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 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, which is the one that is now relevant, has been issued to him by an Authority having the competence to do so.
13. As far as the order of suspension is concerned, the fundamental challenge impelled against it by the appellant is that it has been issued by the Registrar-inW. charge of the University and that the said Authority cannot obtain the power or competence in law to issue the said order. The adjuvant submission, with respect to the validity of the said order, is that even if it is found to have been issued validly at the first instance, it has been rendered ineffective and illegal since no proceedings were initiated by the University to review the same after a period of three months, as is mandatorily required under Rule 10(6) of the CCS(CCA) Rules.
14. As regards the first limb of the challenge against the order of suspension, that the Registrar-incharge does not have the power to issue it, is concerned, we notice that the said order, a copy of which is available on record as Exhibit-P1 along with the papers in W.A.No.1168 of 2018, was issued by the officer, who is stated to be in charge of the office of the Registrar of the University. The pleadings would further show that this individual was appointed as the Registrar-in-charge with full charge of the functions of the Registrar of the University as per an order dated 17.04.2015, issued by the Vice Chancellor, a copy of which has been placed on record as Exhibit-R1(g) on the files of W.A.No.1168 of 2018. As is clear from the said order, the present incumbent has been given 'all charge of office of the Registrar with immediate effect until further orders'.
15. We notice that the enabling provision for the Vice Chancellor to appoint a person in charge of the office of Registrar is traceable to Statute 6(4) of the Central University Statutes, 2009 (hereinafter referred to as 'the Statutes' for short), where under, when the office of the Registrar is vacant or when the Registrar is, by reason of illness, absence or any other cause, unable to perform the duties of his office, such duties shall be performed by such person as the Vice Chancellor may appoint for that purpose. It is obvious from Exhibit-R1(g), available in the file of the W.A.No.1168 of 2018, that the present incumbent has been appointed under this provision and that he has been given the full duties of the office of the Registrar of the University. It is in the afore back drop and in discharge of his duties that the Registrar-in-charge had issued the order of suspension.
16. Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, the learned Senior Counsel appearing for the appellant says that merely because a person has been allowed to officiate in a particular office, he would not obtain all the statutory rights available to such office or the character of the Authority in that office but that he would only be entitled to discharge some of the duties that were to be done by the said Authority. In support of this submission, the learned Senior Counsel cites before us the judgment of the Honourable Supreme Court in Ajaib Singh v. Gurbachan Singh and others [AIR 1965 SCC 1619], wherein, according to him, the Honourable Supreme Court has said that even if a person is officiating in a particular office, it cannot be said that he has been appointed to that particular office. He shows that the Honourable Supreme Court has declared in the said judgment that even if an Additional Magistrate has been authorised to officiate as a District Magistrate, with full powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure, he is still not the District Magistrate, unless the Government appoints him as such under Section 10 (1) of the said Code.
17. The above submissions of the learned Senior Counsel, as a general preposition in law, is irrefutable. However, in the case at hand, the appointment of the incumbent to be in full charge of the office of the Registrar was ordered expressly under the provisions of Statute 6(4) of the First Statutes. When the said Statute empowers the Vice Chancellor to appoint a person to function as a Registrar and to discharge all the duties of the said office, obviously the incumbent will obtain the jurisdiction and competence to discharge every duty enjoined on that office, exercising the powers enumerated in Statute 6(5) of the First Statutes, which includes the power to take disciplinary action. Since the present incumbent is occupying the office of the Registrar, in a manner as is statutorily sanctioned, under an order issued by the Vice Chancellor, who is the competent Authority to do so, we cannot find that the action taken by that incumbent as a Registrar of the University can be found to be incompetent or without legal sanction. In contra-distinction to this, in Ajaib Singh (Supra), wherein the legality of an order, issued under the provisions of the Defence of India Rules, was considered by the Honourable Supreme Court, it was noticed that the said order was issued by an Additional Magistrate officiating as the District Magistrate but who had not been admittedly appointed as such under Section 10 (1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It is in that context that the Honourable Supreme Court said that until the person, officiating as a District Magistrate, is appointed as District Magistrate under the provisions of Section 10(1) of the Code, he cannot be construed to be a District Magistrate but only as a person officiating in that capacity.
18. The germane facts, as we have already seen above, are quite different in the instant case, since the Registrar-in-charge of the University had been appointed strictly under the statutory provision for such appointment, through a valid order issued by the competent Authority namely, the Vice Chancellor. For this reason, the contentions of the appellant, as voiced by the learned Senior Counsel, in this Court cannot obtain our approval and are therefore repelled.
19. That being said, we have to now examine the second limb of the argument of the learned Senior Counsel with respect to the order of suspension. The learned Senior Counsel submits very vehemently that even if the initial order of suspension can be found to be valid, its further continuation after three months of its issue falls foul of the provisions of law because, no order by the competent Review Authority, as is mandated under Rule 10(6) of the CCS(CCA) Rules, reviewing the suspension and recommending its continuation had been issued any time thereafter.
20. However, we see that in the counter affidavit of the University, this factual contention has been specifically refuted. According to the University, the first review of the order of suspension, dated 17.12.2015, was made by the competent Authority namely, the Executive Council of the University, on 24.02.2016 and a copy of the said decision, recommending that the suspension be continued for six months more, has been placed on record as Exhibit-R1(a) in the files of W.A.No.1168 of 2018. Even though, we notice that the appellant contests Exhibit- R1(a) as being a mere afterthought in his reply affidavit, in the absence of anything to show that this decision is indeed apocryphal or subsequently created by the competent Authority for the purposes of this case, we cannot accede to the contention of the appellant that such a review was never done, as it will otherwise fall into the realm of conjunctures and speculation. The learned Senior Counsel Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, however, still asserts that it is not so because, when the appellant made an application under the Right to Information Act (RTI Act for short) for details of this decision, it was not made available to him stating that such information is not available with the University. Though, this alleged stand of the University in answer to the appellant's application under the RTI Act may justify the appellant in contending that the review decision, dated 24.02.2016, is not genuine or credible, we are of the view that since the Executive Council, which is the Authority competent to make the review, itself asserts otherwise in the counter affidavit sworn to on their behalf also and since we are told that subsequent review has been made with respect to the suspension periodically as per the provisions of the Rule, it would not be necessary for us to be to inquisitorially examine the accusation of the appellant that the suspension order was never reviewed by the Executive Council. We, therefore, reject these contentions of the appellant for the reasons afore.
21. In holding so, we are also guided by the submissions of Sri.V.Sajith Kumar, the learned Standing Counsel for the University, who says that the provisions of the CCS(CCA) Rules have been adopted by the University only in part, through Ordinance No.34 approved by the Government of India, where under, only those provisions of the CCS(CCA) Rules, which are not inconsistent with the Act or the Statutes will be applicable to the University. He makes the submission to drive home his contention that it is the provisions of the Act and Statutes that are primary and that all actions will have to be taken in consonance with those provisions, of course, supported by the provisions of the CCS(CCA) Rules, only where there is a lacuna in the Act or Statute. We find that this submission is well-founded in law, since Regulation No.34, referred to by the learned Standing Counsel, makes it explicit that the adoption of the CCS(CCA) Rules is only where ever it is not in conflict with the Act and the First Statutes.
22. Learned Senior Counsel Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, thereupon proceeded to make submissions on the validity of the first memo of charges dated 04.07.2016 and the second memo of charges dated 02.12.2016. According to him, the first memo of charges, dated 04.07.2016, had been stayed by this Court through an interim order dated 19.07.2016 in W.P.(C) No.23846 of 2016 and, according to him, pending such an order from this Court, no further action could have been taken by the University. He shows us that contrary to this, the University, pending the said interim direction, issued an order, dated 02.12.2016, withdrawing the first memo of charges and also a further order on the same day, enclosing the second memo of charges against the appellant. He says that this is impermissible in law and he cites the judgment of the Honourable Supreme Court in Siemens Aktiengeselischaft and Siemens Limited v. Delhi Metro Rail Corporation Limited and others [(2014) 11 SCC 288].
23. When we assess this submission of the learned Senior Counsel, we have to bear in mind that what the University did, pending the Writ Petition and the interim order, was to withdraw the first charge sheet against the appellant. If that alone had been done, obviously, the appellant would have had no cause or grievance against that action, since the withdrawal of the first charge sheet was certainly to the benefit of the appellant. However, his umbrage appears to be that, after doing so, the University issued the second charge memo, dated 02.12.2016, which according to the learned Senior Counsel, is impermissible in law. Even though we hear the learned Senior Counsel on these lines, we notice that the second memo was not issued by the Registrar-incharge, as was done in the case of the first charge memo, but by the Vice Chancellor of the University, because it was the specific assertion of the appellant, when the first memo of charges was challenged in W.P.(C)No.23846 of 2016, that it is either the Vice Chancellor or the Executive Council of the University who are competent to issue such a charge memo and not the Registrar-incharge. These assertions of the appellant is available in paragraph 8 of W.P.(C)No.23846 of 2016, from which W.A.No.1154 of 2018 arises. Presumably, the University decided, perhaps to avoid a fracas on this issue, to withdraw the first memo of charges and to issue a second memo by the Vice Chancellor acquiescing to the contention of the appellant that the Vice Chancellor is the competent Authority to issue the memo of charges.
24. However, even so, the appellant has chosen to challenge the second memo of charges on the ground that the Vice Chancellor does not have the competence to issue the same and also on the additional contention that once the first memo of charges was withdrawn, it should be presumed and deemed that all proceedings relating to the enquiry and disciplinary action against the appellant was withdrawn and dropped and, therefore, that it would not be available to the University to initiate any further action against him, as has been attempted through the second charge memo.
25. The submissions of the learned Senior Counsel afore, which are hinged on the judgment of the Honourable Supreme Court in Siemen (Supra) has been examined by us with great amount of care. In Siemen (Supra), the Honourable Supreme Court was considering the issue as to whether an Executive Authority would be entitled to pass an order or take action with respect to a matter that was pending in a court of law. The answer of the Honourable Supreme court was definitely to the negative and all such action taken by the Authority in that case was struck down by the Honourable Court, recording strong pejoration.
26. However, in the facts of these cases, what has been done by the University is to withdraw the first charge memo issued by the Registrar-in-charge and to issue the second charge memo through the Vice Chancellor. As we have already said above, the withdrawal of the first charge memo per se cannot be concluded to be an action against the interest of the appellant and therefore, the ratio in Siemen (Supra) would not be attracted against that action. If at all, there can be any grievance for the appellant, it is confined to the fact that a second charge memo was issued, which according to the learned Senior Counsel Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, has been done improperly and without jurisdiction. We fail to understand the import of this contention because, the University has virtually conceded to the contention raised by the appellant in W.P. (C)No.23846 of 2016 that a charge memo can be issued only by the Vice Chancellor or the Executive Council of the University and has, therefore, issued the second charge memo under the hand of the Vice Chancellor. Even otherwise, we fail to comprehend how the petitioner would obtain a cause against the second charge memo on the ground that W.P.(C)No.23846 of 2016 was pending, because the validity of the second charge memo was not a matter that was placed before this Court in the said writ petition. What was being considered by this Court therein was solely the validity of the first charge memo, therefore, when the first charge memo was withdrawn by the University, the writ petition was rendered unnecessary and without requirement for any further orders.
27. The further question, whether the second charge memo ought to be seen as invalid because the first charge memo has been withdrawn, has been very passionately argued before us by the learned Senior Counsel. According to him, the withdrawal of the said charge memo would construe to be an automatic termination of all disciplinary action against this client and therefore, that the initiation of further action through a second charge memo is improper and illegal. We have considered these submission very intently because, if, as has been stated by the learned Senior Counsel, the second charge memo is in the nature of a completely new action, then perhaps the challenge against it would hold water. However, what we see, as we have already said above, is that the second charge memo is nothing but a substitution of the first charge memo, which contains more or less the same allegations and imputations against the appellant and that it has been issued so as to ensure that the allegation regarding its competence, on account of it allegedly having been issued by a lesser Authority, cannot stand in the way of further disciplinary action.
28. As has been noticed by the learned Single Judge in the judgment impugned before us, the Honourable Supreme Court, in Director General of Ordnance Services and others v. P.N.Malhotra [AIR 1995 SC 1109] has declared the law, without any requirement for restatement, that when the first charge memo is found to be incompetent on technical grounds, the Authorities are entitled to issue a second charge memo on the same set of allegations in order to rectify the technical defects. In such perspective, we are afraid that we cannot accept the submissions of the learned Senior Counsel that the issuance of the second charge memo is illegal merely because the first charge memo has been withdrawn.
29. Though, as we also said above, we are not sure if it would now be necessary to consider the legality of the first and second charge memos, on account of the third charge memo having been issued; the Senior Counsel Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, with great effort, continues to challenge the first and second charge memos on the ground that they have been issued by an Authority without jurisdiction by citing several judgments including Balakrishna Pillai v. State of Kerala [1993 (1) KLT 625] and Harish v. State of Kerala [2002 (3) KLT 79 SN Case No.108], to contend that when an Authority issues an order without jurisdiction, the said order becomes nonest in law, which cannot be brought to life even by a ratification by the competent Authority.
30. In addition to this submission, the learned Senior Counsel, cites Ramakant Shripad Sinai Advalpalkar v. Union of India [1991 Supp. (2) SCC 733] to assert that a person in charge of an office 'and holding current duties' is not enjoined or authorised to initiate or pursue action that is vested with the competent Authority. Without doubt, we are in complete affirmation of the view of this Court and that of the Honourable Supreme Court in the afore judgments, but the fact remains that the impugned charge memos, namely the first and second charge memos, have been withdrawn by the University and that what is now available on record is the third charge memo issued on 13.07.2017. Even assuming, therefore, that the first charge memo was bad for the reason that it was issued by the Registrar-incharge that was substituted by the second charge memo issued by the Vice Chancellor and since there were some technical defects noticed therein also, the said Authority had decided to withdraw the same and to issue the third charge memo. Therefore, what is now relevant for our consideration is only the validity of the third charge memo, against which, we do not find a specific challenge in any of the pleadings in this Writ Appeals.
31. However, the learned Senior Counsel predicates that the same objections, as the appellant had raised against the first and second charge memos, continues against the third charge memo and according to him, the Vice Chancellor is not the authority, who is competent to issue any of these charge memos including the third one. In support of this submission, the learned Senior Counsel takes us extensively through the provisions of the Act and the First Statutes to contend that the Appointing Authority of the appellant is the Executive Council of the University and therefore, that disciplinary action can be taken only by that Authority and not by any other inferior Authority. Even though these submissions have been made by the learned Senior Counsel, it is obvious that going by the First Statutes, particularly Statute 6(5)(a), it is the Registrar, who has the power to take disciplinary action against any of the employees, excluding teachers and academic staff and to suspend them pending an enquiry. The proviso to this Statute makes it ineluctable that the Registrar can impose penalty of the nature of minor penalties but that if after the enquiry, he feels that a major penalty has to be issued, then he is obligated to make a report, enclosing the enquiry proceedings, to the Vice Chancellor for appropriate orders. The scheme of Statute 6 of the First Statutes make it irrefragable that the power to initiate and pursue disciplinary enquiry against employees, excluding teachers and other academic staff, are invested with the Registrar or the Vice Chancellor but not the Executive Council.
32. That apart, as is obvious from the appointment order of the appellant, produced on record as Exhibit-P9 in W.A.No.1155 of 2016, he has been appointed by the Vice Chancellor as authorised by the Executive Council. In answer to this, the learned Senior Counsel submits that the said order has been issued by the Vice Chancellor not in his capacity as that Appointing Authority; but in exercise of the powers under Section 11(2) of the Act, whereby, the Vice Chancellor is enjoined to give effect to the decisions of the various Authorities of the University. The learned Senior Counsel says that the order of appointment of the appellant was issued by the Vice Chancellor thus, not in his capacity as the appointing authority, but only in his capacity as the Vice Chancellor executing the decisions of the Authorities under the University.
33. Even if the above submission of Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, the learned Senior Counsel is accepted by us, the unassailed fact is that as per Statutes 6(5)(a) of the Statutes, it is certainly the Vice Chancellor or the Registrar, who have to exercise the powers of initiating enquiry against the officers, excluding teachers and academic staffs. We are aware that the only contention against this power that has been exercised by the Vice Chancellor in this case is that he has done so without first obtaining a specific decision from the Executive Council as to which are the categories of employees against whom such action can be taken. This contention is, of course, underpinned on the way Statute 6(5)(a) is framed, which reads as under:
'The Registrar shall have power to take disciplinary action against such of the employees, excluding teachers and other academic staff, as may be specified in the order of the Executive Council and to suspend them pending inquiry, to administer warnings to them or to impose on them the penalty of censure or the withholding of increment;
Provided that no such penalty shall be imposed unless the person has been given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause against the action proposed to be taken in regard to him.'
In fact, we see that this is an objection that has been raised even as against the order of suspension dated 17.12.2015, issued by the Registrar-in-charge aforementioned. The answer to this is available in the pleadings of the University, where they say that even though a specific order had not been issued by the Executive Council as to which are the type of employees, against whom such action could have been taken by the Registrar and the Vice Chancellor, all such action initiated by these Authorities have been ratified by the Executive Council. We see from paragraph 8 to 12 of their counter affidavit that the order of suspension was ratified by the Executive Council vide their decision taken on 30.12.2015 and that the subsequent orders of the Vice Chancellor have been also ratified by the Executive Council through their decision dated 20.03.2016 and 27.07.2018. Therefore, the fact that the Registrar-incharge or the Vice Chancellor, even if the appellant's allegation is true, had initiated action to suspend and to issue the charge memo to the appellant before an order of the Executive Council, as to the category of employees against whom such action could been taken, had been issued, would continue under no infirmity, once subsequent ratification had been offered by the Executive Council.
34. Once we thus conclude that the third charge memo, dated 13.07.2017, issued by the Vice Chancellor is the now relevant one, we are then impelled to consider the further submissions of the learned Senior Counsel for the appellant regarding the delay that has been caused in the whole process, which according to him, should inure to him the benefits of being exonerated. The learned Senior Counsel cites the judgment of Honourable Supreme Court in Ajay Kumar Coudhary v. Union of India [(2015) 7 SCC 291] in support of his submission that an employee cannot be placed under suspension ad infinitum and that inordinate delay in either completing the process or in issuing the charge memo would render the whole process vitiated and illegal. The learned Senior Counsel calls our attention specifically to paragraphs 11 and 12 of the said judgment, which we think requires a full reading and is, therefore, extracted as under:
'11. Suspension, specially preceding the formulation of charges, is essentially transitory or temporary in nature, and must perforce be of short duration. If it is for an indeterminate period or if its renewal is not based on sound reasoning contemporaneously available on the record, this would render it punitive in nature. Departmental/disciplinary proceedings invariably commence with delay, are plagued with procrastination prior and post the drawing up of the memorandum of charges, and eventually culminate after even longer delay.
12. Protracted periods of suspension, repeated renewal thereof, have regrettably become the norm and not the exception that they ought to be. The suspended person suffering the ignominy of insinuations, the scorn of society and the derision of his department, has to endure this excruciation even before he is formally charged with some misdemeanour, indiscretion or offence. His torment is his knowledge that if and when charged, it will inexorably take an inordinate time for the inquisition or inquiry to come to its culmination, that is, to determine his innocence or iniquity. Much too often this has now become an accompaniment to retirement. Indubitably, the sophist will nimbly counter that our Constitution does not explicitly guarantee either the right to a speedy trial even to the incarcerated, or assume the presumption of innocence to the accused. But we must remember that both these factors are legal ground norms, are inextricable tenets of Common Law Jurisprudence, antedating even the Magna Carta of 1215, which assures that --'We will sell to no man, we will not deny or defer to any man either justice or right.' In similar vein the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America guarantees that in all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.'
35. Again, we are in complete affirmation of the views of the Honourable Supreme Court and we are certain that in normal circumstances, this would apply. However, in the particular facts of this case, what we notice is that the delay in conclusion of the proceedings were not on account of the delay occasioned at the instance of the University per se, but because at every stage, challenge had been mounted against the orders initiating the proceedings or issuing the charge memo, which had led to this Court to issue interim orders. The delay that has been caused from the year 2015, when the appellant was placed under suspension till date, is on account of various litigations that have been initiated by the appellant and though we can find no blame on him for initiating such action, since he is legitimately entitled to do so in law, neither can be hold that this delay has been caused by the University or that it is so inordinate to lead to the appellant's exoneration. As is unmistakable from Ajay Kumar (Supra), the Honourable Supreme Court was dealing with a disciplinary matter, where the periodical suspension and its repeated renewal was not on account of litigation pending or on account of interim orders passed by Courts, but because of various factors that was found attributable to the management therein. In such view of the matter, we are unable to give the benefit of the apparent delay in these proceedings in favour of the appellant or to exonerate him from the charges or to interdict the enquiry proceedings initiated against him in any manner.
36. After, we had made our mind clear as above, the learned Senior Counsel submitted before us that since the delay cannot be attributed to his client either, the action of the University in having reduced the subsistence allowance, through an order dated 07.04.2017, a copy of which has been placed on record as Exhibit-P28 in the files of W.A.No.1155 of 2018, also cannot be sustained. On an examination of the said order, it would show that the concerned Authorities had invoked Fundamental Rule No.53 to reduce the subsistence allowance by 50% on the ground that the delay has been occasioned directly on account of the delay caused by the appellant. We find substantial force in the submission of the learned Senior Counsel and we are also of the view that just as the delay cannot be attributed to the University, it can neither be seen to have been occasioned on account of reasons that
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directly attributable to the appellant either. We are supported in this view, by the judgment of the Honourable Supreme Court in B.D.Shetty and others v. CEAT Ltd. and another [(2002) 1 SCC 193], wherein the Honourable Supreme Court declared the law rather emphatically, that it is only in a case where the delay is directly attributable to an employee under suspension can the provisions of the Fundamental Rule 53 be used against him. 37. On a conspectus of our observations we have afore recorded, while dealing with the various contentions, it becomes luculent and conspicuous that the appellant's challenge against the suspension and against the third charge memo cannot sustain in law and that all the contentions against such validity is bereft of merit. As we have already said above, the only contention to which we can accede to is the one against the reduction of the subsistence allowance, which, in our view, requires to be set right, since the delay occasioned in the disciplinary action is not on account of reasons that can be directly attributed to the appellant. 38. The position being so, we are of the firm opinion that W.A.Nos.1168, 1154 and 1155 of 2018 deserve to be dismissed, thus confirming the judgment of the learned Single Judge impugned herein. However, we deem it appropriate to direct the University to complete the enquiry proceedings initiated through the third charge memo against the appellant as expeditiously as possible, after following all the imperative statutory procedural requirements, but not later than six months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. 39. Consequently, until such time as the enquiry is concluded the appellant will be paid the full subsistence allowance, as is permissible to him, without any deduction on the ground that he has caused any delay. We, concomitantly direct the appellant to participate and co-operate with the disciplinary proceedings, fully and caution him that any deliberate act from his side, leading to any further delay, would be viewed seriously and in such event the benefits granted to him in this judgment would stand vacated. 40. As regards W.A.No.1161 of 2018 is concerned, the challenge in the Writ Petition, from which the said Writ Appeal arose, was against the order of the University treating appellant to be continued under suspension with respect to certain irregularities mentioned in the said order. A copy of the said order has been placed on record as Exhibit-P4 on the files of W.A.No.1161 of 2018. 41. Sri.O.V.Radhakrishnan, the learned Senior Counsel, contests this order by saying that this has been issued contrary to the provisions of Rule 10(5)(b) of the CCS(CCA) Rules and submits that it is only in the case of a different disciplinary proceedings having been commenced against the appellant can the continuation of the suspension earlier ordered be sanctioned. Sri.V.Sajith Kumar, the learned Standing Counsel for the University, submits that he is not seriously opposing this contention of the learned Senior Counsel, since he concedes that the order impugned in this appeal had been issued even before a new disciplinary action had been initiated. In such view of the matter, therefore, it is obvious that the contentions of the appellant in this appeal would have to be sustained. In the result: (a) W.A.No.1168 of 2018, W.A.No.1154 of 2018 and W.A.No.1155 of 2018 are dismissed but subject to the direction contained in paragraph 38 above. (b) W.A.No.1161 of 2018 is allowed, setting aside the judgment of the learned Single Judge to the extent to which it relates to Exhibit-P4 order in W.P.No.16745 of 2017. (c) In the rather peculiar nature of the facts involved herein, we deem it appropriate not to make any order as to costs and leave the parties to suffer their costs.