Service Law; Jagdish Lal Gambhir Vs. Punjab National Bank [Supreme Court of India, 06-10-2015]

Service Law – Punjab National Bank Officer Employees (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1977 – Departmental Enquiry – Charge Sheet – Termination – Whether the termination of the services of the appellant Gambhir was in any manner vitiated – Held, there is no allegation by G at any point of time that he was either reduced in rank or that his placement was incorrect or any similar grievance. That being the position, it is now too late in the day for G to contend that his placement in the PNB was erroneous and therefore the issuance of the charge-sheet by the Assistant General Manager in the PNB was vitiated in any manner – merely because G was an Assistant General Manager in the Hindustan Commercial Bank does not mean that the Regulations of 1977 would not be applicable to him or that the Assistant General Manager (P) in the PNB could not have issued a charge-sheet to G.

AIR 2016 SC 456 : (2016) 1 SCC 488 : JT 2015 (9) SC 204 : 2015 (10) Scale 437 : 2015 (3) CLR 611 : 2015 (6) SLR 709 : 2015 (4) JLJR 272 : 2015 (4) PLJR 388 : 2015 (6) All WC 6034 : 2016 (1) ACJ 512 : 2016 (1) SCC (L&S) 173 : 2016 (1) AIR Jhar R. 829 : 2016 LabLR 84 : 2016 AIR (SCW) 456 : 2016 (1) JCR 15 : 2016 (1) DRTC 355 : 2016 (1) LLN 281 : 2016 (1) BankJ 727 : 2016 (2) RSJ 74 : 2015 (4) SCT 453 : 2015 (7) MLJ 507 : 2015 (147) FLR 872


IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION

(Madan B. Lokur) and (R.K. Agrawal) JJ.

October 6, 2015

CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6975 OF 2009

Jagdish Lal Gambhir Vs. Punjab National Bank & Ors.

J U D G M E N T

Madan B. Lokur, J.

1. This appeal is directed against the judgment and order dated 24th July, 2006 passed by the Division Bench of the High Court at Calcutta in FMA No.388 of 2001.

2. The issue for consideration is whether the termination of the services of the appellant Gambhir was in any manner vitiated. In our opinion, the question requires to be answered in the negative and we uphold the judgment and order of the Division Bench confirming the dismissal of the writ petition filed by Gambhir.

3. Gambhir was working as an Assistant General Manager in the Hindustan Commercial Bank Limited. This bank wasamalgamated with the Punjab National Bank on 19th December, 1986. On amalgamation, the services of 28 or 29 officials of the Hindustan Commercial Bank including Gambhir were not taken over by the Punjab National Bank (for short the ‘PNB’). It may be stated that two other banks were similarly amalgamated with the Canara Bank and the State Bank of India, but we are not concerned with them.

4. Several officers whose services were not taken over by the PNB and other banks filed a writ petition in this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution challenging the failure of the transferee banks in not taking over their services. This Court decided the writ petition and the decision is reported as

K.I. Shephard v. Union of India, (1987) 4 SCC 431

It was held by this Court that the transferee banks could not refuse to take over the services of the officials of the transferor banks. Consequently, the PNB was obliged to take over the officials of the Hindustan Commercial Bank including Gambhir. It was also directed if there was any necessity of initiating disciplinary proceedings against any of the transferred employees, the transferee banks including PNB were at liberty to do so.

5. As far as Gambhir is concerned, while he was working with the Hindustan Commercial Bank, he was issued a charge-sheet on 3rd February, 1983 alleging irregularities in sanctioning of loans to the customers of the bank and a failure to take follow up steps. Gambhir replied to the charge-sheet and was thereafter administered a ‘caution’ and was asked to be more discreet in respect of granting advances and management of credit portfolio. Thereafter in 1986 another set of allegations were made against Gambhir but no final decision was taken by the Hindustan Commercial Bank until its amalgamation with the PNB.

6. In view of the above, the PNB issued a charge-sheet to Gambhir on 28th November, 1987 in which it was alleged that he had deliberately flouted the bank lending norms and accommodated some parties unauthorisedly thereby putting huge funds of the bank at stake.

7. Feeling aggrieved by the initiation of departmental proceedings against him, Gambhir preferred W.P. (C) No. 121 of 1988 in this Court under Article 32 of the Constitution. By an order dated 22nd April, 1988 this Court declined to entertain thewrit petition but expressed the view that the inquiry against Gambhir should be completed quickly. Thereafter, the inquiry was conducted and by a report dated 22nd September, 1988 the Inquiry Officer held that the charges against Gambhir were proved and that he had failed to discharge his duties with utmost integrity, honest devotion and diligence thereby putting huge funds of the bank at stake.

8. In the meanwhile, Gambhir preferred a writ petition in the Calcutta High Court being C.M.No.11992 (W) of 1988 challenging the charge-sheet issued to him and the inquiry proceedings.

9. It appears that during the pendency of the writ petition Gambhir was dismissed from service with effect from 2nd August, 1989.

10. Be that as it may the writ petition was dismissed by the learned Single Judge by judgment and order dated 7th December, 2000.

11. Before the learned Single Judge, Gambhir raised three contentions. It was firstly contended that the charge-sheet was issued to him by an officer of the same rank, that is, an Assistant General Manager and this was not permissible in law. Therefore,since the issuance of the charge-sheet was itself vitiated the entire departmental proceedings against him were null and void. The learned Single Judge rejected this contention by referring to Clause 12 of the scheme of amalgamation whereby the PNB was entitled to classify and categorize the employees of the Hindustan Commercial Bank whose services were being taken over. As far as Gambhir is concerned, even though he may have been an Assistant General Manager in the Hindustan Commercial Bank, he was placed as a Scale-III officer in the PNB. This is an admitted position and Gambhir did not make any grievance about this at any stage. The charge-sheet was no doubt issued by an Assistant General Manager of the PNB but he was placed higher than a Scale-III officer in the hierarchy and under the Punjab National Bank Officer Employees (Discipline and Appeal Regulations), 1977 the Assistant General Manager was the disciplinary authority for officers placed in Scale-III.

12. The second contention urged by Gambhir was that the allegations against him were already the subject matter of an inquiry by the Hindustan Commercial Bank and thus could not be reopened by the PNB merely because of a change of employer.This contention was also rejected by the learned Single Judge holding that what was sought from Gambhir by the Hindustan Commercial Bank was an explanation with regard to certain transactions which indicated an irregular conduct on his part. However, no formal disciplinary proceedings had been initiated against Gambhir and that did not preclude the PNB from looking into those alleged irregularities and holding a formal inquiry into them.

13. The third contention urged by Gambhir before the learned Single Judge was that Inquiry Report was not supplied to him before his dismissal with effect from 2nd August, 1989. This contention was rejected by the learned Single Judge by holding that the requirement of supplying the Inquiry Report arose out of a decision of this Court in