Nekkhomang Neihsial, Member (A).
1. After repeated adjournment as per the record, this case was last taken up on 25.11.2019. The learned counsel for the respondents was not present. Since it is an old matter of 2015, and the written note of argument has already been submitted on behalf of the respondents, we proceeded for hearing of the matter from the applicant’s side. After giving detailed opportunities to the learned counsel for the applicant, the case was reserved for orders.
2. In this O.A., the applicant is seeking for the following reliefs:
“8(i) That the Hon’ble Tribunal be pleased to set aside and quash impugned memorandum No.F4-3/2013-14 dated 21.05.2014(Annexure-2) and further be pleased to set aside the impugned order No.F4-3/2013-14 dated 14.08.2014 (Annexure-5) and impugned appellate order No.Staff/2/24-23/2014/RP dated 13.02.2015 (Annexure-7 are void ab initio)
(ii) The Hon’ble Tribunal be pleased to direct the respondents to reinstate the applicant with all benefit including monetary benefit.
(iii) Cost of the application.
(iv) Any other relief(s) to which the applicant is entitled as the Hn’ble Tribunal may deem fit and proper.”
3. On the day of filling the O.A. on 02.06.2015, it has been observed by this Tribunal that – ‘the learned counsel for the applicant mainly argued the case on two folds. Firstly, the appointing authority was the Assistant Director of Postal Services and the penalty order was issued by the Superintendent of Post Offices. Secondly, the applicant although was not directly related to the case but was imposed major penalty from removal from service, which according to learned counsel is disproportionate and not sustainable under the law’.
4. The respondent authorities have filed their written statement on 04.08.2015 wherein they mainly brought out serious fraud committed by the team of officials in which the present applicant is one of them.
5. The applicant also submitted his rejoinder on 9.12.2015. Among others, he brought out that he was advised by his senior in the office that he should admit the allegations and return the illegally withdrawn amount and then he would not be discharged/ removed/dismissed from service. He also pointed out that he was appointed by the Chief Post Master General, Assam Circle but imposed the penalty by the Superintendent of Post Offices, Sivsagar Division, who is much lower in rank than the appointing authority.
6. We have gone through the records and documents as submitted particularly by the learned counsel for the applicant. A memorandum of chargesheet was issued to the applicant vide Memorandum No. F4-3/2013-14 dated 21.05.2014 by the Superintendent of Post Offices, Sivasagar Division containing five Articles of charges. These five Articles of charges include manipulation/ replacement of sanction memos, unauthorisedly writing of pay order; replacement of manipulated sanctioned memo; forging the signature of the disbursing authority and destroying of manipulated sanction memo. The enquiry was conducted and the Inquiry Officer has recorded his findings as under:-
“FINDINGS:- I have heard the charged officials in person in presence of the Presenting Officer and have also gone through the charge sheets issued against them with utmost care. The charged officials Sri Sooman Mahanta, PA Divisional Office, Jorhat, Sri Nabadeep Gogoi, PA Divisional Office, Jorhat and Sri Imtiaz Washim Khanikar, PA Jorhat HO during their incumbency committed gross misdeed intentionally to which they in no way could defend themselves during the hearing at any stage and for which Sri Sooman Mahanta, PA Divisional Office, Jorhat, Sri Nabadeep Gogoi, PA Divisional Office, Jorhat and Sri Imtiaz Washim Khanikar, PA Jorhat HO have unconditionally and unequivocally admitted all the charges levelled against them vide SPOs, Sivasagar Division, Jorhat memo no. F4- 3/2013-14 dated 21.05.2014 in toto and pleaded themselves guilty.
CONCLUSION:- Finally, on the basis of documentary circumstantial evidences and as per statement recorded of the witnesses in course of hearing I hold that the charges framed against Sri Sooman Mahanta, PA Divisional Office, Jorhat vide SPOs, Jorhat memo no. F4-3/2013-14 dated 21.05.2014, Sri Nabadeep Gogoi, PA Divisional Office, Jorhat vide SPOs, Jorhat memo no F4-3/2013-14 dated 21-05-2014 and Sri Imtiaz Washim Khanilar, PA Jorhat HO vide SPOs, Sivasagar Division, Jorhat memo no F4-3/2013-14 dated 21.05.2014 under the provision of common proceeding of rule 18 of CCS (CCA) rule 1965 stand proved.”
7. Against the enquiry report, the applicant made representation on 12.08.2014, a copy of which is not placed by the applicant. The Disciplinary Authority taking into account the findings report of the Inquiry Authority and after detailed analysis including highlighting all the admission of the crime committed by the applicant along with Sri Sooman Mahanta and Sri Nabadeep Gogoi, passed an order of removal from service with immediate effect vide his order under Memo No. F 4-3/2013-14 dated 14.08.2014. The applicant submitted his appeal to the appellate authority on 25.09.2014. This was disposed of by the appellate authority vide its order under No. Staff/2/24- 23/2014/RP dated 13.02.2015 rejecting the appeal.
8. Keeping in view of the above records of the entire process of the disciplinary proceedings gone through by the respondent authorities, the argument and submission of the learned counsel for the applicant that the applicant was not a party to the misconduct/crime, is found to be not maintainable. Repayment, if any lost amount, per-se is not the justification for condition of serious misconduct/fraud as committed by the applicant.
9. As regards to the questioning of competency of the authority who imposed the penalty, the learned counsel for the respondents in her written argument submitted on 22.11.2018 has pointed out as under:-
“2. That it is asserted the applicant was appointed against Sports quota for which approval was given by Chief Postmaster General, Guwahati after conducting selection formalities of Sports recruitment centrally at Guwahati where such sports facilities were available. The Assistant Director of Postal Services conveyed the approval of Chief Postmaster General, Guwahati to Supdt. of Post Offices, Sivasagar for appointment of the applicant against Sports quota. Accordingly, Supdt. of Post Offices, Sivasagar Division, being the appointing authority, appointed the applicant after observing the prescribed formalities as required for appointment of Direct Recruitment candidate. The applicant has mistaken the fact that approving authority is the appointing authority in Sports cases where selection is made on the basis of Sports trials.”
10. In this context, it is observed that the applicant has submitted a copy of the letter No. Staff/13-20/2009 dated 18th May 2010 wherein approval of the Chief Postmaster General, Assam Circle, Guwahati has been conveyed under the signature of Assistant Director Postal Services (Staff), Assam Circle, Guwahati. It is seen from this letter that actual appointment will be done by the appointing authority after verification of the original documents etc. In the endorsement No. 2 at page 12, it also has been indicated that the SSPOs/SSRM/SPOs Guwahati, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Tinsukia, Tezpur, Jorhat, Dhubri are requested to take necessary action for appointment after observing the prescribed formalities as required for appointment of Direct Recruitment candidate.
11. It is clear from the above that the letter No. Staff/13-20/2009 dated 18.05.2010 as submitted by the applicant is not an appointment letter. It is only a
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pproval of the higher authority for selection for appointment of the individuals under Sports quota to the cadre of Group ‘C’ (Pas/SAs). As such, there is no doubt that the Superintendent of Post Offices is competent appointing authority for Postal Assistant to which the applicant belongs. 12. Keeping in view of the above the argument that the Superintendent of Post Office, Sivsagar Division is much lower in the rank than the appointing authority and can not impose the penalty on the applicant on the ground that he was appointed by the higher authority i.e. Chief Post Master General, Assam Circle or Assistant Director Postal Services (Staff), is found not factually correct and not sustainable. As such, the O.A. is found devoid of merit and liable to be dismissed. 13. Accordingly, O.A. is hereby dismissed. There shall be no order as to costs.