24 June 2024


Judgments

Supreme Court

State Bank of India and Ors. vs. P. Zadenga

MANU/SC/1074/2023

03.10.2023

Service

Acquittal in criminal proceedings does not entitle the delinquent employee for any benefit in the latter or automatic discharge in departmental proceedings

Present appeal is against the order of the Division Bench of High Court upholding the order of the learned Single Judge and confirmed the setting aside of the disciplinary proceedings.

It is argued on behalf of the Appellant-bank that (i) initiation of departmental proceedings binding criminal trial would not amount to an automatic stay unless, of course, a complicated question of law is involved in the matter; (ii) acquittal in a criminal trial in relation to the very same impugned action would not preclude the employer to initiate departmental proceedings; and (iii) mere non-compliance of the provisions of bipartite agreement, in attending facts, would not result in the disciplinary action to be void ab initio.

The completion of trial must be construed as completion "within the reasonable time frame" and that the Clause cannot come to the aid of the employee "more so", for "prolongation on the trial". In the instant case, the completion of the trial concerning the crime registered in the year 1996 is nowhere nearing completion.As a principle of law, a departmental proceeding pending criminal trial would not warrant an automatic stay unless, a complicated question of law is involved. Also, acquittal in a criminal case ipso facto would not be tantamount to closure or culmination of proceedings in favour of a delinquent employee.

It is seen that the officer neither pleaded nor indicated the prejudice caused to him as a consequence of the initiation of criminal proceedings or simultaneous continuation of both proceedings.Neither was it the case of the delinquent employee that the trial to which he was subjected to begin within one year of the commission of the offence nor does the record speak to this effect. It is in the inquiry report, that an objection to the disciplinary proceedings being conducted while a criminal case was being tried is registered, but even there, no date stands specified.Further, it is not the case of the delinquent employee that the principles of natural justice were not complied with in the disciplinary proceedings of the bank.

Clause 4 of the MoS dated 10th April 2002 does not envisage a complete standstill of departmental proceedings as a result of the pendency of criminal proceedings. The position of law is that the stay of the latter is desirable, but the same is to be affected only for a reasonable period of time.The nature of proceedings being wholly separate and distinct, acquittal in criminal proceedings does not entitle the delinquent employee for any benefit in the latter or automatic discharge in departmental proceedings.Consequently, Mr. P. Zadenga's dismissal from service as per the Memorandum dated 28th March 2003 is restored. Appeal allowed.

Tags : Departmental proceedings Quashing Legality

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