New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has set aside a bank`s decision of dismissing an employee from service 34 years ago on charge of misconduct, saying not allowing him to be represented by a lawyer while the organisation appointed one for itself had vitiated the probe against him.
Stating that the inquiry was in a clear violation of the principles of natural justice, the court, however, granted liberty to the bank to initiate another probe against the employee in accordance with Supreme Court guidelines laid down in a similar case earlier.
Allowing the plea of Gopal Vasudeva, who joined New Bank of India, which later merged with Punjab National Bank, as a clerk in 1971, Justice PK Bhasin accepted his argument that the bank had denied permission for a lawyer to represent him in the inquiry.
"After giving my thoughtful consideration to the rival submissions.... I have come to the conclusion that the denial of permission to the petitioner workman (Vasudeva) to be permitted in the inquiry by an advocate was not justified and so there was a clear violation of the principles of natural justice which vitiates the entire enquiry conducted by the management," the court said.
Rejecting the bank`s argument that Vasudeva had fully participated in the inquiry despite the management`s denial to permit him to bring an advocate, the court said "... If an employer decides to give appointment to advocates and then their services are availed of for representing it in domestic enquiries then it should permit the delinquent employee also to avail the services of an advocate in the inquiry so that he is not put in a disadvantageous position."
The court also took note of the fact that the management had rejected petitioner`s another request to be represented by an employee of the bank.
Setting aside the Central Government Industrial Tribunal
(CGIT) order upholding the bank`s decision against Vasudeva, the court said, "The tribunal`s decision that a proper enquiry was held against the petitioner cannot be sustained and is liable to be set aside....
"But it would be open to the respondent bank to adopt the course of action which was permitted by the Supreme Court (in Bombay Port Trust case) after setting aside the dismissal of the employee concerned or to take any other decision which it may consider appropriate and in accordance with law."
In his plea, Vasudev said that he was suspended in 1973 on various charges of misconduct including his participation in trade union and his alleged involvement of buying goods on credit by using his position as an employee of the bank and submitting a fraudulent cheque.
He was terminated from service in 1979 after an enquiry committee report.
Vasudev claimed that during the inquiry proceedings held against him, he was not allowed to be represented by a lawyer nor by another employee of the same bank.