Disciplinary Proceeding Is Not A Criminal Trial: Read Judgment in Brief

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Title of the Case –  Disciplinary Proceeding Is Not A Criminal Trial

Name of the caseShri Gautam Dhar vs. State of Bank of India and ors., W.A. No. 59 of 2017 (Allahabad High Court)

Date of Judgment 11th June, 2019

Judges: Chief Justice Ajay Kumar Mittal and Justice H.S. Thangkhiew

Subject and sections involved Imposing Major Penalty of Compulsory Retirement.

Issue:

  1. Whether decision of disciplinary proceeding is maintainable?  

 

Fact of the Case:

  • 14th Dec, 1984, Shri Gautam Ghar was appointed in the SBI.
  • He was subsequently promoted as Senior Assistant, Senior Special Assistant in the year 2008 and Assistant Manager in the year 2010.
  • 1st May, 2011, he was transferred to Zunheboto Branch, Nagaland and was assigned multi task responsibilities to act as ATM-in charge.
  • Gautam Dhar being the first Passing Officer, diligently cleared the above high value cheques in the system after verifying and ascertaining the correctness of account numbers, signatures and series of cheques and subsequently instructed the Single Window Operator to place before the Second Passing Officer.
  • Thereafter, the Gautam Dhar as the first Passing Officer and the second Passing Officer Shri Chandan Kumar had taken out the above amount and the Single Window Operator handed over the above amount to the drawee.
  • The State Bank of India appointed Investigating Officer who conducted the preliminary enquiry on 6.3.2012 at Zunheboto Branch on the allegation that the fake transaction had taken place on 23.2.2012 at Zunheboto Branch, Nagaland and Rs.1,29,17,000/- had been paid to a third party from the account of Deputy Inspector of School, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh by using the three fake cheques.

 

Ratio of the case -

Duties and Liabilities

The division bench of Meghalaya noted that in banking business, absolute devotion, diligence, integrity and honesty needs to be preserved by every bank employee and in particular a bank officer so that the confidence of the public/depositors is not impaired. A bank officer holds a position of trust where honesty and integrity are inbuilt requirements of functioning. He deals with the money of the depositors and the customers. Every officer/employee of the Bank is required to take all possible steps to protect the interests of the bank and to discharge his duties with utmost integrity, honesty, devotion and diligence and to do nothing which is unbecoming of a bank officer. Where the person deals with public money or is engaged in financial transactions or acts in a fiduciary capacity, the highest degree of integrity and trustworthiness is a must and unexceptionable. Good conduct and discipline are inseparable from the functioning of every officer/employee of the Bank. It is no defence available to say that there was no loss or profit resulted in case when the officer/employee acted without authority.

Breach of Discipline

The very discipline of an organisation more particularly a bank is dependent upon each of its officers acting and operating within their allotted sphere. Sympathy or generosity as a factor is impermissible. Loss of confidence is the primary factor and not the amount of money misappropriated. Acting beyond one’s authority is by itself a breach of discipline and is a misconduct. In the case of a bank, every officer/employee is supposed to act within the limits of his authority. If each officer/employee is allowed to act beyond his authority, the discipline of the organisation/bank will disappear. The functioning of the Bank would become chaotic and unmanageable. No organisation, more particularly, a bank can function properly and effectively if its officers and employees do not observe the prescribed norms and discipline. Such indiscipline cannot be condoned on the specious ground that it was not actuated by ulterior motives or by extraneous considerations.

Disciplinary Proceeding

Further, it is well settled that a disciplinary proceeding is not a criminal trial. The standard of proof required is that of preponderance of probability and not proof beyond reasonable doubt. Still further, the court has to record reasons to say as to how the punishment imposed on the delinquent is shockingly or grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the charges held proved against him. Normally the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority should not be disturbed by the High Court except in appropriate cases and that too only after examining all the factors including the nature of duties assigned having due regard to their sensitiveness, exactness expected of and discipline required to be maintained and the department/establishment in which the delinquent person concerned works.