry Government in the year 1993 the impugned charge memo was issued only on 5.11.97. The inordinate and unexplained delay vitiates the impugned charge memo and the same is liable to be quashed. As observed by Their Lordships of the Supreme Court in State of Punjab and others v. Chaman Lal Goyal, , the disciplinary proceedings cannot be initiated after a lapse of considerable time. It would not be fair to the delinquent officer. Such delay also makes the task of proving the charges difficult and is thus not also in the interest of administration. Delayed initiation of proceedings is bound to give room for allegations of bias, mala fides and misuse of power. If the delay is too long and is unexplained, the Court may well interfere and quash the charges. Here, in our case, the petitioner has raised a plea that the delay is likely to cause prejudice to him in defending himself. If such plea is raised, the court has to weigh the factors appearing for and against the said plea and take a decision on the totality of circumstances. I have already stated that the first charge states that the petitioner did hot disburse cash from January, 1982 and, as rightly contended by, the learned counsel for the petitioner, not even the period is mentioned clearly and like-wise, the statement that cash book was not maintained properly is a bald statement. Further, the nature of the charges relate to day-to-day activities of disbursement of cash and maintenance of registers, which are routine affairs, hence the unexplained delay of 15 years cannot be accepted. It would be impossible for the petitioner to remember the identity of witnesses whom he could summon to appear before the enquiring authority to support his case. Even If he could summon their presence, it would be a doubtful proposition whether they would be in a position to remember that happened more than 15 years back and help him in his defence. Further more, the petitioner may not be in a position to effectively cross-examine the witnesses to be examined on the side of the second respondent in support of the charges. Practically, it would be a doubtful proposition that either the prosecution witnesses or the defence witnesses would be in a position to remember the facts of the case and advance the case of either the department or the petitioner. Under these circumstances and on the facts and circumstances disclosed, I hold that the un-explained inordinate delay will constitute denial of reasonable opportunity to the petitioner to defend himself that it would amount to violation of principles of natural justice and as such, the impugned charge memo must be struck down on this ground alone.

12. This Court, in the case of

# Union of India vs. Central Administrative Tribunal reported in 2005 (2) CTC 169

has held in paragraph 4 as follows:

4. According to the charge memo the alleged misconduct was during the year 1984-85 and twenty long years have since gone by from that and yet no progress whatsoever made by the Government till the Tribunal passed orders challenged in these writ petitions. In other words, there is total inaction on the part of the Government from 07.10.1994, the date on which O.A. No.1689 of 1993 was dismissed by the Tribunal, till 26.02.2000 when the Government issued the second charge memo. Again, we find there is total inaction on the part of the Government from 26.02.2000 till the employee again went before the Tribunal in the year 2002. The delay remains totally unexplained. Therefore, we have no hesitation at all in concluding that the ground of inordinate delay in proceeding with the departmental enquiry as referred to above by us, would come in the way of the Government to continue with the enquiry any further.

13. In the case of

# P.V. Mahadevan vs. M.D., Tamil Nadu Housing Board reported in 2005 (4) CTC 403

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraphs 11 and 14, has held as follows:

11. Our attention was also drawn to the counter affidavit filed by the respondent-Board in this appeal. Though some explanation was given, the explanation offered is not at all convincing. It is stated in the counter affidavit for the first time that the irregularity during the year 1990, for which disciplinary action had been initiated against the appellant in the year 2000, came to light in the audit report for the second half of 1994- 1995.

14. Under the circumstances, we are of the opinion that allowing the respondent to proceed further with the departmental proceedings at this distance of time will be very prejudicial to the appellant. Keeping a higher government official under charges of corruption and disputed integrity would cause unbearable mental agony and distress to the officer concerned. The protracted disciplinary enquiry against a government employee should, therefore, be avoided not only in the interests of the government employee but in public interest and also in the interests of inspiring confidence in the minds of the government employees. At this stage, it is necessary to draw the curtain and to put an end to the enquiry. The appellant had already suffered enough and more on account of the disciplinary proceedings. As a matter of fact, the mental agony and sufferings of the appellant due to the protracted disciplinary proceedings would be much more than the punishment. For the mistakes committed by the department in the procedure for initiating the disciplinary proceedings, the appellant should not be made to suffer.

14. In the case of

# M.V. Bijlani vs. Union of India and others reported in (2006) 5 SCC 88

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraph 16, has held as follows:

16. … The Tribunal as also the High Court failed to take into consideration that the disciplinary proceedings were initiated after six years and they continued for a period of seven years and, thus, initiation of the disciplinary proceedings as also continuance thereof after such a long time evidently prejudiced the delinquent officer.?

15. In the case of

# P. Anand, G. vs. The Principal Commissioner and Commissioner of Revenue Administration reported in 2006 (5) CTC 723

this Court, in paragraph 19, has held as follows:

19. I am fortified by the hierarchy of judgments in this regard. A Division Bench of this Court by Honble Justice P. Sadhasivam, and S.K. Krishnan in A. Abdula v. State of Tamil Nadu Rep. by its Secretary to Government, Home Department and Anr. following the principle laid down by the Honble Apex Court in

# P.V. Mahadevan v. Md. Tamil Nadu Housing Board reported in 2005(4) CTC 403

held that the inordinate delay in initiating the departmental proceeding will cause more prejudice to the delinquent than the punishment itself, and quashed the charge memo in that case. The Honble Division Bench while quoting the judgment of the Honble Apex Court has held as follows:

14. In recent judgment in the case of P.V. Mahadevan v. Md.T.N. Housing Board , the Supreme Court after finding that there is inordinate delay of 10 years in initiating the departmental enquiry against the appellant P.V. Mahadevan, in the absence of explanation from his employer – Tamil Nadu Housing Board, concluded that allowing the Housing Board to proceed with the departmental proceedings at this distance of time would be very prejudicial to the appellant and consequently quashed the charge memo issued against him. While arriving such a conclusion. Their Lordships made a reference to State of U.P. v. N. Radhakrishnan (cited supra). After considering the factual details and rival contentions, the Supreme Court has concluded that: (Para 11)

11. Under the circumstances, we are of the opinion that allowing the respondent to proceed further with the departmental proceedings at this distance of time will be very prejudicial to the appellant. Keeping a higher Government official under charges of corruption and disputed integrity would cause unbearable mental agony and distress to the officer concerned. The protracted disciplinary enquiry against a Government employee should, therefore, be avoided not only in the interests of the Government employee but in public interest and also in the interests of inspiring confidence in the minds of the government employees. At this stage, it is necessary to draw the curtain and to put an end to the enquiry. The appellant had already suffered enough and more on account of the disciplinary proceedings. As a matter of fact, the mental agony and sufferings of the appellant due to the protracted disciplinary proceedings would be much more than the punishment. For the mistakes committed by the department in the procedure for initiating the disciplinary proceedings, the appellant should not be made to suffer. After holding so, the Supreme Court quashed the charge memo issued against the appellant and also directed settlement of all retiral benefits in accordance with law within 3 months from the date of order.

16. In the case of

# K. Kumaran vs. The State of Tamil Nadu reported in 2007 (3) CTC 763

this Court, in paragraphs 9 and 10, has held as follows:

9. In the above said two judgements, the Honourable Supreme Court held that normally the disciplinary proceedings should be allowed to take their course as per the relevant Rules, but then the delay defeats justice, delay cause prejudice to the charged officer unless it can be shown that he is to be blamed for the delay or where there is proper explanation for the delay in conducting disciplinary proceedings. In this case, admittedly, the petitioner has not caused any delay and the inordinate delay of 18 years is not properly explained by the respondents. It is also necessary to mention that earlier the Petitioner has filed a Writ Petition in WP.No.20261/2004, seeking for a direction to the Respondents therein to pass final orders, which was disposed of directing the Respondents to pass final orders in the disciplinary proceedings on or before 30.9.2004, which was not complied with.

10. In view of the above facts that the charges were belatedly issued and that no valid reasons have been assigned by the Respondents for such an inordinate delay in issuing the charges and that the Respondents failed to comply with the direction of this court passed in the earlier Writ Petition referred to above and when this Court weigh all the said factors both for and against the petitioner, it has to be held that the charges are flimsy in nature, hence, in order to meet the ends of justice, it is absolutely necessary to quash the charges against the petitioner and accordingly, they are quashed.?

17. In the case of

# Ranjeet Singh vs. State of Haryana and others reported in 2008 (3) CTC 781

the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in paragraph 9, has held as follows:

9.We have extracted the charges against the appellant. These charges did not require any detailed investigation. In view of the unexplained delay of nine years the Trial Court was justified in holding that the entire enquiry was vitiated and in declaring that the order of punishment to be null and void. The appellate Court did not have any justifiable reason to interfere with the said finding. In the circumstance, we are of the view that the High Court ought to have interfered in the matter as the Appeal involved a substantial question of law, i.e., whether issue of charge sheet after nine years when there are no special circumstance to explain the delay vitiated the enquiry. As the matter is old and as we have already found that the delay vitiated the enquiry, no purpose will be served by remitting the matter. We propose to dispose of the Appeal on merits.?

18. In the judgment in the case of

# Kootha Pillai vs. Commissioner, Municipal Administration, Chennai and others reported in (2009) 1 MLJ 761

after referring to several judgments of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and the judgments of this Court, the learned Judge has concluded that inordinate unexplained delay would cause serious prejudice and it will be unjust to proceed with disciplinary action on account the delay.

19. In a judgment in the case of

# S. Sekhar vs. Commissioner of Social Welfare, Ezhilagam, Chennai? 600 005 reported in (2010) 1 MLJ 708

it has been held by this Court that when there is inordinate delay in concluding the disciplinary proceedings initiated against the delinquent employee and there is no explanation for such delay, such delay would vitiate the proceedings.

20. In another unreported judgment in W.P.No.10166 of 2009, by order dated 04.08.2010, this Court, in paragraph 10, has held as follows:

10.This Court is considering the nature of the allegations raised in the charge and the delay with which the same is issued, constrained to hold that same do not stand the test of reasonableness and if the disciplinary proceedings into such charge is allowed to go on, it is only a futile exercise prejudicial to the interest of the petitioner and is likely to affect his promotional chances as such, it is the fit case wherein the charge memo is to be necessarily quashed and the authority concerned is further directed to consider his claim for promotion.?

21. This Court, in yet another unreported judgment in W.P.(MD) No.1762 of 2013, dated 29.01.2014, has held as follows:

4.Considering the above said facts, this Court is of the view that no useful purpose will be served in keeping the writ petition pending, since the charges are framed for the occurrence of the year 1999-2000, after 12 years. Accordingly, the order impugned is quashed and the Writ Petition is allowed. The respondent is directed to take appropriate steps to make the requisite dues including retiral benefits to the petitioner within a period of twelve weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order.

22. This Court, in an unreported judgment dated 14.07.2014 in W.P.(MD) Nos.10339 to 10341 of 2012, has given the verdict in the following terms:

9. Coming to the question of delay, in my considered opinion, the delay is enormous and it stands unexplained After 12 years, if the petitioners are made to face the charges, it will be really difficult for them to procure those original witnesses and documents. One cannot expect them to retain the documents forever. Thus, making the petitioners to face charges at this length of time, will surely be prejudicial to their defence.

23. Having regard to the principles of law enunciated in the above precedents, I have no other option, but to conclude that there are long unexplained delay of ten years in issuing charge memo in the present case vitiate the whole proceedings and the charge memo and the order of punishment inflicted on the petitioner by the third respondent, as confirmed by the respondents 1 and 2, are liable to be quashed.

# Discrimination

24. In the present case, it is not disputed that the petitioner was in the station only for about 6+ months i.e., from 21.10.1997 to 05.05.1998. It is the specific case of petitioner that he had handed over charge to his successor one Mr.Sheik Umar along with detailed notes about the importance of the case and further progress to be shown. Though the said Sheik Umar was continuing in the station for about two years, there was no charge memo or disciplinary action against the petitioner’s successor. Though the petitioner has raised this, as one of the grounds, in the revision and appeal before the respondents 1 and 2 respectively, there was no consideration. The conduct of the third respondent appears to be unfair. The third respondent has not given any reason for his inaction to take any action against the petitioner’s successor even though it has been found that it became impossible to book the culprits who were involved in such a huge and serious crime. Absolutely, there is no explanation available in this case to justify the discrimination shown to the petitioner in initiating proceedings after a lapse of ten years. Hence, the petitioner is entitled to succeed even on the ground of discrimination.

# Reasons

25. On a perusal of the order passed by the second respondent and the first respondent clearly reveal that the grounds raised by the petitioner were not considered by these respondents, when they affirm the order of punishment against the petitioner. It is to be noted that the petitioner has referred to Section 468 of Cr.P.C. and pointed out statutory limitation prescribed for taking further cognizance of the offence. The case was relating to cultivation of Ganja in a vast extent and hence, the offence is punishable with imprisonment for a term exceeding one year. In such cases, even the prescribed period for filing charge sheet is 1 to 3 years. In such circumstances, punishing the petitioner by recording the event as if the petitioner has committed serious irregularity and liable to be prosecuted for his negligence in performing his duties on the ground that he had not filed charge sheet within the prescribed period of six months establishes the position that the second respondent has not applied his mind. Similarly, the explanation offered by the petitioner justifying the delay in filing charge sheet were not even considered by the respondents 1 and 2 in the orders passed by them. The serious prejudice that was caused to the petitioner on account of delay and the delay as a factor vitiating the disciplinary proceedings was not even considered by the respondents 1 and 2 in their respective orders. The second respondent has passed the order in the following terms:

[Omitted]

Similarly, the first respondent has passed cryptic order without considering the grounds raised by the petitioner in the following terms:

[Omitted]

26. In the above factual scenario of the present case, the learned counsel for the petitioner relied upon the following precedents in support of his case.

27. It has been held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the case of

# Union of India vs. M.L.Capoor and others reported in AIR 1974 Supreme Court 87

in paragraph 27 as follows:

28. …. Reasons are the links ‘between the materials on which certain conclusions are based and the actual conclusions. They disclose how the mind is applied to the subject matter for a decision whether it is purely administrative or quasi-judicial. They should reveal a rational nexus between the facts considered and the conclusions reached. Only in this way can opinions or decisions recorded be shown to be manifestly just and reasonable.

28. In the case of

# S.N. Mukherjee vs. Union of India reported in AIR 1990 Supreme Court 1984

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraph 35, has held as follows:

35. Reasons, when recorded by an administrative authority in an order passed by it while exercising quasi-judicial functions, would no doubt facilitate the exercise of its jurisdiction by the appellate or supervisory authority. But the other considerations, referred to above, which have also weighed with this Court in holding that an administrative authority must record reasons for its decision, are of no less significance. These considerations show that the re- cording of reasons by an administrative authority serves a salutary purpose, namely, it excludes chances of arbitrariness and ensures a degree of fairness in the process of decision- making. The said purpose would apply equally to all decisions and its application cannot be confined to decisions which are subject to appeal, revision or judicial review. In our opinion, therefore, the requirement that reasons be recorded should govern the decisions of an administrative authority exercising quasi-judicial functions irrespective of the fact whether the decision is subject to appeal, revision or judicial review. It may, however, be added that it is not required that the reasons should be as elaborate as in the decision of a Court of law. The extent and nature of the reasons would depend on particular facts and circumstances. What is necessary is that the reasons are clear and explicit so as to indicate that the authority has given due consideration to the points in controversy.

29. In the case of The Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation Limited and another vs. S.Sampath, the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraphs 5, 6 and 8, has held as follows:

5. A perusal of the order dated 30.03.1990 shows that no reasons have been given therein, but only conclusions. There is a difference between reasons and conclusions, vide

# Union of India v. M.L. Capoor, AIR 1974 SC 87

In paragraph 28 of the aforesaid decision, the Supreme Court observed:-

Reasons are the links ‘between the materials on which certain conclusions are based and the actual conclusions. They disclose how the mind is applied to the subject matter for a decision whether it is purely administrative or quasi-judicial. They should reveal a rational nexus between the facts considered and the conclusions reached. Only in this way can opinions or decisions recorded be shown to be manifestly just and reasonable.

6. Thus, what has been recorded in the impugned order, as can be seen from its perusal, is only conclusions and not reasons.

8. In the present case the respondent (writ petitioner) had furnished explanations to the show cause notices. It was, therefore, incumbent on the Corporation to have considered that explanation and given its reasons why it is not accepting the same. That however has not been done in the impugned orders of the Corporation. Hence the said orders cannot be sustained in law.?

30. In the case of

# M.V. Bijlani vs. Union of India and others reported in (2006) 5 SCC 88

the Hon’ble Apex Court, has held that disciplinary authority, upon analysing the documents must arrive at conclusion that there had been a preponderance of probability to prove the charges on the basis of materials on record and that he cannot refuse to consider the relevant facts.

31. In the case of

# Director, Horticulture, Punjab vs. Jagjivan Parshad reported in (2008) 5 SCC 539

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraphs 6 and 7, has held as follows:

6. As the quoted portion of the High Court’s order goes to show that no reason was indicated except making reference to paragraph 8 of the Award. The conclusions in the said paragraph were assailed in the writ petition. The manner of disposal of the writ petition by the High Court leaves much to be desired. Various contentious questions were raised including one relating to whether the appellant could be treated as an industry. These aspects were not considered by the High Court.

7. Reasons introduce clarity in an order. On plainest consideration of justice, the High Court ought to have set forth its reasons, howsoever brief, in its order indicative of an application of its mind, all the more when its order is amenable to further avenue of challenge. The absence of reasons has rendered the High Court’s judgment not sustainable.

32. In the case of

# Rani Lakshmi Bai Kshetriya Gramin Bank vs. Jagdish Sharan Varshneyreported in (2009) 4 SCC 240

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraphs 5 to 8, has held as follows:

5. In our opinion, an order of affirmation need not contain as elaborate reasons as an order of reversal, but that does not mean that the order of affirmation need not contain any reasons whatsoever. In fact, the said decision in Prabhu Dayal Grover case [(1995) 6 SCC 279 : 1995 SCC (L&S) 1376 : (1995) 31 ATC 492] has itself stated that the appellate order should disclose application of mind. Whether there was an application of mind or not can only be disclosed by some reasons, at least in brief, mentioned in the order of the appellate authority. Hence, we cannot accept the proposition that an order of affirmation need not contain any reasons at all. That order must contain some reasons, at least in brief, so that one can know whether the appellate authority has applied its mind while affirming the order of the disciplinary authority.

6. The view we are taking was also taken by this Court in

# Divl. Forest Officer v. Madhusudhan Rao[(2008) 3 SCC 469 : (2008) 1 SCC (L&S) 788 : JT (2008) 2 SC 253]

(vide SCC para 20: JT para 19), and in

# M.P. Industries Ltd. v. Union of India [AIR 1966 SC 671]

# Siemens Engg. & Mfg. Co. of India Ltd. v. Union of India [(1976) 2 SCC 981 : AIR 1976 SC 1785]

(vide SCC para 6 : AIR para 6), etc.

7. In the present case, since the appellate authority’s order does not contain any reasons, it does not show any application of mind.

8. The purpose of disclosure of reasons, as held by a Constitution Bench of this Court in

# S.N. Mukherjee v. Union of India [(1990) 4 SCC 594 : 1990 SCC (Cri) 669]

is that people must have confidence in the judicial or quasi- judicial authorities. Unless reasons are disclosed, how can a person know whether the authority has applied its mind or not? Also, giving of reasons minimises the chances of arbitrariness. Hence, it is an essential requirement of the rule of law that some reasons, at lest in brief, must be disclosed in a judicial or quasi-judicial order, even if it is an order of affirmation.?

33. In the case of

# East Coast Railway and another vs. Mahadev Appa Rao and others reported in (2010) 8 MLJ 194 (SC)

the Hon’ble Apex Court, in paragraphs 20 and 21, has held as follows:

20. Arbitrariness in the making of an order by an authority can manifest itself in different forms. Non-application of mind by the authority making the order is only one of them. Every order passed by a public authority must disclose due and proper application of mind by the person making the order. This may be evident from the order itself or the record contemporaneously maintained. Application of mind is best demonstrated by disclosure of mind by the authority making the order. And disclosure is best done by recording the reasons that led the authority to pass the order in question. Absence of reasons either in the order passed by the authority or in the record contemporaneously maintained is clearly suggestive of the order being arbitrary hence legally unsustainable.

21. In the instant case the order passed by the competent authority does not state any reasons whatsoever for the cancellation of the typing test. It is nobody’s case that any such reasons were set out even in any contemporaneous record or file. In the absence of reasons in support of the order it is difficult to assume that the authority had properly applied its mind before passing the order cancelling the test.?

34. From the reading of the above judgments, the law that has been settled by this Hon’ble Court and the Hon’ble Apex Court is clear to the effect that the conclusions by quasi-judicial authorities should be based on reasons and materials and that an order which does not disclose the reason for its conclusion is liable to be set aside either for non-application of mind or for unreasonableness. In the present case, as it has been dealt with in previous paragraphs, the orders of the respondents 1 and 2 are liable to be set aside for non-application of mind and for failure to consider the grounds giving explanation for his inability to complete the investigation and file charge sheet in the criminal case within six months and his legal submissions.

35. The petitioner has raised a specific ground with regard to the authority of the third respondent to issue charge memo to the petitioner before the second respondent and the first respondent respectively. However, the order of the respondents 1 and 2 reveals that they have not considered the contention `of the petitioner in the appeal. Be that as it may, the petitioner has not raised this as a specific ground in the writ petition filed. Though the point was argued by the learned counsel for the petitioner, I find that there is no answer in the counter affidavit filed on behalf of the respondents. Since, the petitioner has not raised the jurisdictional issue, in the writ petition, I am not inclined to go into the issue particularly in the context wherein, I have held in favour of the petitioner on all the three grounds raised by him in the writ petition.

36. For all the reasons stated above, the Writ Petition is allowed and the order passed by the first respondent vide G.O.(1-D) No.310, Environment and Forest Department, dated 16.10.2009, is quashed. There will be no order as to the costs.

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