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Mihir Kumar Hazara Choudhury Vs. Life Insurance Corpn. and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (11 Sep 2017)

An employee, in discharge of his duties, is required to exercise higher standard of honesty and integrity



Present appeal is against the final judgment passed by the High Court whereby the Division Bench of the High Court allowed the appeal filed by the Life Insurance Corporation of India (Respondent No. 1 herein), set aside the order of the Single Judge and the award of the Tribunal and upheld the dismissal order passed by Respondent No. 1. Division Bench held that, the charges levelled against the Appellant stood proved and, in consequence, upheld the Appellant's dismissal order holding it to be commensurate with the gravity of the charges. The short question that arises for consideration in this appeal is whether the charges levelled against the Appellant (employee), as set out above, were proved in the departmental proceedings before the Enquiry Officer or/and before the Tribunal.

The charges can be held proved by mere reading of the Appellant's reply wherein he, in no uncertain terms, admitted that, he had issued the disputed premium/special premium receipts to the concerned policyholders and did not receive the amount from any of them. All he had said was that, such mistake occurred on his part due to heavy pressure of workload on him and some family circumstances/worries that were troubling him during those days which, was hardly any defence to the charges. Appellant himself requested for taking action against him with leniency. As would be clear, the Enquiry Officer had recorded a finding of fact that the action on the part of the Appellant was wilful and with mala fide intention to perpetrate the fraud on the Respondent (LIC) for wrongful personal gains.

The principle of natural justice was fully observed in departmental proceedings wherein the Appellant throughout participated. In view of reasons set out coupled with the findings of the Enquiry Officer, which Division Bench has rightly upheld, Supreme Court held that, the charges against the Appellant were proved not only on the strength of the admission of the Appellant in his reply but also independently with the aid of the evidence led by the LIC (Respondent No. 1) before the Enquiry Officer and later before the Industrial Tribunal.

An employee, in discharge of his duties, is required to exercise higher standard of honesty and integrity. In a case where he deals with the money of the depositors and customers, it is all the more necessary for him to be more cautious in his duties because he deals with the money transactions for and on behalf of his employer. Every such employee/officer is, therefore, required to take all possible steps to protect the interest of his employer. He must, therefore, discharge his duties with utmost sense of integrity, honesty, devotion and diligence and must ensure that he does nothing, which is unbecoming of an employee/officer. Indeed, good conduct and discipline are inseparable from the functioning of every employee/officer of any Institution and more when the institution deals with money of the customers. Any dereliction in discharge of duties whether by way of negligence or with deliberate intention or with casualness constitutes misconduct on the part of such employee/officer.

There is no defence available to a delinquent to say that there was no loss or profit resulting in a case when officer/employee is found to have acted without authority. The very discipline of an organization and especially financial institution where money is deposited of several depositors for their benefit is dependent upon each of its employee, who acts/operates within the allotted sphere as custodian of such deposit. Acting beyond one's authority by itself is a breach of discipline and thus constitutes a misconduct rendering the delinquent to suffer the adverse orders. Supreme Court opined that, having regard to the seriousness of the charges coupled with virtually no defence taken by the Appellant in answer to the charges and lastly, the findings of the Enquiry Officer, the punishment of dismissal was appropriate as provided in the service Regulations and hence, does not call for any leniency in awarding such punishment.

The departmental proceedings were conducted strictly in accordance with law by following the principle of natural justice in which the Appellant duly participated. The Appellant neither set up any defence nor denied the factum of charges, yet the Respondent proved the charges with the aid of relevant evidence, which found acceptance to the Division Bench and this Court too. Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

Relevant : Damoh Panna Sagar Rural Regional Bank and Anr. v. Munna Lal Jain, MANU/SC/1081/2004: (2005) 10 SCC 84, Disciplinary Authority-cum-Regional Manager and Ors. v. Nikunja Bihari Patnaik, MANU/SC/1578/1996: 1996(9) SCC 69).


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