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Allahabad High Court quashes the termination order by managing committee on arbitrary inquiry report

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The Allahabad High Court has quashed the termination order by the Managing Committee on the arbitrary inquiry report by reverting the Principal of the Silai, Kadhai, Bunai Prakshikshan Evam Utpadan Kendra, Allahabad to the post of Instructor.

A Single Bench of Justice Manju Rani Chauhan passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Smt Pushpa Srivastava.

The writ petition has been filed with the following prayer:-

“(i) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of certiorari quashing the order dated impugned termination order dated 03.12.2021 passed by respondent Manager, Committee of Management of Silai, Kadhai, Bunai Prkshishan Evam Utpadan Kendra.

(ii) Issue a writ, order or direction in the nature of mandamus commanding and directing the respondents not to interfere in the peaceful functioning of petitioner as Principal in the institution and pay her arrears of salary as well as regular salary and continue the same month to month.

(iii) Issue any other suitable writ, order or direction in favour of the petitioner as the Court may deem fit and proper in the present facts and circumstances of the case.

(iv) Award the cost of the petition in favour of the petitioner.”

The Nehru Bal Mandal is a registered society which runs a number of institutions recognized by the Board of Basic Education, Uttar Pradesh, as well as the Social Welfare Department. The Silai, Kadhai, Bunai Prakshikshan Evam Utpadan Kendra, Allahabad is run by the aforesaid Society since 1974 after being recognized by the Social Welfare Department. The aforesaid institution is governed under the provisions of grant-in-aid (Technical or Industrial Institutions) Rules, 1949 (in short Rules, 1949).

As per the aforesaid rules, the Committee of Management is empowered to run the institution, appoint the staff of the institution, and pay the salary of the staff of the institution. This rule is however silent about the governance of un-aided schools.

The petitioner was appointed as Instructor for one year probation period in the Institution on 30.06.1997, after following the proper procedure as provided under law, on account of resignation being tendered by one Instructor, namely, Usha Mishra. The petitioner joined her duty in the Institution on 01.07.1997 and continued up to 25.09.2013. She was confirmed and promoted as Senior Instructor, being Senior most Instructor, she was handed over charge of officiating Principal on 26.09.2013 as the services of the then Principal of the Institution, namely, Chanchal Sharma were terminated by the Committee of Management. The petitioner’s services were regularized as Principal by the then Committee of Management of the Institution on 17.11.2016 on the basis of long and satisfactory service.

The Institution where the petitioner was working as Principal was not in grant-in-aid list, therefore, the respondent Committee of Management was continuously approaching the Government for extension and Government grants, ensuingly the State Government took the Institution in grant-in-aid list by order dated 29.12.2017, and sanctioned 7 post. The Director, Social Welfare, U.P, Lucknow, also agreed to proceed for providing revised salary of the employees of the Institution by order dated 12.02.2019, accordingly he asked the Management as well as District Social Welfare Officer, Prayagraj to provide the statement of working employees in the Institution.

In furtherance of the above, the District Social Welfare Officer, Prayagraj asked the management to produce the approved list of employees. Subsequently, the then management provided the approved list of employees of the Institution on 14.02.2019, which was in turn approved by the District Social Welfare Officer, Prayagraj and submitted for its approval to the Director, Social Welfare Department on 20.02.2019. The name of the petitioner finds place in the list which establishes that the petitioner was working as regular Principal of the Institution and receiving salary from the Government exchequer since 29.12.2017 till date. The petitioner has worked up to the best of her abilities and capability, having an unblemished record, there being no complaint whatsoever against her by anyone.

The Court observed that the resignation as tendered by one Anita Mishra, Clerk of the Institution before the Management on 27.07.2019 has not been approved by respondent no 2 and the petitioner did not have any such information in this regard. Without clarifying the real situation with respect to vacancy of clerk the Committee of Management advertised the vacancy of clerk in the aforesaid Institution on 23.09.2020 and held the interview for the same on 24.11.2020. The petitioner being head of the panel participated in the selection proceedings in which the candidates for the post of clerk were interviewed. As the Government order dated 05.12.2018 provides for three members in the Selection Committee, an objection was raised by the petitioner as the panel consisted of four members but the same was ignored by representative of the Management namely Pramod Shukla. Petitioner being employee of the Institution did not vehemently oppose the panel and proceeded accordingly, therefore, interview was held, in which one Neelam Singh was selected as Assistant Clerk. Neelam Singh joined the Institution but the State authority has not approved the appointment dated 16.02.2021 till date.

The entire exercise as well as the appointment letter dated 16.02.2021 was challenged by one candidate, who participated in the interview by means of filing Writ Petition, the Court was pleased to call for records of the said selection from the Management and the matter is still pending for consideration.

Counsel for the petitioner submitted that the Committee of Management was annoyed by the petitioner as she was not cooperating in the illegal exercise of selection of Neelam Singh as Assistant Clerk, therefore, the petitioner was being harassed by sending a number of notices. In order to harass the petitioner, an Inquiry Committee was constituted by the Manager of the Institution on 09.08.2021 and 8 employees including 2 of the Institution were asked to appear before the Inquiry Committee on 10.08.2021. The information to appear before the inquiry committee was given by means of a letter dated 09.08.2021 which does not mention forged signatures of Manager on petitioner’s appointment letter. When the petitioner appeared before the Committee as informed verbally, along with the documents as required, no members of the inquiry committee was present to continue the inquiry which was initiated on 09.08.2021, and an information was given that the inquiry has been completed and an ex-parte inquiry report was submitted by the Inquiry Officer.

Counsel for the petitioner further submitted that the termination order has been passed in arbitrary manner as the same has been passed just after six days of passing of the suspension order wherein along with the suspension order a charge sheet was given to the petitioner, without any show cause notice or proper inquiry. Though, the termination order speaks about some reports dated 11.11.2021 as well as 24.11.2021 and a resolution of the Committee of Management dated 01.12.2021, the aforesaid documents were not served upon the petitioner prior to passing the impugned order, therefore, the same cannot be sustained in the eyes of law. The impugned termination order is in violation of Office/Government order dated 05.12.2018 which provides that termination order cannot be passed without taking permission/ approval of Director of Social Welfare Department as well as in violation of provision of Rules 7 of Appendix-4 of grant-in-aid Rules 1947, therefore, the same is illegal.

On one hand when the petitioner who is working in the Institution since 30.06.1997 was promoted from the post of Instructor to Principal, there was no occasion of conducting any inquiry after so many years with respect to the appointment letter on the basis of false and baseless complaints and proceed to terminate the petitioner relying upon some ex-parte report vide which the signature of the then Manager on the appointment letter was verified by the handwriting expert. The impugned termination order has no legs to stand as the charge sheet as furnished to the petitioner along with the suspension order is based on no evidence and if any the same has not been furnished to the petitioner to enable her to submit its reply. Thus, the termination order is arbitrary, unjustified, illegal and in violation of principles of natural justice, hence, cannot be sustained in the eyes of law, the Court held.

Counsel for the Committee of Management has also denied the promotion of the petitioner to the post of Senior Instructor and Principal as there is no resolution in that regard. He further submitted that an inquiry report has been sent before the Director Social Welfare department, waiting for his directions in this regard. An FIR has also been lodged against the petitioner with respect to the forgery which has been committed by her in obtaining a fake and fabricated appointment letter. He also submitted that two notices dated 23.10.2021 and 27.10.2021 have been given to the petitioner to submit her reply on the aspect, but neither the original documents nor any reply has been submitted in this regard, therefore, there is no illegality in the order impugned and no interference is required in such case where the petitioner has obtained appointment letter by committing fraud.

The Court further observed that,

Perusal of the records goes to show that termination order has been passed without any show cause notice, proper inquiry and without furnishing the documents, relying on which the impugned order has been passed. It would not be out of place to mention that as per the records, the letter dated 09.07.2021 goes to show that some inquiry with respect to selection for the post of Clerk in which one Neelam Singh was appointed, was being conducted and in furtherance of the same, the letter dated 09.08.2021 was also given to 8 employees including the petitioner of the present institution, were asked to appear before the Inquiry Committee with respect to some applications placed by employees of the Institutions.

Nothing has been brought on record to show that there was any reason for entertaining a complaint which was made by some unknown persons, not related to the petitioner or to the Institution, as to whether it was accompanied by any affidavit or not, and, so much so, as to what was the basis of such a complaint. The inquiry with respect to the signatures of the then Manager who had issued the appointment letter way back in the year 1997 was compared with photographed/photostat disputed signatures in other documents could not be taken into consideration for believing that the petitioner had committed some forgery as the report itself mentioned that the same was subject to an inspection of original photographs of these photographed/photostat disputed signatures placed before the handwriting and finger expert. The other stand taken by the learned counsel for the Committee of Management that signature of the then Manager on petitioner’s appointment letter are forged, cannot be believed, as on one hand the petitioner was promoted from time to time and it is only after the objection raised by the petitioner with respect to selection of clerk in the institution being done not in accordance with law, all the proceedings have been initiated in the year 2020 and petitioner has been reverted to post of Instructor on 12.08.2021.

The Court found that the termination order has been passed relying on such documents, which has not been served upon the petitioner and also on the ex-parte inquiry report submitted by three members Committee which was constituted for some other purpose rather than to enquire on the complaint of some person with respect to forged appointment letter, when the petitioner had already submitted a reply dated 09.07.2021 in respect of selection of Clerk in the Institution.

The Court while deciding the matter also keeps in mind the peculiar case of petitioner who has worked from 1997 till passing of impugned order without there being any complaint against her, who has been made to suffer only when she has raised her voice against the Management. Undoubtedly, the impugned termination order has been passed without giving any notice, providing opportunity of hearing and without proper inquiry, hence the same is arbitrary, unjust and against the principles of natural justice, the Court said while allowing the writ petition.

“In view of the aforesaid, the termination order dated 03.12.2021 cannot be sustained in the eyes of law and the same is hereby set aside. The respondents are directed to reinstate the petitioner forthwith on the post of Instructor (on which she was working prior to passing of termination order) (as writ challenging reversion order is still pending)”, the order reads.

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