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S. Janaki Iyer v/s Union of India & Others

    Writ Petition No. 2207 of 2005

    Decided On, 24 July 2018

    At, High Court of Judicature at Bombay

    By, THE HONOURABLE ACTING CHIEF JUSTICE MRS. V.K. TAHILRAMANI & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE M.S. SONAK

    For the Petitioner: Shailesh Naidu, Dr. Ramesh R. Asawa, Sushmita Sherigar i/b. Manjula Rao, Advocates. For the Respondents: Rui Rodriques, N.D. Sharma, Advocates.



Judgment Text

1. Heard the learned counsel for the parties.

2. The challenge in this petition is to the judgments and orders dated 29th September 2004 and 23rd February 2005 made by the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in Original Application No. 468 of 2002 and Review Petition No. 91 of 2004 respectively upholding the dismissal of the petitioner by order dated 16th April 2001.

3. The petitioner was appointed as a Hindi Trained Graduate Teacher at Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan (KVS) at Bangalore with effect from 11th January 1989 and was made permanent with effect from 16th April 1992. It is the case of the petitioner that since her husband was working in a private company at Mumbai, she applied for transfer to either Mumbai or Pune Station, through the proper channel. It is further the case of the petitioner that the Principal of KVS at Bangalore, where the petitioner was working served upon her transfer order dated 1st October 1991 indicating that the petitioner along with 11 other teachers were transferred at different locations. As per the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 which was signed by Mr. V. K. Jain, Assistant Commissioner (Head Quarters) Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan, New Delhi, the petitioner stood transferred from Bangalore to Mumbai.

4. In pursuance of such transfer order dated 1st October 1991, the Principal at KVS Bangalore issued relieving order dated 14th October 1991 so as to enable the petitioner to report at Mumbai.

5. It is further the case of the petitioner that when she reported to the Principal, Kendriya Vidyalaya, Antop Hill, Mumbai on 18th October 1991, the Principal claimed that he had not received the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 and therefore requested the petitioner to hold on for some time. However, on 24th October 1991, the Principal of KV Mumbai, permitted the petitioner to join at Mumbai provisionally subject to the petitioner furnishing an undertaking in writing to the effect that if the transfer order is reversed or cancelled, the petitioner will claim no salary from Kendriya Vidyalaya, Antop Hill, Mumbai, and will return to KVS at Bangalore. Such undertaking was in fact furnished by the petitioner on 24th October 1991 at the time of joining the school at Mumbai.

6. It is further the case of the petitioner that since there was some discrepancy in the transfer order dated 1st October 1991, which had indicated against the petitioner's name the subject of Social Studies instead of Hindi, the petitioner, wrote to KVS Head Quarters at New Delhi seeking for correction of such discrepancy. There was however no immediate response to this letter which had been addressed by the Petitioner through the proper channel.

7. By order dated 13th July 1992 however, the petitioner was placed under suspension pending disciplinary enquiry. On 10th February 1993 a charge sheet was issued to the petitioner stating that the petitioner 'managed to get herself transferred from Kendriya Vidyalaya, MEG, Bangalore to Kendriya Vidyalaya, Koliwada, Bombay under a fake transfer order.'

8. The petitioner filed her response on 25th June 1993 denying the charge levelled against her. Enquiry proceedings were then held in the matter, which went on for almost nine years. The petitioner, in the meanwhile, made representations for revocation of suspension. In response, the petitioner's suspension was revoked on the condition that the petitioner joins at Baran, Jodhpur. The petitioner applied for clarification since she was served with no formal transfer order to Jodhpur. The petitioner also requested for postponement of transfer on the ground of her children's education. There is no clarity as to whether the petitioner ultimately reported at Jodhpur in pursuance of the revocation of suspension and transfer.

9. Upon conclusion of the enquiry, the disciplinary authority vide communication dated 30th March 2001 informed the petitioner that the enquiry officer had concluded that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was fake without fixing the responsibility upon the petitioner. The disciplinary authority, in the communication dated 30th March 2001 however stated that since only the petitioner was the beneficiary of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991, the disciplinary authority was of the opinion that the charge levelled against the petitioner stands proved. Therefore, the petitioner was given opportunity to represent her case in the light of enquiry report within fifteen days from the receipt of the communication dated 30th March 2001.

10. The petitioner submitted a detailed representation on 9th April 2001 disputing inter alia that the enquiry officer had found at all the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 to be fake. Upon consideration of the petitioner's representation dated 9th April 2001, the disciplinary authority vide order dated 16th April 2001, dismissed the petitioner from service. The petitioner appealed against the dismissal and the appellate authority, after affording the petitioner personal hearing dismissed the petitioner's appeal vide order dated 11th February 2002. The petitioner then instituted Original Application No. 468 of 2002 before the CAT at Mumbai, which was since dismissed by impugned judgment and order dated 29th September 2004. The petitioner then instituted a Review Petition No. 91 of 2004 before the CAT, which was since dismissed by judgment and order dated 23rd February 2005. The petitioner, aggrieved by all this, has instituted the present petition.

11. Mr. Naidu, the learned counsel for the petitioner has made the following submissions in support of the petition :

(A) That the charge sheet dated 10th February 1993 is extremely vague and such vagueness, has prejudiced the petitioner's defence. Mr. Naidu submits that there was absolutely no clarity as to what expression 'managed to get herself transferred' meant. The charge sheet did not allege that the petitioner had herself fabricated the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. The charge sheet did not indicate the name of any person or persons in collusion with whom the petitioner is alleged to have 'managed to get herself transferred'. Mr. Naidu submits that all these particulars were necessary because then perhaps a joint enquiry might have been warranted involving not merely the petitioner but the persons with whom the petitioner is alleged to have 'managed to get herself transferred'. Mr. Naidu points out that Rule 18 of the CCS (CCA) Rules contemplates special procedure in matters of joint procedures or common proceedings.

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He submits that on the basis of a vague charge sheet, this procedure, could not have been bypassed. He points out that since the vague charge sheet is the foundation of the penalty imposed, the penalty stands vitiated and is required to be set aside.

(B) Mr. Naidu submits that in the present case, there is no dispute that a preliminary enquiry was held into the allegations ultimately levelled against the petitioner. Neither were the proceedings of such enquiry nor was the report of such enquiry ever furnished to the petitioner. Mr. Naidu, relying upon Chandrama Tewari vs. Union of India AIR 1988 SC 117 submits that the non furnish of the copy of enquiry report, amounts to failure of natural justice, thereby vitiating the final enquiry and the penalty imposed on the basis of the final enquiry.

(C) Mr. Naidu submits that even otherwise, there was breach of principles of natural justice in the course of enquiry proceedings. He points out that the petitioner was not furnished copies of all relevant and material documents despite repeated requests for furnish of the same. He points out that adverse material was made use of by the enquiry officer without afford of opportunity to the petitioner to contest the same. He points out that the enquiry officer refused to summon relevant and material witnesses, thereby depriving the petitioner reasonable opportunity in the course of the enquiry proceedings. Mr. Naidu points out that all this has resulted not only in failure of principles of natural justice and fair play but also constituted denial of reasonable opportunity contemplated by Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India.

(D) Mr. Naidu submits that even otherwise the enquiry held against the petitioner is vitiated on account of unreasonable delay of at least nine years in concluding the same. Mr. Naidu points out that the petitioner not only cooperated during enquiry proceedings but time and again urged for expeditious conclusion since, the petitioner, was suffering a suspension pending such enquiry. Mr. Naidu submits that the trauma of facing an enquiry for unreasonable period of nine years renders the entire enquiry proceedings arbitrary and unreasonable. Mr. Naidu points out that the continuance of enquiry for unreasonable period of nine years amount to denial of reasonable opportunity as contemplated by Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India. He points out that with a view to conclude the enquiry proceedings expeditiously, the petitioner, was forced to drop examination of witnesses, concede to admission of documents which were otherwise inadmissible and make several such concessions. All this has resulted in denial of reasonable opportunity as contemplated by Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India and therefore the penalty imposed upon the petitioner is liable to be set aside.

(E) Mr. Naidu submits that in the present case, there has been a breach in compliance with Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules. He submits that upon reading of the enquiry report, it is apparent that the enquiry officer had in fact exonerated the petitioner of the charge levelled against her. The disciplinary authority, as is clear from the communication dated 30th March 2001, despite such exoneration has expressed a final opinion that the charge against the petitioner stands proved. Mr. Naidu submits that the communication dated 30th March 2001 also incorrectly records that the enquiry officer has given a finding that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was fake. Mr. Naidu submits that there is no finding in the enquiry report that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was fake. In any case, Mr. Naidu submits that before the disciplinary authority could conclude that the charge against the petitioner stands proved, it was obligatory upon the disciplinary authority to express tentative reasons for disagreement with the findings of the enquiry officer and thereafter afford the petitioner reasonable opportunity, which would include reasonable opportunity of being heard, before, any final decision was taken in terms of Rule 15(2) CCS (CCA) Rules. Mr. Naidu submits that upon the perusal of communication dated 30th March 2001, it is very clear that the disciplinary authority has failed to comply with the mandate of Rule 15 (2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules. Mr. Naidu submits that the action of the disciplinary authority is in breach of Rule 15(2) of CCS (CCA) Rules as also the binding rulings of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in case of Yoginath D. Bagde vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr. AIR 1999 SC 3734 and Punjab National Bank & Ors. vs. Kunj Behari Misra (1998) 7 SCC 84.

(F) Finally, Mr. Naidu relying upon Rule 15(2) of CCS (CCA) Rules as also the Hand Book For Inquiry Officers Disciplinary Authorities 2013 submits that since the charge related to forgery and fabrication of transfer order, it was incumbent that the matter be referred to the Central Vigilance Commission for in-depth enquiry. He points out that in such an in-depth enquiry the truth would have come out and resulted in exoneration of the petitioner. He submits that in the present case there was necessity of consulting the UPSC and non consultation vitiates the penalty imposed upon the petitioner. For this reason also Mr. Naidu submits that the penalty imposed upon the petitioner is liable to be set aside.

(G) In addition to the aforesaid, Mr. Naidu also submitted that there is no material on record to suggest that the petitioner alone was the beneficiary of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. He points out that almost 12 teachers including the petitioner were transferred by transfer order dated 1st October 1991. He points out that the inward outward registers at KVS Mumbai indicate that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was in fact received through normal postal routes. He points out that documentary evidence on record establishes that at least some of the teachers referred to in the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 were relieved from their respective posts on the basis of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. He submits that the disciplinary authority, by ignoring all such relevant and vital evidence could never have held the charge as proved against the petitioner. He submits that both the approach as well as the finding ultimately recorded by the disciplinary authority suffers from perversity. He submits that the finding is based upon no evidence or in any case misconstruction of the enquiry report which had never returned any finding that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was fake. He submits that perversity can and as resulted in the present matter for the failure on the part of the disciplinary authority to take into consideration vital, relevant and material documentary evidence. Mr. Naidu submits that even all these are good grounds to interfere with the dismissal order. He submits that since CAT, has failed to consider all these aspects in their proper perspective, the impugned judgments and orders made by the CAT also warrant interference.

(H) Mr. Naidu also submitted that false and frivolous charges were thrust upon the petitioner for mala fide reasons and with an oblique motive. He points out that the Assistant Commissioner, KVS Bombay Region Mr. R. K. Jain appointed the daughter of the Assistant Commissioner, KVS (Head Quarters) at New Delhi Ms Sandhya Jain as a teacher in place of the petitioner. Mr. Naidu points out that Ms Sandhya Jain was not at all qualified to be appointed as a teacher at KVS and further, at that point of time, there was no vacancy at KV Antop Hill at Mumbai. Mr. Naidu submits that this entire conspiracy of foisting a false charge sheet upon the petitioner was for the sole purpose of accommodating Ms Sandhya Jain at KV in Mumbai. He submits that since the entire exercise has its source in mala fides and oblique motives, the penalty imposed upon the petitioner warrants interference. He submits that since the CAT has failed to appreciate the entire material in this perspective, the impugned judgments and orders made by the CAT warrant interference.

12. Mr. Rodriques, the learned counsel for the respondents whilst refuting each of the contentions raised by Mr. Naidu submits that the view taken by the CAT in the impugned judgments and orders is reasonable and suffers from no errors or perversity. He therefore submits that this is not a fit case to warrant interference in exercise of extra ordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 and 227 of the Constitution of India.

13. Mr. Rodriques submits that from the material on record it is more than apparent that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake transfer order never issued by KVS (Head Quarters) at New Delhi. He points out that V. K. Jain the alleged author of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was examined in the course of enquiry proceedings and he has unambiguously deposed that he has never issued the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. Mr. Rodriques submits that apart from other contemporaneous evidence on record, the evidence of Mr. V. K. Jain is more than sufficient to establish that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake and fabricated transfer order. Mr. Rodriques submits that even the enquiry officer, has clearly recorded a finding that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake transfer order. Mr. Rodriques submits that taking into consideration the limited scope of judicial review in the matter of findings of fact recorded by the officers or disciplinary authorities, the CAT was quite justified in not interfering with such findings of facts which is backed by more than ample evidence on record.

14. Mr. Rodriques submits that fake and fabricated transfer order dated 1st October 1991, no doubt makes reference to transfers of 11 other teachers besides the petitioner. He points out that in the course of the enquiry proceedings documentary evidence was produced on record in support of the department's contentions that 11 out of 12 teachers referred to in the fake transfer order dated 1st October 1991 had in fact been transferred to various places, in pursuance of separate transfer orders issued by the head quarters. Mr. Rodriques submits that such documentary evidence was ultimately, not even objected to by the petitioner. Mr. Rodriques points out that at one stage the petitioner had insisted upon summoning 11 teachers and the principals who had relieved such 11 teachers as witnesses in the course of enquiry proceedings. However, at a later point of time, the petitioner, herself dropped her request of summoning said 11 teachers and principals as witnesses. Mr. Rodriques submits that dropping of such instances had nothing to do with the prolonging of the enquiry, which in any case, were reasons attributable to the petitioner herself, but said dropping of witnesses was to avoid bringing on record further evidence that the petitioner alone was the beneficiary of the fake transfer order dated 1st October 1991.

15. Mr. Rodriques submits that in the present case, there is full compliance with the provisions of Rule 15 (2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules. Since the enquiry officer was not quite clear as regards fixing the responsibility on the petitioner, though, the enquiry officer, had concluded that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was fake, the disciplinary authority expressed tentative disagreement vide communication dated 30th March 2001 on this aspect of the enquiry report. The communication dated 30th March 2001 states the reason for such tentative disagreement, namely, that the petitioner was the sole beneficiary of the fake transfer order dated 1st October 1991. After citing the extent of disagreement and the reasons for disagreement, the disciplinary authority afforded the petitioner full opportunity to make her representation in the matter. Mr. Rodriques points out that the petitioner in her representation dated 9th April 2001 has availed the full opportunity granted by the disciplinary authority and there is really no complain about any breach of reasonable opportunity or non compliance with Rule 15(2) of CCS (CCA) Rules. Mr. Rodriques therefore submits that the rulings in Yoginath Bagde (supra) and Kunj Behari Misra (supra) were followed by the disciplinary authorities and there is no reason to interfere with the penalty imposed upon the petitioner. Mr. Rodriques submits that most of the contentions now raised by Mr. Naidu, apart from lacking in merit, were contentions, which were not even raised in the course of enquiry proceedings or in the writ petition instituted by the petitioner. The entire petition proceeds on basis of only 7 grounds set out at clauses (a) to (g) in paragraph 13 of the writ petition. Mr. Rodriques submits that none of these grounds warrant exercise of judicial review, particularly where the CAT, by its impugned judgment and order has dealt with the matter in substantial details. Mr. Rodriques submits that there was no denial of reasonable opportunity, there was no breach of any statutory rules, there was no exclusion of relevant and vital evidence, the delay was for reasons attributable to the petitioner herself and there was no prejudice to the petitioner. For all these reasons, Mr. Rodriques submits that the present petition may be dismissed.

16. Rival contentions now fall for our determination.

17. As regards Mr. Naidu's first contention on the basis of vagueness of the charge sheet is concerned, it is necessary to note that such a ground finds no reference at all in the writ petition. There is also no clarity as to whether such a ground was ever raised in the response to the charge sheet, in the course of the enquiry, in response to the communication dated 30th March 2001 issued by the disciplinary authority and in the appeal against the penalty of dismissal. Therefore, Mr. Rodriques is quite right in his submission that the petitioner ought not to be allowed to raise such a ground for the first time in this writ petition.

18. Nevertheless, we propose to consider the challenge to the charge sheet on the ground of alleged vagueness of the charge. Annexure I to the charge sheet dated 10th February 1993 indicates the statement of Article of Charge framed against the petitioner. This is followed by Annexure II which contains the statement of imputation of misconduct or misbehavior in support of article of charge framed against the petitioner. In such matters, both Annexure I as well as Annexure II have to be read conjointly. Annexure I, in brief, sets out the statement of article of charge. Annexure II furnishes details since, it contains the statement of imputation of the misconduct or misbehavior in support of the article of charge. Upon conjoint reading of Annexures I and II and even otherwise, it is quite clear that the charge framed against the petitioner was quite clear and cannot said to be vitiated on account of any vagueness. The petitioner's response to the charge sheet, is sufficiently detailed. From the response, it does not appear that even the petitioner regarded the charge as vague or was in any manner disabled in offering her defence to the article of charge. The expression 'managed to get herself transferred' from Kendriya Vidyalaya, MEG, Bangalore to Kendriya Vidyalaya, Koliwada, Bombay under a fake transfer order, means and implies that the petitioner was the beneficiary of a fake transfer order dated 1st October 1991 on basis of which, she managed to get herself transferred from Bangalore to Mumbai where her husband was posted in a private company. In such circumstances, we are unable to accept Mr. Naidu's first contention based upon any alleged vagueness in the charge sheet issued to the petitioner and the consequent denial of reasonable opportunity to defend the charge sheet on account of any alleged vagueness therein.

19. The second contention based upon non supply of the preliminary enquiry proceedings or the preliminary enquiry report again, finds no place whatsoever in the grounds in support of the petition. Again, it is not quite clear as to whether such grounds were ever raised in the course of the enquiry proceedings, in the departmental appeals or before the CAT. In any case, the fact that the petitioner did not even deem it necessary to even raise such a ground in the writ petition indicates that the petitioner, is not at all serious in her contention that the proceedings stand vitiated on account of non supply of the preliminary enquiry proceedings or the preliminary enquiry report. In matters of violation of principles of natural justice, it is settled position that alleging mere breach is not sufficient. The petitioner, has to allege and establish some real prejudice because there is no such thing as mere technical infringement of natural justice.

20. Even if we proceed on the basis that the preliminary enquiry proceedings or the preliminary enquiry report were not furnished to the petitioner, that by itself, does not vitiate the ultimate action, which is based not on the preliminary enquiry proceedings or preliminary enquiry report but rather which is based upon final enquiry proceedings and the final enquiry report, all of which were admittedly made available to the petitioner. Normally, the purpose of a preliminary enquiry is only to find out whether it is really necessary to proceed further in the matter and hold a final enquiry. This is not a case where the impugned action dismissing the petitioner is based upon the preliminary enquiry report or on the basis of some material produced in the course of preliminary enquiry, which was ultimately never reflected in the final enquiry. The entire action is founded upon the final enquiry proceedings, the final enquiry report and findings ultimately recorded by the disciplinary authority. Therefore, this is not a case where any material adverse to the interests of the petitioner has been made use of by the disciplinary authority to the prejudice of the petitioner, without affording the petitioner reasonable opportunity to explain or to rebut the same. Therefore, we see no good ground to accept Mr. Naidu's contention on the basis of non furnish of preliminary enquiry proceedings or the preliminary enquiry report to the petitioner.

21. Chandrama Tewari (supra) assists the case of the respondents rather than the case of the petitioner. In the said decision, the Hon'ble Supreme Court, has no doubt held that it is well settled that if copies of relevant and material documents including the statement of witnesses recorded in the preliminary enquiry or during the investigation are not supplied to the delinquent officer facing enquiry and if such documents are relied in holding the charges framed against such officer, the enquiry would be vitiated for violation of principles of natural justice. However, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that this question must be determined on the facts and circumstances of each case. Therefore, if the statements or the documents produced in the course of preliminary hearing are not the basis for holding the charge as proved against the delinquent officer, then, there is no question of failure of justice merely because such statements or documents may not have been furnished to the delinquent official. Chandrama Tewari (supra), itself lays down that if a document has no bearing on the charges or if it is not relied by the enquiry officer supporting the charges, or if such document or material was not necessary for cross-examination of the witnesses during the enquiry, the delinquent officer cannot insist upon the supply of copies of such documents as absence of copies of such copies will not prejudice the delinquent officer. However, the decision as to whether a document is material or not will depend upon instances of each case. In Chandrama Tewari (supra), the copy of the report submitted by the police in the criminal case relating to the alleged theft by the delinquent officer was not supplied to him. The Hon'ble Supreme Court's opinion that the document was not relied upon by the enquiry officer and since the document was not relevant or material, non supply of its copy did not amount to violation of principles of natural justice. No prejudice was caused to the delinquent officer in cross-examining the concerned police officer. In the present case, there is nothing on record to suggest that any statements or any documents produced during the course of preliminary enquiry were relied upon by the enquiry officer or the disciplinary authority. The petitioner has also not made out any case of prejudice in the matter of cross-examination of the witnesses on account of non furnish of preliminary enquiry proceedings or the report of the preliminary enquiry. In the absence of all this, neither can be said that Chandrama Tewari (supra) principle is attracted nor it can be said that this ruling assists in any manner the case of the petitioner. Rather, as noted earlier, this ruling assists the case of the respondents who asserted that the proceedings against the petitioner were in consonance with principles of natural justice and fair play throughout.

22. In Champaklal Chimanlal Shah vs. The Union of India AIR 1964 SC 1854, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has explained that a preliminary enquiry is usually held to determine whether prima facie case for a formal departmental enquiry is made out and it is very necessary that the two should not be confused. Therefore, so far as preliminary enquiry is concerned, there is no question of its being governed by Article 311(2) of the Constitution for that enquiry is really for the satisfaction of the government to decide whether punitive action should be taken in the matter. Such a preliminary enquiry may even be held as exparte, though, usually for sake of fairness, explanation is taken from the official concerned even at such an enquiry. It is only when the government decides to hold a regular departmental enquiry for the purpose of infringing one of the three major punishments that the government servant gets the protection of Article 311 and of the rights that such protection implies.

23. Connected with this issue, is Mr. Naidu's contention regards failure of natural justice in the course of the formal enquiry. Again from the perusal of the grounds in the petition, there are no serious grounds in relation to alleged failure of the principles of natural justice. This is necessary because it is not sufficient for the petitioner to merely allege some technical breaches but further, the petitioner, has to plead as well as establish any resultant prejudice in the matter. None of the grounds (a) to (g) reflect even remotely the contentions raised by Mr. Naidu in the course of his arguments in the present petition. There is no allegation in the petition or in the grounds that documentary evidence which the petitioner intended to produce was shut out or that the witnesses which the petitioner intended to examine were not summoned or permitted to be examined. In ground (e) of the petition. All that is stated is that the Tribunal erred to take into consideration that the management failed to reexamine the handwriting expert to bring on record intricacies of the fraud seeking vis-a-vis the petitioner. This is a ground which relates to reevaluation or re-appreciation of the evidence on record which is ordinarily, not permissible in exercise of judicial review against the findings recorded by the enquiry officers or disciplinary authorities. Therefore, based upon the vague allegations of the breach of principles of natural justice or on the basis of contentions which are not even backed by any pleadings, it is not possible to fault the impugned action on the ground of failure of natural justice.

24. The principles of natural justice are not engraved on tablets of stone. The scope, extent and principles of natural justice depends upon the nature of right which is proposed to be affected, character of decision maker, the nature of the decision itself and the statutory or other frame work in which it operates. These principles can never be put in a straitjacket formula. [See : Ashwin S. Mehta & Anr. vs. Union of India & Ors. (2012) 1 SCC 83].

25. In Managing Director, ECIL, Hyderabad & Ors. vs. B. Karunakar & Ors. (1993) 4 SCC 727 the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court has held that the theory of reasonable opportunity and the principles of natural justice have been evolved to uphold the rule of law and to assist the individual to vindicate his just rights. They are not incantations to be invoked nor rites to be performed on all and sundry occasions. Whether in fact, prejudice has been caused to the employee or not on account of denial to him of the report, has to be considered on facts and circumstances of each case. Where, therefore, even after furnish of the report, no different consequence would have followed, it would be a perversion of justice to permit the employee to resume duty and to get all the consequential benefits. It amounts to rewarding the dishonest and the guilty and thus to stretching the concept of the natural justice to illogical and exasperating limits. It amounts to an unnatural expansion of natural justice which in itself antithetical to justice.

26. In State Bank of Patiala vs. S. K. Sharma (1996) 3 SCC 364 the Hon'ble Supreme Court, restricted its earlier rulings in Chintapalli Agency Taluk Sales Coop. Society Ltd. vs. Secy. (Food and Agriculture) Govt. of A.P. (1977) 4 SCC 337 and S. L. Kapoor vs. Jagmohan (1980) 4 SCC 379 to the facts of the said cases and, of course, subject to the dicta of the Constitution Bench in Managing Director, ECIL (supra). The Supreme Court also made a distinction between cases (1977) 4 SCC 337, (1980) 4 SCC 379 involving 'no opportunity' and 'no adequate opportunity'. In the later cases, the violation of natural justice must be examined on the touchstone of prejudice. There may be situations where the interests of the State or public interest may call for a curtailing of the rule of audi alteram partem. In such situations, the court may have to balance the public / state interest with the requirement of natural justice and arrive at an appropriate decision. The same principle is reiterated in Dharampal Satyapal Limited vs. Deputy Commissioner of Central Excise, Gauhati & Ors. (2015) 8 SCC 519.

27. In K. L. Tripathi vs. State Bank of India & Ors. (1984) 1 SCC 43, the Supreme Court has quoted with approval Wade in his Administrative Law, Fifth Edition (at pages 472 to 475), when he says that it is not possible to lay down rigid rules as to when the principles of natural justice are to apply, nor as to their scope and extent. Everything depends on the subject matter, the application of principles of natural justice, resting as it does upon statutory implication, must always be in conformity with the scheme of the Act and with the subject matter of the case. In the application of the concept of fair play there must be real flexibility. There must also have been some real prejudice to the complainant; there is no such thing as merely technical infringement of natural justice. The requirements of natural justice must depend on the facts and circumstances of the case, the nature of the inquiry, the rules under which the tribunal is acting, the subject matter to be dealt with, and so forth.

28. Applying the aforesaid principles to the facts and circumstances of the present case, we are unable to agree with the contention of Mr. Naidu that there has been any violation of the principles of natural justice thereby vitiating the impugned action of the dismissal of the petitioner.

29. This is also not a fit case to hold that there has been violation of principles of natural justice and fair play because the enquiry against the petitioner continued for a period of nine years when such enquiry, normally, have to be concluded quite expeditiously. From the record we find that the enquiry was held at several locations i.e. at Powai Mumbai, Colaba Mumbai, Training Centre New Delhi, MEG Centre Bangalore and so on. The enquiry involved examination of several witnesses who were posted at different places throughout the country. The enquiry involved dealt with certain objections raised by the petitioner herself, which objections ultimately, the petitioner, withdrew. Throughout the enquiry proceedings the petitioner, though under suspension, continued in Mumbai, which posting, she had availed by virtue of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 which is ultimately found to be a fake transfer order. The petitioner in fact desired to be at Mumbai since, her husband, was working in a private company and was posted at Mumbai. The petitioner herself admitted that she had requested for a transfer to Mumbai for this very reason. Though the petitioner was under suspension, there is no serious dispute that she was paid the necessary subsistence allowance in terms of the rules. Even after the suspension was revoked, and the petitioner was transferred to Jodhpur, the petitioner, resisted such transfer by insisting upon a formal transfer order and by citing difficulties out of her children education. Therefore, although we do not appreciate the length of the enquiry proceedings, this is certainly not a case where it can be said that the very length of the enquiry vitiates the enquiry proceedings and the consequent action based thereon. It is pertinent to note that according to the petitioner, the report of the enquiry officer in fact favours the petitioner. Mr. Naidu, at the opening of his arguments had in fact stated that the report of the enquiry officer completely exonerates the petitioner from the charge levelled against the petitioner. Significantly ground (c) of the petition does not seem to make any complaint that the petitioner was seriously prejudiced on account of delay of nine years in conclusion of the enquiry proceedings but rather suggests that the CAT grossly erred in not appreciating that the enquiry officer (IO) after continuing with the enquiry for nine years had finally exonerated the petitioner. The ground (c) as reflected in paragraph 13 of the petition, reads as follows:

'(c) That the Administrative Tribunal grossly erred while considering total circumstances as available on record while passing the impugned order. It is pertinent to note that the enquiry was continued for 9 years for alleged incident of forged signature on Transfer Order and finally exonerated by IO and Disciplinary Authority.'

30. Again, alike most of the contentions raised before us, the ground that the very continuance of the enquiry for nine years has prejudiced th petitioner in the matter of her defence or that the very continuance of the enquiry for nine years constituted denial of reasonable opportunity, is significantly, absent in the ground in support of the petition. Even otherwise, the petitioner, has not demonstrated any prejudice. Accordingly, we are unable to interfere with the impugned action of the disciplinary authority on the ground that the continuance of enquiry for almost nine years vitiates such impugned action.

31. As regards the contention based upon Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules, again, there is no ground to this effect found in the petition. Nevertheless, as in case of rest of the contentions raised by Mr. Naidu, we propose to deal with the contention based upon alleged non compliance with the requirements of Rule 15(2) of CCS (CCA) Rules.

32. Rule 15 of the CCS (CCA) Rules, reads as follows:

'15. Action on the inquiry report

(1) The Disciplinary Authority, if it is not itself the Inquiring Authority may, for reasons to be recorded by it in writing, remit the case to the Inquiring Authority for further inquiry and report and the Inquiring Authority shall thereupon proceed to hold the further inquiry according to the provisions of Rule 14, as far as may be.

(2) The Disciplinary Authority shall forward or cause to be forwarded a copy of the report of the inquiry, if any, held by the Disciplinary Authority or where the Disciplinary Authority is not the Inquiring Authority, a copy of the report of the Inquiring Authority together with its own tentative reasons for disagreement, if any, with the findings of Inquiring Authority or any article of charge to the Government servant who shall be required to submit, if he so desires, his written representation or submission to the Disciplinary Authority within fifteen days, irrespective of whether the report is favourable or not to the Government servant.

(2-A) The Disciplinary Authority shall consider the representation, if any, submitted by the Government servant and record its findings before proceeding further in the matter as specified in sub-rules (3) and (4).

(3) If the Disciplinary Authority having regard to its findings on all or any of the articles of charge is of the opinion that any of the penalties specified in Clauses (i) to (iv) of Rule 11 should be imposed on the Government servant, it shall, notwithstanding anything contained in Rule 16, make an order imposing such penalty:

Provided that in every case where it is necessary to consult the Commission, the record of the inquiry shall be forwarded by the Disciplinary Authority to the Commission for its advice and such advice shall be taken into consideration before making any order imposing any penalty on the Government servant.

(4) If the Disciplinary Authority having regard to its findings on all or any of the articles of charge and on the basis of the evidence adduced during the inquiry is of the opinion that any of the penalties specified in Clauses (v) or (ix) of Rule 11 should be imposed on the Government servant, it shall make an order imposing such penalty and it shall not be necessary to give the Government servant any opportunity of making representation on the penalty proposed to be imposed :

Provided that in every case where it is necessary to consult the Commission, the record of the inquiry shall be forwarded by the Disciplinary Authority to the Commission for its advice and such advice shall be taken into consideration before making an order imposing any such penalty on the Government servant.'

33. Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules provides that the disciplinary authority shall forward or cause to be forwarded a copy of the enquiry report where the disciplinary authority is not the inquiring authority together with its own tentative reasons for disagreement, If any, with the findings of the inquiring authority on any article of charge to the Government servant who shall be required to submit, if he so desires, his written representation or submission to the disciplinary authority within fifteen days, irrespective of whether the reports is favourable or not to the Government servant. Rule 15(2-A) though provides that the disciplinary authority shall consider the representations, if any, submitted by the Government servant and record its findings before proceeding further in the matter as specified in sub-rules (3) and (4).

34. In the present case, on the perusal of the report of the enquiry officer, we are unable to agree with Mr. Naidu's contention that there is no finding recorded by the enquiry officer that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 on basis of which the petitioner secured posting from Bangalore to Mumbai was not a fake transfer order. We are also unable to agree with the contention of Mr. Naidu, which contention, finds reflection in ground (c) and to some extent ground (g) of the petition that the enquiry officer has completely exonerated the petitioner of the charge levelled against her. From the reading of the enquiry report in its entirety, it does transpire that the enquiry officer has held that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake transfer order. However, the enquiry officer has not been categoric in fixing the responsibility of managing to secure such a fake transfer order by herself.

35. The conclusions of the enquiry officer have been set out on internal pages 36 to 39 of the enquiry report. The conclusions do proceed on the basis that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 is a fake transfer order. The discussion in the conclusions no doubt, relates to fixing the responsibility upon the petitioner and the enquiry officer, can be said to have not fixed responsibility of securing such a fake transfer order upon the petitioner. The conclusions, have to be read along with the report itself, from which, it is clear that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was held as fake by the enquiry officer.

36. There is ample evidence on record to establish that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was indeed a fake transfer order. The signatory to this order Mr. V. K. Jain was examined in the course of enquiry proceedings and he has categorically stated that the signature on such transfer order is not his. He was cross-examined on behalf of the petitioner and there is no serious dent which the defence could make to the deposition of Mr. V. K. Jain. Therefore, upon consideration of the enquiry report in its entirety, it is quite clear that the enquiry officer has concluded that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake transfer order. This conclusion is backed by the material on record and therefore, it is not possible to accept Mr. Naidu's contention that such a conclusion has not at all been drawn in the report of the enquiry officer or that such a conclusion, if drawn, is based upon no evidence on record.

37. Mr. Naidu, has in fact relied upon communication dated 30th March 2001 addressed by the disciplinary authority to the petitioner which according to Mr. Naidu establishes breach of Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules. Therefore, it is only appropriate that the entire contents of the communication dated 30th March 2001 are transcribed below for convenience of reference :

'KENDRIYA VIDYALAYA SANGATHAN REGIONAL OFFICE MUMBAI

SPEED POST

F.17(ii)2/8/92/KVS(MR) DATE : 30.3.2001

MEMORANDUM

Whereas Mrs. Janki Iyer, TGT (Hindi), KV, Koliwada Mumbai was served Charge Sheet under Rule 14 of CCS (CCA) Rules 1965 vide KVS (HQ.) New Delhi letter No. F.8-39/92/KVS(Vig.) dt. 10.2.93 and Mrs. Janki Iyer, was kept under suspension vide KVS letter No. F.8-39/92/KVS(Vig.) dt. 13.7.92.

Whereas an inquiry was conducted as per rules and Mrs. Janki Iyer was given ample opportunity to defend herself at every stage alongwith her Defence Assistant.

Whereas the Inquiry Officer has submitted his report and, the Inquiry Officer has concluded that the transfer order letter No. 50-3/91/KVS/Acad./TGT dated 1.10.91 was fake without fixing the responsibility on the Charged Officer, Mrs. Janki Iyer.

Whereas the undersigned being the disciplinary authority in case of Mrs. Janki Iyer, is of the opinion that the transfer order was fake as concluded by the Inquiry Officer and as such the charge as made out in the Article of Charges stands proved to the extent of her getting transferred on the basis of the said fake transfer order, and the beneficiary of the said fake order was only Mrs. Janki Iyer at Sr. No. 10 of the transfer order, whereas all other eleven cases mentioned in the said transfer order were genuine, but effected under different transfer orders.

Mrs. Janki Iyer TGT (Hindi) under suspension KV Koliwada is hereby given an opportunity to represent her case in the light of Inquiry Report, the copy of which is enclosed herewith, before imposing a suitable penalty.

Mrs. Janki Iyer should send her representation in writing within 15 days of receipt of this Memorandum.

Encl: as above

Sd/-

(T. N. SATYAMURTHY)

ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER

Mrs. Jani Iyer, TGT (Hindi),

A6, Sharmila C.H.S., Rabodi II,

Shivaji Nagar, Thane (West),

Pin Code – 400 601.'

38. From the perusal of the communication dated 30th March 2001, it is clear that the disciplinary authority has correctly appreciated the contents of the enquiry report. The disciplinary authority, in the context of the enquiry report has stated that the enquiry officer has concluded that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was fake but, the enquiry officer has also not fixed the responsibility on the charged officer Janaki Iyer i.e. the petitioner herein. Thereafter the disciplinary authority has expressed the opinion, which, when considered in the proper context, is nothing but a tentative opinion that the charge as framed against the petitioner stands proved to the extent of the petitioner getting herself transferred on the basis of fake transfer order. To this extent, the disciplinary authority, has expressed a slight disagreement with the findings recorded by the enquiry officer. The reasons for such disagreement are also found in communication dated 30th March 2001. The reason stated by the disciplinary authority is that the petitioner was the only beneficiary of the fake transfer order dated 1st October 1991 whereas all other 11 cases mentioned in the said transfer order were genuine, but effected under different transfer orders. Finally, the communication dated 30th March 2001 affords the petitioner 15 days time to submit her representation in the matter.

39. From the reading of the communication dated 30th March 2001, it is therefore clear that the disciplinary authority in the present case after expressing its own tentative reasons for partial disagreement has afforded the petitioner 15 days time to make a written representation in the matter. This is sufficient compliance with the provisions of Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules.

40. The petitioner submitted a detailed representation dated 9th April 2001 in response to the communication dated 30th March 2001. From the reading of the representation dated 9th April 2001 in its entirety, it is seen that there is no reference whatsoever as to breach of Rule 15(2) of CCS (CCA) Rules. The representation asserts that the enquiry officer has nowhere concluded that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake transfer order. The representation also asserts that the petitioner was not the sole beneficiary of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. The representation also asserts that even if it is assumed that the petitioner was the sole beneficiary of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991, that by itself, cannot be a deciding factor for holding the charge levelled against the petitioner as proved. Finally, the petitioner, has styled the charge levelled against her as fake by using the following : 'Thus I request on the perusal of the report, the Disciplinary Authority can come to only conclusion that the charges are fake instead the T.O. being faked.'

41. From the representation dated 9th April 2001, in response to the communication dated 30th March 2001, it is also clear that the petitioner was in no manner prejudiced with the language used by the disciplinary authority in the communication dated 30th March 2001. Mr. Naidu did tried to contend that from the language used in the communication dated 30th March 2001, it was evident that the disciplinary authority, even without waiting for any response from the petitioner had already formed an opinion that the charge against the petitioner was proved. According to us merely because the word 'tentative' finds no place in the communication dated 30th March 2001, it cannot be said that the opinion expressed by the disciplinary authority was some final opinion and not a tentative opinion. From the reading of the communication dated 30th March 2001 in its entirety, it is quite clear that the disciplinary authority indicated to the petitioner the extent of disagreement with the findings of enquiry officer and further, also communicated the tentative reasons for such disagreement. This was followed by afford of opportunity to the petitioner to make representation within 15 days as prescribed in Rule 15 (2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules. From the response of the petitioner, it is quite clear that the petitioner also construed the communication dated 30th March 2001 as compliance with the requirements of Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules. As noted earlier, neither is any reference made in the petitioner's representation dated 9th April 2001 to any breach of Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules nor from the contents of the representation can it be said that the petitioner was indeed alleging any breach of Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules.

42. In case of Yoginath Bagde (supra), the enquiry officer had completely exonerated the delinquent official. The disciplinary authority without afford of any opportunity to the delinquent official disagreed that the findings of the enquiry officer and recorded its final conclusion that the authorities against the delinquent official stand proved. Since the formation of opinion on the part of the disciplinary authority in the said case was a final and not tentative, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that there was breach of statutory rules as also the principles of natural justice and fair play. In the present case, upon reading of the communication dated 30th March 2001 in its entirety, it cannot be said that the opinion expressed by the disciplinary authority partly disagreement with the enquiry officer was some final opinion or not a tentative opinion. The tentative reasons for disagreement were also stated in the communication dated 30th March 2001. In such circumstances, the ratio in Yoginath Bagde (supra) will not assist the petitioner.

43. In Kunj Behari Misra (supra), the enquiry officer found Misra to be guilty of one out of six charges levelled against him but exonerated Misra of the compliance by the authorities. On receipt of the enquiry report however, the disciplinary authority, did not agree with the exoneration in respect of the five charges and by a short order held such charges stand proved on the basis of the material on record. The disciplinary authority thereafter went on to impose a minor penalty upon Misra. It is in these circumstances, that the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that there was violation of regulation 7(2) as well as the principles of natural justice. The facts in the present case are no manner comparable to the facts in the case of Kunj Behari Misra (supra).

44. Therefore, upon cumulative consideration of the aforesaid facts and circumstances, we are unable to detect any breach in compliance with the provisions of Rule 15(2) of the CCS (CCA) Rules or in breach in compliance with the principles of natural justice and fair play.

45. In the facts and circumstances of the present case, we cannot say that the findings ultimately recorded by the disciplinary authority suffer from any perversity. As noted earlier, there is more than ample evidence on record to establish that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was not a genuine transfer order but rather the same was a fake transfer order. The instances as regards re-examination of hand writing experts etc. is really not some ground to interfere with findings recorded in departmental proceedings. It is well settled that the standard of proof in departmental proceedings is that of preponderance of probabilities. The standard of judicial review with findings recorded in departmental proceedings is also quite restrictive. The courts or the tribunals in exercise of powers of judicial review do not re-appreciate or re-evaluate the material on record. Therefore, unless a case of perversity is made out, ordinarily, there is no reason for courts or tribunals, in the exercise of their powers of judicial review interfering with such findings of fact. As noted earlier, there is more than ample material on record to sustain the finding concurrently recorded by the enquiry officer, as well as the disciplinary authority that the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 was a fake transfer order. Since, Mr. Naidu had asserted that apart from the petitioner at least some of the teachers referred to in the transfer order dated 1st October 201 were also actually transferred to the places indicated in the transfer order and in that sense, were the beneficiaries of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991, we had adjourned the matter in order to enable the learned counsel for both the parties to make their submissions on this aspect. On the adjourned date, Mr. Rodriques handed in a chart backed by documents, which establish that the petitioner was the sole beneficiary of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. In so far as the remaining 11 teachers referred to in the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 are concerned, they had already been transferred vide separate transfer orders, the authenticity of which, was never in dispute.

46. The teachers like Savita Gupta, P. Ahuja, Madhu Sharma were transferred vide orders dated 30th January 1991 read with modification order dated 13th September 1991. Similarly, teachers like Harpal Sodhi, Roshni Shobha, Suman Awasthi, Renu Paasi, P. Nirmala, Mamta Sharma and Ram Pratap Tiwari were transferred vide transfer order dated 1st October 1991, 11 teachers had already been transferred almost 9 months earlier by transfer order dated 30th January 1991. In case of 3 out of said 11 teachers, the transfer order dated 30th January 1991 had been modified vide order dated 13th September 1991. Madhu Johri was transferred by a stand alone but separate order dated 11th September 1991. From this, it is quite clear that the petitioner was alone the beneficiary of the fake transfer order dated 1st October 1991. In such circumstances, the inference drawn by the disciplinary authority that the charge as levelled against the petitioner stands proved cannot be said to be some unreasonable or perverse inference, which is unsupported by any material on record.

47. As noted earlier, the scope of interference with findings of fact recorded by the disciplinary authorities in exercise of powers of judicial review is extremely limited. In Union of India & Ors. vs. P. Gunasekaran – AIR 2015 SC 545, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has made it clear that in disciplinary proceedings, the High Court is not and cannot act as a second court of first appeal. Therefore, in the exercise of writ powers under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India, the High Court shall not venture into re-appreciation of the evidence. The High Court can only see whether the enquiry is held by a competent authority; in accordance with procedure prescribed in that behalf; issues of ere is violation of the principles of natural justice ; the considerations of extraneous evidence; influenced by irrelevant or extraneous considerations or whether the conclusion, on the very face of it, is so wholly arbitrary and capricious that no reasonable person could ever have arrived at such conclusion. The High Court can also examine whether the disciplinary authority had erroneously failed to admit the admissible and material evidence admitted inadmissible evidence which is influenced the finding or whether the finding of fact is based on no evidence.

48. The Hon'ble Supreme Court, in P. Gunasekaran (supra), after positively stating what the High Court, in the exercise of its powers under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India can do in a matter dealing with disciplinary proceedings, has further, in clear and unambiguous terms set out, what the High Court, in exercise of powers under Article 226/227 of the Constitution of India cannot do while exercising powers of judicial review in disciplinary proceedings. It is held that the High Court shall not re-appreciate the evidence, interfere with the conclusions in the enquiry, in case the same has been conducted in accordance with law, go into the adequacy of the evidence; go into the reliability of the evidence, interfere, if there be some legal evidence on which findings can be based; correct the error of fact however grave it may appear to be; go into the proportionality of punishment unless it shocks its conscience.

49. Applying the aforesaid principles to the facts and circumstances of the present case, we are unable to accept Mr. Naidu's contention that the findings recorded by the disciplinary authority warrant interference on the ground of perversity.

50. The imposition of penalty upon the petitioner cannot be interfered with on the ground that the matter had to be referred to the CVC because issue of forgery or fabrication of document was involved. Mr. Naidu was unable to point out to any statute or statutory rule in support of such a contention. No doubt, Mr. Naidu to make reference to hand book for enquiry officers and disciplinary authorities. The hand book, appears to be a compilation or at the highest guide to be adopted by the enquiry officer and disciplinary authorities. Mr. Naidu was unable to point out any particular provision of law to which such hand book owes its source or any particular provision on the basis of which it can be said that reference to CVC is mandatory in such matters. Similarly, we were not shown any provision of law which mandates in the first place any reference to the IPSC in such matters. All that Mr. Naidu pointed out was that if consultation with UPSC is necessary, then, the relevant sub rule of Rule 15, which provides for the procedures to be adopted in such a case, have to be adopted. Besides, as pointed out by Mr. Rodriques the contention based upon reference to CVC or consultation with the UPSC finds no reference whatsoever in the grounds in support of the writ petition. Besides, it is now settled by the Hon'ble Supreme Court that the words 'shall be consulted' in Article 320 of the Constitution of India are not to be construed in the sense that in default of consultation the action of the Government under any of the sub clauses of Article 320 would be null and void. Unlike the provisions of Article 311 of the Constitution which confers a right upon the Government servant, provisions of Article 320(3)(c) do not confer any such a right as such. Accordingly, we are unable to fault the impugned action on basis of such contentions.

51. The CAT, has also considered the contentions raised before it in their proper perspective. Although, the CAT, was not expected to reevaluate or re-appreciate the evidence on record, the CAT, has in fact considered the evidence both documentary as well as oral tendered during the course of enquiry proceedings. In particular, the CAT, has referred to the evidence of B. N. Suryanarayana, the in-charge Principal K.C. at Bangalore and the evidence of V. K. Jain, who is alleged to have issued and signed the transfer order dated 1st October 1991. The CAT has also noted that initially the petitioner had insisted upon the examination of 11 teachers besides herself referred to in the transfer order dated 1sst October 1991 and also the principals of the schools from which these 11 teachers were transferred or relieved. The CAT has noted that however the petitioner herself, at a later stage of enquiry, dropped her request for examination of such teachers and principals. The CAT has also noted that the petitioner after having objected to the admission of transfer orders by which said 11 teachers were transferred, later on dropped her objection to the admission of such transfer orders. Mr. Rodriques has also invited our attention to the proceedings sheet before the enquiry officer from which, this aspect is quite clearly borne out.

52. Mr. Naidu's contention that the petitioner dropped her request for examination of said 11 teachers or 11 principals because the enquiry had been prolonged unreasonably deserves no acceptance. If the petitioner was indeed confident that 11 teachers besides herself, had been transferred in pursuance of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 or that there were any other beneficiaries of the transfer order dated 1st October 1991, then, it is unlikely that the petitioner would have dropped her insistence that such 11 teachers and 11 principals be examined. Rather, in such a situation, the petitioner herself, would have insisted and examined such beneficiaries, if any. In any case, the documentary evidence on record clearly bears out that 11 teachers referred to in the transfer order dated 1st October 1991 were in fact transferred much earlier vide separate transfer orders, the authenticity of which, was never in dispute. The CAT, was, therefore, quite correct in not accepting the petitioner's case.

53. In so far as the aspect of mala fides and oblique motive is concerned, there is no clarity whatsoever as to whether such a defence was ever raised in response to the charge sheet or before the enquiry officer. There is also no clarity as to whether such a contention was raised in the appeal or before the CAT.

54. In the writ petition however, this is what is stated in ground (f) and in paragraph 14 :

'(f) That the Learned Administrative Tribunal failed to appreciate that the Petitioner is made scapegoat while involving into such alleged incident with a view to accommodate near and dear person of the Commissioner, Delhi Regional and Assistant Commissioner, Bombay Region (daughter of Asstt. Commissioner Region Mumbai);

'14. The Petitioner states that the entire approach of Respondents in issuing charge sheet at belated stage, conducting summary proceedings in utter disregards of principle of natural justice, effecting dismissal order resulting in gross punishment without taking into consideration past service record of the Petitioner, smacks of malafide with the sole intention of depriving her livelihood. It is crystal clear from this that the Respondent's action against the Petitioner was nothing but to cover their own misdeeds and accommodate Respondent No. 3 niece, daughter of Respondent No. 4 in the post, instead of petitioner.'

55. Based upon the aforesaid averments in the petition, it is not possible to accept the charge of mala fides or oblique motives. If the petitioner, was indeed serious about her charge of mala fides and oblique motives, then it was necessary that the petitioner lays the foundation for such contentions at the earliest instance i.e. in her response to the charge sheet itself. Further, mere pleadings and that too vague pleadings are never sufficient to establish the charge of mala fides. The petitioner, has to prove the charge of mala fides or oblique motives. The petitioner has to at least place on record in the enquiry proceedings proper material from which inference of mala fides or oblique motives can be made out. The petitioner in the present case, has not alleged any mala fides against the disciplinary authority as such. The charge of mala fides is sought to be made against V. K. Jain and R. K. Jain neither of them have been impleaded as parties by name or in their private capacities. Though, it is possible to say that they have been impleaded as parties in their official capacities as Assistant Commissioners. This is not a case where either all these Jains were designated as disciplinary authorities or have imposed penalties upon the petitioner. In such circumstances, it is not possible to accept Mr. Naidu's contention that the entire enquiry proceedings stand vitiated on account of mala fides and oblique motives attributed to V. K. Jain and R. K. Jain.

56. For all the aforesaid reasons, we see no good ground to interfere with the impugned judgments and orders made by the CAT. This petition is therefore dismissed. Rule is discharged. There shall be no order as to costs.
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