Employee can’t be downgraded in rank unless charges have been communicated to him, & enquiry concluded: HC
Srinagar: Kashmir Mercantile Cooperative Bank Ltd is a “State within meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution”, J&K High Court ruled on Tuesday and said that an employee cannot be downgraded in rank unless charges have been communicated to him and an enquiry is concluded.
Allowing a petition by an employee of the bank agitating denial of salary during the period of his suspension, Justice Sanjay Dhar rejected preliminary objections by the bank on the maintainability of the petition.
The bank had stated that it was “not a State” within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution of India.
The State, according to this Article includes the Government and Parliament of India and the Government and the Legislature of each of the States and all local or other authorities within the territory of India.
The court found that the record produced by respondent bank reveals that District Development Commissioner, Baramulla, is its Chief Executive Officer/Chairman and Registrar Cooperative Societies, J&K, the Appellate Authority.
“This clearly suggests that pervasive control over the bank vests with the officials/officers of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir.” Therefore, the court said, it can safely be stated that the bank qualifies to be a State within the meaning of Article 12 of the Constitution.
“Thus, writ petition is maintainable against the respondent bank,” it said.
The court also held that an employee cannot be downgraded in rank unless the charge has been communicated to him/her in writing and an enquiry to ascertain correctness of the charges is held.
“It becomes manifest that so far as penalties of reduction to a lower category or grade, reduction in seniority and dismissal from service are concerned, such penalties cannot be imposed upon an employee unless the charge has been communicated to him in writing and an enquiry to ascertain correctness of the charges has been held,” ordered the court.
It said the employee, against whom action is proposed, has to be given an opportunity to produce evidence and seek help from any employee of the bank to defend himself.
In the petitioned case, the court said, though the charge-sheet has been served upon the aggrieved employee, “there is nothing on record to even remotely suggest that any enquiry has been conducted by the respondents before imposing the penalty of reversion of the petitioner from the rank of Assistant Manager to the rank of Cashier-cum-Clerk.”
Thus, respondent bank, the court said, while imposing penalty through an order upon the petitioner, is in breach of service rules adding, “It is not a case where petitioner had admitted the charges levelled against him, but it is a case where he has specifically refuted each and every charge leveled against him by filing reply thereto.”
It’s incumbent upon the bank to appoint an enquiry officer and hold enquiry against the aggrieved employee before imposing the penalty of reduction of his rank, the court said.