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Punjab National Bank vs Gurwant Singh on 14 August, 2000

Punjab-Haryana High Court
Punjab National Bank vs Gurwant Singh on 14 August, 2000
Author: M Singhal
Bench: M Singhal


M.L. Singhal, J.

1. Respondent Gurwant Singh was working as Assistant Cashier in Punjab National Bank at its Khanna Branch on 3.2.1990, when he received Rs. 2,000/- from one Ram Dayal but entered Rs.200/- instead of Rs. 2,000/-, in his long book. He thus pocketed Rs. 1,800/-. At the close of the business hours of the bank, he handed over the amount of cash received treating the said deposit of Rs. 2000/- as Rs. 200/- to the Head Cashier and left the bank premises. He was placed under suspension on 7.2.1990 for the alleged fraudulent act on his part. He was served with charge-sheet dated 16.3.1990. He submitted his reply to the charge-sheet on 19.4.1990 which was found unsatisfactory by the Disciplinary Authority. Departmental inquiry was initiated against him under the orders of Regional Manager (Disciplinary Authority). As a result of the departmental inquiry, he was dismissed from service vide order dated 25.11.1991 under part 19.6(1) of the Bipartite Settlement. He filed suit for declaration challenging his dismissal from service saying that his dismissal from service was against the rules and regulations by which his service was governed and that he is entitled to be treated in service of the Bank with full back wages, seniority increments act, as if he was never dismissed from service.

2. On 8.9.1993 on the application filed by Punjab Na-

tional Bank defendant, trial Court framed the following preliminary issue:

Whether this Court has no jurisdiction to try the suit? OPD.

3. Vide order dated 5.11.1993, Sub Judge, IInd Class, Ludhiana found this issue against the defendant and held that civil Court had jurisdiction to go into the legality of dismissal of the plaintiff from service. It was held that plaintiff could approach the Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act and challenge his dismissal from service and claim back wages. He could equally challenge his dismissal from service and claim back wages through action in the Civil Court. He could thus elect either of these two remedies and if he elected to file suit in the civil Court for challenging his dismissal from service and claiming back wages, that action was lawful falling within the ambit of Civil Court for cognizance.

4. Not satisfied with the order dated 5.9.1993 passed, by SJIC Ludhiana, Punjab National Bank has come up in revision to this Court.

5. In my opinion, no exception can be taken to the impugned order passed by Sub Judge, IInd Class, Ludhiana, Plaintiff could approach the Civil Court as well as Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act for the relief which he has claimed. If he approached the Civil Court for the relief, which he has claimed, there is nothing wrong about it. It was held by Bombay Telephone Canteen Employees Association, Prabhadevi Telephone Exchange v. Union of India and another, AIR 1997 S.C. 2817 that “there have been two streams of thinking simultaneously in the process of development to give protection to the employees of the Corporation. It actions are controlled as an instrumentality of the State and the rules are made amenable to judicial review. Where there exist no statutory or analogous rules/instructions, the provisions of the Act get attracted. The employees are entitled to avail constitutional remedy under Article 226 or 32 or 136, as the case may be. The remedy of judicial review to every citizen or every person has expressly been provided in the Constitution. It is a fundamental right of every citizen. In the absence of statutory/administrative instruction in operation, the remedy of reference under Section 10 of the Act is available. Therefore, two streams, namely remedy under the Act by way of reference and remedy of judicial redressal by way of proceedings under Article 226 or a petition filed before the Administrative Tribunal to the aggrieved persons, are co-existing. If the doctrine laid in Bangalore Water Supply Board case, AIR 1978 S.C. 548, is strictly applied, the consequence is catastrophic and would give a carte blanche power with laisez fair legitimacy which was buried fathom deep under the lethal blow of Article 14 of the Constitution which assures to every person just, fair and reasonable procedure before terminating the services of an employee. Instead, it gives the management/employee the power to dismiss the employee workman with one month’s notice or pay in lieu thereof, and/or payment of retrenchment compensation under the Act. The security of tenure would be in great jeopardy. The employee would be at the beck and call of the employer, always keeping his order of employment in a grave uncertainty and in a fluid state like damocle’s sword hangs over the neck. On the other hand, if the interpretation of providing efficacious remedy under Article 226 gives protection to the workmen/employee the speedy remedy under Article 226/Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals act would protect the employee/workman from arbitrary action of the employer subserving the constitutional scheme and philosophy. The Court would, therefore strike a balance between the competing rights of the individual and the State/agency or instrumentality and decide the validity of action taken by the Management. Necessarily, if the service conditions stand attracted, all the conditions laid therein would become applicable to the employees with a fixity of tenure and guarantee of service, subject to disciplinary action. His removal should be in accordance with the just and fair procedure envisaged under the Rules or application of the principles of natural justice, as the case may be, in which event the security of the tenure of the employee is assured and the whim and fancy and vagary of the employer would be deterred and if unfair and unjust action is found established it would be declared as an arbitrary, unjust or unfair procedure. On the other hand, if the finding is that there exist no statutory rules or certified Standing Orders exist or they are not cither made or are inapplicable, the remedy of reference under Section 10 of the Act would always be available and availed of as it is an industry and indicia laid in Bangalore Water Supply Board case, AIR 1978 SC 548 gets attracted,”

6. Learned Counsel for the respondent submits that respondent was Assistant Cashier with the Punjab National Bank, Khanna Branch at the relevant time and he is protected against unlawful disciplinary action by the Disciplinary Authority to by provisions of Punjab National Hank Officers Employees Discipline and Appeal Regulations, 1977 and if that be so, he could impugn the action of the Disciplinary Authority in the civil Court. He submits that assuming he had the remedy of a reference to the Labour Court under the Industrial Disputes Act, there is nothing wrong if he has sought to have this remedy through the instrumentality of the suit in the civil court. Civil Court would thus have jurisdiction to try the suit.

For the reasons given above, this revision is dismissed.

7. Petition allowed.

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