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The Management, Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (Villupuram) Ltd., Rep by its General Manager, Cuddalore v/s The Presiding Officer, Cuddalore

    W.P.No. 1165 of 2018 & WMP No. 1454 of 2018
    Decided On, 19 September 2022
    At, High Court of Judicature at Madras
    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ABDUL QUDDHOSE
    For the Petitioner: Aswin, Advocate. For the Respondents: R1, Labour Court, R2, V. Porkodi for M/S.R. Krishnaswamy, Advocate.


Judgment Text
(Prayer: Petition filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India praying to issue Writ of Certiorari to call for the records of the order passed by the first respondent in I.D.No.4 of 2015 dated 27.09.2016 and to quash the same as illegal.)

1. This writ petition has been filed challenging the order passed by the Labour Court, Cuddalore dated 27.09.2016 in I.D.No.4 of 2015.

2. The brief facts leading to filing of this writ petition are as follows:-

A driver by name V. Paneerselvam, employed with the petitioner Corporation was charged by the petitioner Corporation by a Charge Memo dated 04.08.2003. While the workman was working as a driver with the Petitioner Corporation, while driving the bus bearing No.TN 32 N 1320, in route No.239/D, on 16.12.2009, the bus hit against a motorcyclist and the said motorcyclist died on the spot. The driver V.Paneerselvam was suspended by the petitioner Corporation on 18.07.2003 and thereafter, the aforementioned charge memo was issued by the petitioner Corporation.

3. Disciplinary proceedings were initiated and Enquiry Officer, after due enquiry, held that the charges framed against the driver V.Paneerselvam, has not been proved. However, the petitioner Corporation, after receiving an explanation from V.Paneerselvam (delinquent), disagreed with the findings of the Enquiry Officer and imposed penalty of withholding the increment for one year with cumulative effect on the driver V.Paneerselvam(delinquent). Thereafter, since conciliation efforts failed, a reference was made by the Government to the Labour Court by the second respondent Union representing the interest of the driver V.Paneerselvam.

4. The Labour Court, under the impugned order, set aside the penalty imposed by the petitioner Corporation on the driver V.Paneerselvam on the ground that despite the findings of the Enquiry Officer holding that the charges framed against the driver have not been proved and despite the fact that in the criminal proceedings, the driver has been acquitted, the disciplinary authority had erroneously disagreed with the findings of the Enquiry Officer by imposing penalty. Aggrieved by the order of the Labour Court dated 27.09.2016 passed in I.D.No.4 of 2015, the present writ petition has been filed by the petitioner Transport Corporation.

5. Heard Mr.Aswin, learned counsel for the petitioner and Ms.V.Porkodi, learned counsel for the second respondent Union.

6. Learned counsel for the petitioner submits as follows:-

a) Only after receiving the explanation from the delinquent (driver) the petitioner Transport Corporation has imposed the penalty of withholding increment for one year with cumulative effect on the delinquent (driver);

b) Only after a period of ten years, a dispute has been raised by the second respondent Union before the Labour Office at Cuddalore and therefore, the reference is bad in the eye of law;

c) The disciplinary authority (petitioner) can disagree with the findings of the Enquiry Officer. If it disagrees with the findings of the Enquiry Officer, it can give its own reasons for such disagreement and can record its own findings, provided if the evidence on record is sufficient for that purpose. The petitioner Transport Corporation has assigned its valid reasons of taking note of various physical features available in the place and was pleased to hold its own reasoning.

7. Per contra, Ms.V.Porkodi, learned counsel for the second respondent Union would submit that the criminal proceedings against the delinquent (V.Paneerselvam, driver) has ended in acquittal and a categorical finding has been given by the criminal court that the driver is not responsible for the cause of the accident. Learned counsel further submits that the Enquiry Officer has also given a categorical finding that the driver (V.Paneerselvam) is not responsible for the cause of the accident. She also drew the attention of this Court to the following authorities in support her submissions that if the disciplinary authority disagrees with the findings of the enquiry authority, they have to record its own findings on such disagreement and also to record its own findings on such charge and also is required to give an opportunity of hearing to the delinquent officer. She relied on the following case laws:

a) Punjab National Bank and Others vs Kunj Behari Misra reported in (1998) 7 SCC 84

b) State Bank of India and Others vs K.P.Narayanan Kutty reported in (2003) 2 SCC 449 Discussion:

8. Admittedly, the Enquiry Officer has held that the charges are not proved against the delinquent (driver V.Paneerselvam). The driver (delinquent) has also been acquitted before the criminal court. In the affidavit, filed in support of the writ petition, the reasons for disagreeing with the findings of the Enquiry Officer, have not been mentioned excepting for stating that sufficient reasons were given.

9. The Enquiry Officer has given a categorical finding that the driver (delinquent) is not responsible for the cause of the accident which resulted in the death of the motorcyclist. The contention of the driver before the Enquiry Officer was that the bus, which was driven by the driver (delinquent) was in a stationary position and the motorcyclist had dashed against the bus on his own. The said contention was accepted by the Enquiry Officer as no contra evidence was produced by the petitioner Corporation before the Enquiry Officer. The criminal court based on the evidence available before it, has also given a categorical finding that the driver (delinquent) was not responsible for the cause of the accident. Necessarily, the petitioner Transport Corporation to overturn the findings of both the criminal court as well as the Enquiry Officer, will have to produce clinching evidence in order to set aside those findings. Having not produced the same, the Labour Court, under the impugned order, has rightly set aside the penalty imposed by the petitioner Management on the driver (delinquent).

10. In the decisions relied upon by the learned counsel for the second respondent Union, referred to supra, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has held that when the disciplinary authority disagrees with the enquiry authority, it is required to record its own reasons for such disagreement and also to record its own finding on such charge. It is also required to give an opportunity of hearing to the delinquent officer. The relevant paragraph in the above said decisions are as follows:-

Punjab National Bank and Others vs Kunj Behari Misra reported in (1998) 7 SCC 84 “

11. The controversy in the present case, however, relates to the case where the disciplinary authority disagrees with the findings of the enquiring authority and acts under Regulation 7(2), The said sub-regulation does not specifically state that when the disciplinary authority disagrees with the findings of the enquiring authority and is required to record its own reason for such disagreement and also to record its own finding on such charge, it is required to give a hearing to the delinquent officer.”

State Bank of India and Others vs K.P.Narayanan Kutty reported in (2003) 2 SCC 449

6........ In Para 19 of the judgment in Punjab National Bank case extracted above, when it is clearly stated that the principles of natural justice have to be read into Regulation 7(2) [Rule 50(3)(ii) of the State Bank of India (Supervising Staff) Service Rules, is identical in terms applicable to the present case] and the delinquent officer will have to be given an opportunity to persuade the disciplinary authority to accept the favourable conclusion of the enquiry officer, we find it difficult to accept the contention advanced on behalf of the appellants that unless it is shown that some prejudice was caused to the respondent, the order of dismissal could not be set aside by the High Court.

7. Therefore, we are in respectful agreement with the decision of this Court in Punjab National Bank case being directly on the point. Moreover, in this case the High Court has given liberty to the appellants to proceed with the case in accordance with law.”

11. In the case on hand, no proper reasons have been given by the petitioner Transport Corporation for disagreeing with the findings of the Enquiry Officer. The reasons for disagreeing with the findings of the Enquiry Officer have also not been disclosed in the affidavit filed in support of the writ petitio

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n by the petitioner Corporation. No opportunity of hearing was also granted to the delinquent (driver V.Paneerselvam) though an explanation was received from the delinquent. 12. Insofar as the delay in making reference to Labour Court is concerned, being a welfare legislation which does not prescribe limitation for reference to Labour Court, that too, when both Enquiry Officer as well as the criminal court have concurrently held by its finding that that driver (delinquent) is not at fault, this Court will have to necessarily reject the laches issue raised by the petitioner Corporation in this writ petition. 13. For the foregoing reasons, the Labour Court has rightly considered the evidence available on record and has rightly set aside the punishment imposed on the delinquent (driver V.Paneerselvam). 14. In the result, the writ petition is dismissed. No costs. Consequently, connected miscellaneous petition is closed.
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