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S. Gopinath, Kasaragod v/s Central University of Kerala, Represented by Its Registrar, Kasaragod & Others

    W.A. Nos. 1154, 1155, 1161 & 1168 of 2018

    Decided On, 22 June 2018

    At, High Court of Kerala


    For the Appellant: O.V. Radhakrishnan, Senior Advocate, K. Radhamani Amma, Antony Mukkath, Advocates. For the Respondents: V. Sajith Kumar, SC.

Judgment Text

Devan Ramachandran , J.

1. These appeals call attention to the various provisions relating to suspension and disciplinary action of a nonteaching employee in the services of the Central University, which is established under the provisions of the Central University Act, 2009 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Act' for short).

2. These appeals are at the instance of the writ petitioner, who has filed all the writ petitions from which the above appeals arise, who challenges his suspension from service in the year 2015 as also the initiation and continuation of disciplinary action against him on various grounds, but primarily that these proceedings have been initiated by an Authority being without jurisdiction or statutory competence to do so.

3. It will be apposite to record a wood-cut of the extensive facts pleaded in these appeals before we venture into the evaluation of the legal issues involved.

4. The appellant was working as a Joint Registrar (Academics) in the service of the Central University (hereinafter referred to as 'the University' for convenience), when he was placed under suspension by the Registrar-in-charge of the University through an order, dated 17.12.2015 (hereinafter referred to as 'the order of suspension'). He challenged this order of suspension by filing W.P.(C) No.22665 of 2016, from which W.A.No.1168 of 2018 arises. While this Writ Petition was pending, a memo of charges consequent to his being placed under suspension as afore, was issued to him by the Registrar-in-charge of the University on 04.07.2016 (this memo will be referred to as 'the first charge memo' hereafter) and the petitioner challenged this memo of charges by filing W.P.(C)No.23846 of 2016, from which W.A.No.1154 of 2018 arises. It is pertinent that by an interim order, dated 19.07.2016, a learned Judge of this Court had granted stay of all further proceedings pursuant to this memo of charges.

5. While matters stood so and pending W.P.(C) No.23846 of 2016 aforementioned, the University by an order dated 02.12.2016, withdrew the first memo of charges, thus virtually acceding to the contention of the petitioner that it was issued by an officer who did not obtain the competence to do so. After doing so, on the same day, namely 02.12.2016, another memo of charges was issued by the Vice Chancellor to the appellant, which contained some of the charges in the earlier charge memo but with certain additional imputations also. This charge memo (which will be hereinafter be referred to as 'the second charge memo'), was challenged by the petitioner by filing W.P.(C) No.753 of 2017, from which W.A.No.1155 of 2018 arises.

6. Once the second charge memo was issued to the appellant, the University, invoking the provisions of Rule 10(5)(b) of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules (hereinafter referred to as 'the CCS(CCA) Rules' for brevity), issued another order, dated 04.05.2017, ordering that his earlier suspension, effected through the order of suspension dated 17.12.2015 aforementioned, will be deemed to continue until such time as the enquiry as per the second charge memo is completed. The petitioner challenged this order continuing his suspension by filing W.P.(C)No.16745 of 2017, from which W.A.No.1161 of 2018 arises.

7. Even though these are the skeletal facts with respect to the various writ petitions and appeals, there are two or three other pertinent additional developments, apart from the afore noticed circumstances, which will require our close attention.

8. The University, as per another order dated 13th of July, 2017, which has been produced on record as Exhibit- P12 along with W.A.No.1155 of 2018, withdrew the second charge memo dated 02.12.2016, wherein, it is stated that it was being

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so withdrawn in view of the objections of the petitioner that the annexures to the second charge memo did not contain the signature of the Vice Chancellor. Thereafter, it appears that a new charge memo was issued on 13.07.2017 (which is hereinafter referred to as 'the third charge memo'), a copy of which is on record as Exhibit-P13 in W.A.No.1155 of 2018.

9. It is in the background of the aforementioned factual circumstances that the writ petitions were taken for hearing by the learned Single Judge. The learned Judge, after going meticulously through the pleadings, materials, additional pleadings and additional documents, placed on record by the parties against each other in each of the writ petitions, concluded that the disciplinary proceedings against the appellant cannot be seem to be vitiated for the reasons contended by him and thus permitted continuation of those proceedings, while confirming the order of suspension issued by the Registrar-in-charge of the University, dated 17.12.2015. The learned Judge, we notice, has chosen to deliver one judgment to dispose of all the four Writ Petitions and the appellant has, therefore, filed the above appeals challenging the holdings and conclusions of the learned Judge in each of the Writ Petitions.

10. Since the pleadings and averments in the four appeals above are interlaced with each other and since the reliefs sought for in one is closely related to the reliefs sought for in the others, we deem it appropriate to dispose of the above four appeals by this judgment.

11. We have heard Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, the Senior Counsel assisted by Sri.Vishnu Das, learned counsel appearing for the appellants and Sri.V.Sajith Kumar, the learned Standing Counsel appearing for the Central University. 12. The connate issues in these appeals turns on the questions, whether the order of suspension issued to the appellant is valid or otherwise and also whether the third charge memo, wh