Disciplinary Proceedings; V.P. Ranjini Vs. State [Kerala High Court, 08-06-2016]

Service Law – Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, 1969 – Section 83(2)(1)(a) – Kerala Co-operative Societies Rules – R. 183(2) r/w. 198 – Disciplinary Action – Whether disciplinary proceedings can be initiated or continued against an employee of the Co-operative Society after her retirement – Held, No provision is pointed out which enables the Bank to initiate or to continue the disciplinary proceedings against an employee of the Bank after retirement. In this case there was only a show cause notice followed by a suspension before the retirement. The memo of charge was issued only about two months after retirement. In the absence of any provision enabling the Bank to initiate disciplinary proceedings after retirement, the decision taken by the Bank cannot be said to be legal. There is also no provision which provides that suspension will amount to initiation of disciplinary proceedings. Even assuming that it provides so, there is no provision which enables continuance of the proceedings and finally for imposing any punishment, after retirement. Moreover, none of the punishments enumerated under Rule 198 of the Rules can be imposed on a retired hand. In the above circumstances, the proceedings initiated against the petitioner cannot be said to be proper or legal. Accordingly Ext.P6 and P13 are quashed. Writ petition is accordingly allowed.

Disciplinary Proceedings


IN THE HIGH COURT OF KERALA AT ERNAKULAM

P.V. ASHA J.

W.P.(C) No.30956 of 2011

Dated this the 8 th day of June, 2016

PETITIONER

V.P. RANJINI MANAGER (RETIRED), THE MANANTHAVADY FARMERS SERVICE CO-OPERATIVE BANK LTD., RESIDING AT REVATHY, MILK SOCIETY ROAD, B.STREET, MANANTHAVADY.

BY ADVS.SRI.P.V.MOHANAN SRI.BIJU P.N.

RESPONDENT(S)

1. THE STATE OF KERALA REPRESENTED BY SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT, CO-OPERATIVE (C) DEPARTMENT, GOVERNMENT SECRETARIAT, THIRUVANANTHAPURAM-695001.

2. THE JOINT REGISTRAR OF CO-OPERATIVE SOCIETIES (GENERAL), KALPETTA, WAYANAD-685508.

3. THE MANANTHAVADY FARMERS SERVICE CO-OPERATIVE BANK LTD.NO.4034, REPRESENTED BY ITS MANAGING DIRECTOR, THE MANANTHAVADY FARMERS SERVICE CO-OPERATIVE BANK LTD., P.B.NO.6,, MANANTHAVADY P.O., WAYANAD DISTRICT-670 645.

R1 & R2 BY GOVT. PLEADER SRI. JOBY JOSEPH R3 BY ADV. SRI.P.N.MOHANAN

J U D G M E N T

The question arising in this case is whether disciplinary proceedings can be initiated or continued against an employee of the Co-operative Society after her retirement.

2. The petitioner herein was working as Manager in the 3 rd respondent Co-operative Bank. She was due to retire from service on 31.05.2009. She was transferred to the Evening branch of the Bank on 18.09.2008. On 23.3.2009, the Bank issued a show cause notice to her proposing disciplinary action on the allegation that she was granting large number of loans on pledging of spurious gold ornaments. Though she submitted an explanation, she was placed under suspension, as per Ext.P1 order dated 30.03.2009. In the order of suspension it was alleged that petitioner while working as Manager of the Evening counter of the Bank granted loans to 12 persons to the tune of Rs.71,61,140/-, on pledging of spurious gold ornaments and hence petitioner was found to be responsible for causing huge loss to the Bank, apart from causing ill-reputation to the Bank. Petitioner thereupon submitted a representation on 26.05.2009 to the President and Board of Directors requesting for reinstatement. In the meanwhile, she approached this Court challenging the order of suspension filing W.P.(C) No.14593/2009. This Court by Ext.P3 judgment dated 29.05.2009, disposed of the writ petition without interfering with the order of suspension and at the same time directing the Bank to complete the disciplinary action against the petitioner as expeditiously as possible.

3. Thereafter Ext.P4 memo of charges was issued to the petitioner on 13.07.2009, i.e., subsequent to her retirement. A series of allegations were raised, all relating to granting of loan on the strength of spurious gold which was found to be in connivance with the Appraiser. In answer to Ext.P4 memo of charges, the petitioner submitted Ext.P5 explanation detailing her innocence in the matter and refuting the charges alleged against her, pointing out that the pledging of major portion of the gold was much before her taking charge in the Evening counter. In the meanwhile, Managing Committee of the Bank passed a resolution, Ext.P7 on 18.06.2009 not to approve the retirement of petitioner who was attaining the age of superannuation on 31.5.2009, as she was continuing under suspension and in view of the disciplinary proceedings pending against her. Accordingly the Bank denied the terminal benefits due to her.

4. Petitioner thereupon approached the Joint Registrar filing Ext.P8 petition seeking intervention in the matter pointing out that no disciplinary action can be taken against her after her retirement and requesting for directions to issue terminal benefits. Thereafter, she approached this Court in W.P.(C).No.12189 of 2010 and this Court by Ext.P9 judgment dated 18.05.2010, directed the Joint Registrar to consider the petition filed by her under Rule 176 of the Kerala Co-operative Societies Rules, 1969 in accordance with law and to pass appropriate orders thereon. This Court also ordered that until final orders are passed on the petition, the disciplinary proceedings initiated against her shall remain stayed. Thereafter, the Joint Registrar, passed Ext.P10 order rejecting her petition and approving the action of the Bank, in view of the loss caused to the Bank. The petitioner thereupon filed Ext.P11 appeal before the Government under

Section 83(2)(1)(a) of the Kerala Cooperative Societies Act, 1969.

Thereafter she approached this Court in W.P.(C).No.36068 of 2010 and by Ext.P12 judgment, this Court directed the Government to consider and pass orders on her appeal and directed that till the disposal of the appeal, respondent Bank shall not pass final orders even on completion of the disciplinary proceedings. By Ext.P13 order dated 18.07.2011 the Government, after hearing the petitioner as well as the Bank, found that there were serious and grave charges alleged against the petitioner and it was not necessary to interfere with the resolution passed by the Board of Directors. It was also mentioned that the disciplinary proceedings had commenced before retirement and there was no legal impediment in continuing the proceedings against the petitioner. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. The petitioner has filed this writ petition challenging the orders Ext.P10 of the Joint Registrar and Ext.P13 of the Government and for a direction to the respondents to treat the petitioner as having retired on superannuation on 31.05.2009 and to disburse the terminal benefits. She has also prayed for a direction to the 3 rd respondent not to proceed with the enquiry proceedings pursuant to Ext.P4 memo of charges.

5. While admitting this writ petition on 21.11.2011, this Court stayed the disciplinary proceedings initiated against her by issuing Ext.P4 memo of charges until further orders.

6. The respondent Bank has filed a counter affidavit justifying the action of the Bank. Government has also filed a counter affidavit, justifying the Bank as well as the Joint Registrar and Government. In the counter affidavit of the Bank, it is stated that the petitioner was placed under suspension on 30.03.2009 and memo of charges issued to her immediately thereafter on 13.07.2009, as per Ext.P4. According to the respondentBank immediately after the Bank came to know about the mal-practices in the evening branch, the Bank had issued a show cause notice to the petitioner on 23.03.2009, but in the reply submitted she disowned her responsibilities. It was thereafter that she was placed under suspension on 30.03.2009 and the disciplinary proceedings were initiated with effect from 23.03.2009, the date of issuance of show cause notice. It was also stated that the order of suspension was well before the date of retirement. Moreover, this Court had in Ext.P3 judgment, directed to finalise the disciplinary action against the petitioner expeditiously. Pointing out the grave misconduct and the amount involved in 20 gold loans which came to a sum of Rs.4,16,200/- during the period she was working in the Evening branch of the Bank, it was stated that she cannot be allowed to get away from the clutches of law on the ground of technicalities. It was pointed out that even in a case where there was a recommendation by the Appraiser, petitioner, being the Manager, was responsible to ascertain and ensure the purity of the gold. Being the custodian of all the assets and documents of the branch as provided in Rule 47(d) of the Rules she is supposed to ascertain and supervise all the transactions in the branch. It was also pointed out that 5 loans were sanctioned in the name of Smt.K.V.Usha, who was the wife of the appraiser. The Bank also stated that they were well within their powers to initiate and continue the disciplinary action against her.

7. The Government filed a counter affidavit justifying the action of the Joint Registrar and Government. It was stated that the disciplinary action was initiated against the petitioner while she was a part of the establishment and once the disciplinary action was initiated it was necessary to continue the same, as observed by this Court in Ext.P3 judgment and therefore, the contention of the petitioner that the proceedings cannot be continued on account of superannuation cannot be accepted.

8. Heard Shri.P.V.Mohanan, the learned counsel appearing for the petitioner, Shri.P.N.Mohanan learned counsel appearing for the respondent Bank and the learned Government Pleader.

9. Contention raised by Sri. P.V. Mohanan is that any disciplinary action against the petitioner after she attained the date of her superannuation is illegal, in the light of