Allahabad Jul 26(ILNS) The Allahabad High Court on Friday, quashed the dismissal of the District Home Guard Commandant of Lucknow, Kripa Shankar Pandey and directed his restoration in service with all benefits .
A Single Bench of Justice Ashwani Kumar Mishra passed this order while hearing a Petition filed by Kripa Shanker Pandey who was dismissed from service on charges of misconduct.
The Petition was filed against an office order passed on November 06, 2020, whereby he was dismissed from service. Petitioner also challenged the March 17, 2020, order whereby a supplementary charge-sheet was served upon him after observing that inquiry pursuant to initial charge-sheet is not proper.
It is contended that the orders have been passed only out of annoyance on part of the disciplinary authority since the petitioner had initiated contempt proceedings against him for disobedience of the order dated February 07, 2020 passed by Lucknow Bench. It is further urged that principles of natural justice have been breached and none of the charges levelled against the petitioner is established.
The Petition stated, that he was posted as District Commandant, Home Guards, Lucknow at the relevant point of time. Disciplinary action against him and a charge-sheet was served to him on November 22, 2019 on allegations of irregularities in engagement of nine Home Guards.
Petitioner submitted a reply to the charge-sheet in which he stated that engagement of the Home Guard is the responsibility of the Platoon Commandant under the supervision of the Station House Officer concerned and the Commandant Home Guard is not the authority responsible for engagement, allocation or supervision of their work or for maintenance of records.
Petitioner also contended that no misconduct was committed by him and the charges were not made out. The Officer conducted an inquiry and found the petitioner’s defence to be valid. The explanation submitted by the Petitioner was accepted accordingly and the inquiry report was submitted to the Disciplinary Authority on November 25, 2019. The inquiry officer found that Home Guards in the respective period had actually worked and payments were credited to their bank account but the concerned police authorities were not recording entries in the general diary about movement of Home Guards. A recommendation has also been made for conduct of interdepartmental inquiry between local police of the Police Station concerned and the Home Guard Department. It appears that despite submission of such an inquiry report no final decision in the matter was taken.
It transpires that instead of concluding the inquiry, the Principal Secretary passed order on March 17, 2020 observing that the Deputy Commandant General has not conducted a proper inquiry in the matter and his report was not credible. Interestingly, the disciplinary authority neither formulated points of disagreement with the inquiry officer, nor granted any opportunity to the Petitioner to submit his reply on such issues of disagreement, the Court said.
The Court stated that, the charges against the Petitioner at the best is with regard to irregularity in assignment of duties of Home Guards in the Police Station, Vibhuti Khand district Lucknow. Attention of the Court has been invited to U.P. Home Guards Manual, 2015, which lays down the assignment of work to the District Commandant, Platoon Commandant, Block Organizer, etc. Clause 19 specifies the duties and responsibilities of Platoon Commander and Block Organizer.
The court observed that at best the Petitioner could be accused of supervisory lapses but he cannot be primarily held responsible for any error in allocation of duty to the Home Guard or for lack of supervision with regard to his working is liable to be accepted.
It is also not in dispute that neither any action has been taken against the Platoon Commandant/ Company Commander nor any proceedings have been initiated against the SHO concerned and the petitioner has been held responsible for the alleged lapses which were not even entrusted to him in the manual. Upon a pointed query raised, Chief Standing Counsel has not been able to disclose as to whether action has been taken against Platoon Commandant/ Company Commander or the SHO concerned.
The Court finds that after the inquiry officer had exonerated the petitioner of the charges levelled against him, the Additional Chief Secretary of the department concerned kept the matter pending with him without taking any action. It appears that direction issued by the Court to take appropriate action in the matter was not complied, necessitating the filing of contempt, the Court said.
The Chief Standing Counsel has laid much emphasis on the fact that the petitioner did not submit a reply to the supplementary charge-sheet despite repeated opportunities granted to him. Though the argument appears to be attractive at the outset, it does not merit any consideration, if the facts are taken in its entirety. The supplementary charges were in respect of the charges which were already levelled against the petitioner in the main charge-sheet. Petitioner had submitted a reply to it and the inquiry officer had accepted petitioner’s defence.
“It is admitted that the software for deployment of Home Guards has been developed by the NIC and the petitioner cannot be expected to be responsible if there was any flaw in allocation of work as is alleged in the supplementary charge-sheet. In the event authorities found that there was a serious flaw in deployment of Home Guards in the Police Station concerned, the least that was expected was that action would be initiated against the responsible officers i.e. Platoon Commandant and the SHO concerned and the petitioner could have been proceeded with only for supervisory lapses”, the Court said.
“The authorities, however, have fixed primary responsibility upon the petitioner for the alleged error in allocation of duties. This clearly is in the teeth of the Manual issued by the department itself. Once a course has been laid down for deployment of work to Home Guards by the Directorate, it is expected that responsibility of the officers would be fixed only as per it and not at variance with it. The course that has been adopted by the respondents is absolutely contrary to the Manual and instead of taking action against the persons entrusted with allocation of work the authority has fixed direct responsibility of the petitioner in the matter. This lends credence to the petitioner’s contention that the disciplinary authority felt aggrieved by the intervention made by this Court while issuing directions for concluding the proceedings and initiating contempt proceedings. The Court, however, refrains from making any further comments against the officer since he has not been arraigned as a party in personal capacity and has also not been given an opportunity of hearing in the matter”, the order reads.
The Court observed that the procedure laid down for undertaking disciplinary action against the petitioner has not been followed and he has been held responsible for alleged lapses which under the Manual is specifically entrusted to other officers. The manner in which entire proceedings have been initiated against the petitioner and he has been dismissed from service smells of malice in law apparent on face of the record.
The Court, therefore, cannot approve of the said action. Order dated November 06, 2020 passed by the disciplinary authority stands quashed. The petitioner shall be entitled to reinstatement in service and would also be entitled to all consequential benefits, the Court ordered./ILNS/AP/SNG