14 December 1970
Supreme Court


Case number: Appeal (civil) 1258 of 1966






DATE OF JUDGMENT: 14/12/1970


CITATION:  1971 AIR  752            1971 SCR  (3)   1  1970 SCC  (3) 548  CITATOR INFO :  RF         1986 SC 995  (16)

ACT: Civil Service (Classification, Control & Appeal) Rules, F.R. 55-Rule  requires  in mandatory manner that  particulars  of allegations   should  be  supplied  to   person   charged-If particulars  not supplied charge remains vague and  official is denied reasonable opportunity to defend himself.

HEADNOTE: The  appellant  filed  a suit in  the  Calcutta  High  Court challenging his; removal, after a departmental enquiry, from the post of Assistant Director of Fire Services and Regional Officer  Calcutta Industrial Area.  The suit was decreed  in his  favour,by  the  Civil  Judge  but  the  Division  Bench reversed   the  decree.   In  appeal  to  this   Court,   by certificate the question was whether the appellant had  been denied  a reasonable opportunity to defend himself  inasmuch as the charges were vague and no statement of allegations as required  by  Fundamental  Rule 55 of  the  Central  Service (Classification  Control  & Appeal) Rules was  furnished  to him. HELD: The appeal must be allowed: The  appellant repeatedly and at every stage brought to  the notice  of  the authorities concerned that he had  not  been supplied  the statement of allegations and that the  charges were extremely vague and indefinite. In spite of this he was not informed of the facts and Circumstances and  particulars relevant  to the charges.  The entire proceedings  showed  a complete  disregard of Fundamental Rule 55 in so far  as  it lays  down  in an almost mandatory manner that  the  charges must  be accompanied by a statement of  allegations.   There could be no doubt that the appellant was denied a proper and reasonable chance to defend himself by reason of the charges being  altogether vague and indefinite and the statement  of allegations  containing the material facts  and  particulars not having been supplied to him. [6 H; 7 D]



JUDGMENT: CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION: Civil Appeal No. 1258 of 1966. Appeal from the judgment and order dated September 16,  1965 of the Calcutta High Court in First Appeal No. 146 of 1960. C.   B.  Agarwala, P. K. Chakravarty, Prodyot Kumar  Chakra- varty and Uma Mehta, for the appellant. B.   Sen,  S. P. Mitra, S. N. Mukherjee, G.   S.  Chatterjee for, Sukumar Basu, for the respondent. The Judgment of the Court was delivered by Grover, J.-This is an appeal by certificate from a  judgment of a Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court reversing the judgment and decree of a learned Single Judge made in  exer- cise  of  original  jurisdiction  in a  suit  filed  by  the appellant. 2 The record of the case is voluminous and apparently that led to  very lengthy judgments both by the Single Judge and  the Division Bench.  A host of facts have been introduced out of which it is necessary to state only those which are relevant for  the  purpose of the disposal of the points  before  us. The  appellant was appointed Station Officer in  the  Bengal Fire Service in 1943.  In March 1949 he was appointed to act as Assistant Director of Fire Services and Regional Officer, Calcutta Industrial Area until further orders.  S. Bose, who was appointed Director ,of Fire Service on or about the same date,  received some complaints against the  appellant.   He made certain preliminary enquiries.  In the beginning of May 1949 Bose informed the appellant that the post of  Assistant Director  Fire  Service would be treated as  abolished  with effect from the date of the appointment ,of the appellant as Assistant  Director.  This led to protests by the  appellant against  the abolition of that post.  A lot  of  acrimonious dialogue started between Bose and the appellant; the  former made  his final report to S. K. Gupta, Secretary Local  Self Government,  as  to the charges which were to  be  preferred against  the appellant.  On July 12, 1949 the appellant  was suspended.  On July 19, 1949 a communication containing  the charges  against  the  appellant was sent to him  by  S.  K. Gupta, Secretary Local Self Government.  It is necessary  to reproduce it in extenso "Charges. Whereas it has been made to appear to the Government of West Bengal--               (1)   that   you,  Sri  S.   C.   Chakravarty,               Regional  Officer, Calcutta  Industrial  Area,               West   Bengal   Fire   Service   incited   the               subordinate  staff  of  the  said  service  by               circulating   false  rumours   regarding   the               retrenchment policy of the Government, thereby               spreading   insubordination   and   discontent               within the Force;               (2)   that   you,  Sri  S.   C.   Chakravarty,               Regional  Officer, Calcutta  Industrial  Area,               West Bengal Fire Service, took an active  part               in  a  conspiracy  to  implicate  the  present               Director  of  Fire Service West  Bengal  in  a               false case by planting firearms in his  office               and  to injure him by planting a time bomb  in               his car when he might be going on inspection;               3               (3)   that   you,  Sri  S.   C.   Chakravarty,               Regional  Officer, Calcutta  Industrial  Area,               West  Bengal  Fire Service, have  been  guilty               of--               (a)   wilful disobedience of Government  Order



             directing you to stay at your headquarters  at               Barrackpore  and of the order of the  Director               Fire Service to produce the petrol log book of               your inspection car;               (b)   grave  negligence  of duty,  failure  to               attend  office  on  many  days  and  irregular               attendance  even on the days when you came  to               office, resulting in accumulation of work;               (c)   fabricating  false entries in  the  cash               book  by putting signatures on dates when  you               did not attend office;               (d)   taking illegal issue of petrol from  the               accounts  of different fire stations in  addi-               tion  to  the quota allotted to you  for  your               use. and               (e)   cooking up false complaint against  some               members  of the staff of the West Bengal  Fire               Service  whom  you tried to rope in  into  the               conspiracy but failed and refusing  permission               to  them  to see the Director,  Fire  Service,               apprehending a disclosure. AND   whereas   these  acts  of   indiscipline,   conspiracy negligence  in  the  performance of your  duties  and  other irregularities were committed by you while you were  holding the responsible, position of the Regional Officer,  Calcutta Industrial Area, in a disciplined Organisation like the West Bengal  Fire  Service and which, therefore, amounted  to  an abuse or misuse of the position so enjoyed by you. Now,  therefore,  you  are directed to show  cause  why  you should  not be dismissed from the service of the  Government or otherwise suitably punished departmentally. The enquiry will be conducted by the undersigned Sri’S.   C. Chakravarty is directed to put in a written statement of his defence  by  the 8th August, 1949, and to state  within  the time aforesaid whether he desires to be heard in person.                                            Sd. illegible. Local Self Government Department   Secy. to the Govt. of           Calcutta. The 19th July, 1949                        West Bengal 4 It  is common ground that a statement of the allegations  on which each charge was based was never sent to the appellant. He sent a letter dated August 5, 1949 with reference to  the communication  containing  the  charges.   He   emphatically denied  what had been alleged against him and described  the charges as false and actuated by mala fides.  What is  worth noticing  is that the appellant in categorical terms  stated that the charges and allegations were vague, indefinite  and lacking in material particulars and pointed out that "unless the charges are made specific to the point and contain  full details  with  date,  time, place, and person  etc..  it  is impossible  for  me  to  meet  them  properly."  No  further particulars  or  details  were supplied  at  that  stage  or subsequently.   S. K. Gupta submitted his report on  May  1, 1950.  He found charges 1, 2 and 3 (b) as having been proved against  the  appellant.   Charge 3  (a)  was  dropped.   As regards charges 3 (c) and 3 (d) it was found that there  had been  gross  negligence  on the part  of  the  appellant  in attendance  as  well  as in carrying out  all  his  ordinary duties,  vis.,  checking and signing of the  cash  book  and disposal of current work including grant or refusal of leave applications.  The appellant was not found guilty of  charge 3  (e)  On  June  10, 1950,  the  Deputy  Secretary  to  the Government, West Bengal, sent a notice to the appellant  in which  it  was stated that in view of the  findings  of  the



Enquiry  Officer  he  was considered to  be  unsuitable  for retention  in service and it was proposed to remove him.   A summary of the findings of the Inquiry Officer was sent  and the  appellant was directed to show cause why he should  not be  removed  from  the  service  of  the  Government.    The appellant  wrote a long letter on July 1, 1950 in  which  he once again pointed out that according to law he was entitled to have a statement of allegations on which each charge  was based before the enquiry started.  But he was not given  any such statement with the result that he could not defend  his case  properly.   On  June 16, 1950  the  Director  of  Fire Services communicated an order of dismissal to the appellant who  filed an appeal to the Government without any  success. In August 1951 the appellant moved the High Court under Art. 226 of the Constitution for quashing the order of dismissal. In  April  1952  the High Court acceded  to  the  appellants prayer and quashed the order of dismissal on the sole ground that  the punishment which had been tentatively proposed  in the show cause notice was removal and therefore an order  of dismissal  could  not have been made.’ On May 15,  1952  the appellant called upon the Government to reinstate him in his post.   On May 31, 1952 an order was made by  the  Governor, West  Bengal,  removing  the  appellant  from  service.    A memorandum  was  sent  by the Joint  Secretary,  Local  Self Government, along with a copy of the order of the  Governor. It was stated therein that after a careful considera- 5 tion   of  the  report  of  the  Enquiry  Officer  and   the representation submitted by the appellant the Government, in consultation  with  the  Public  Service  Commission,   West Bengal, had decided that he should be removed from service. In September 1952 the appellant filed a suit in the Calcutta High Court challenging the order of his removal from service and asking for various reliefs including a declaration  that lie was still in government service and a decree for arrears of  pay  and  allowances from the date  of  suspension  till institution of the suit and interim pay and allowances  till the  disposal  of the suit together with interest  etc.   We need refer only to para 19(a) of the plaint in which it  was pleaded  that  the enquiry was vitiated  because  under  the rules  and procedure for holding such enquiry the  appellant was entitled to be furnished with definite charges.  But the charges  and allegations were vague, indefinite and  lacking in  material particulars and in spite of  repeated  requests these,  were neither made specific nor material  particulars like,  day  time, place and persons were supplied.   In  the written statement filed by the respondent it was denied that the charges or allegations were vague, indefinite or lacking in  material particulars as alleged.  It is  unnecessary  to set  out  the  other pleadings but  the  issues  which  were settled would indicate the points which the trial court  was called upon to decide.  These issues were:--               1.    Is there a valid contract of  employment               between the plaintiff and the defendant  under               the Government of India Act ?               2.    Was the suspension order dated 12th July               1949 mala-fide, wrongful and ultra vires ?               3.    Was  Mr.  S. K. Gupta in a  position  to               exercise  unbiased  mind  in  the  matter   of               enquiry ?               4.    Was the order dated 16th September 1950,               illegal,   void   and  ultra  vires   in   the               Constitution   and   it  cannot   operate   to               terminate the service of the plaintiff ?               5.    Was the order of removal dated 31st  May



             1952  illegal, void in law and ultra vires  in               the  Constitution  of  India  and  the   Civil               Service Rules for grounds stated in  paragraph               29 and 30 of the plaint ?               6.    Was   the   plaintiff   no   longer   in               suspension and was unable to be reinstated  in               service  to his usual pay and allowances  from               the  date  of his suspension in  view  of  the               order dated 24th April 1952 ?               6               7.   To   what   relief,  if   any,   is   the               plaintiff entitled ?               Some  additional  issues were  framed  out  of               which  we may only refer to those which  were               settled  on  June 8, 1959 and  which  were  in               these terms :-               1.    Was  the  enquiry  made  by  Mr.   Gupta               vitiated   on  the  grounds  as   alleged   in               paragraph 19 of the plaint ?               3.    Is the Court debarred from trying  issue               Nos.  4,  5 and 6 and  the  additional  issues               settled today by reason of res-judicata ? The  learned  Judge, found that the Enquiry  Officer  S.  K. Gupta  was biased against the appellant before he  held  the enquiry.  It was further found that no particulars and other necessary  details were given in the charges and  they  were vague  resulting in noncompliance with Rule 55 of the  Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules and  the necessary  particulars  were not supplied in  spite  of  the repeated  objections of the appellant to the  charges  being vague  and indefinite.  In the opinion of the learned  Judge the trial was vitiated for want of definite charges.  It was held that the appellant had been duly appointed as member of the  Fire Service of the State and that a contract in  terms of Ar t. 299 of the Constitution was not necessary.   Issues 2  and 4 were not pressed.  Reading the prayer in the  light of  the averments in the plaint the learned Judge granted  a declaration that the purported removal of the appellant  was void  and  inoperative  And  he remained  or  was  still  in government  service.   He was held entitled  to  salary  and other benefits from the date of his suspension till the date of  the  judgment.  It was particularly mentioned  that  the parties  had  worked  out  the figures  of  the  salary  and allowances  etc.  at  Rs. 69,636/- for which  a  decree  was granted together with interest at 6% per annum till the date of  realisation.   The  respondent filed an  appeal  to  the Division  Bench of the High Court.  We do not consider  that we  need refer to all the points dealt with by the  Division Bench.   In  our judgment the Division Bench was  wholly  in error in reversing the decision of the learned Single  Judge on  one of the crucial points, namely,  non-compliance  with Fundamental    Rule   55   and   complete   vagueness    and indefiniteness  of  the charges on which no  proper  enquiry could be held.  It is incomprehensible how the details as to date,  time, place and person etc. would not have  made  the charges more definite as appears to have been the opinion of the Division Bench.  We are unable to agree that the details without  which a delinquent servant cannot  properly  defend himself  are  a  matter of  evidence.   In  this  connection reference may be made to Fundamental Rule 55 which provides, inter 7 alia, that without prejudice to the provisions of the Public Servants  Enquiry Act 1850 no order of dismissal removal  or reduction  shall be passed on a member of service unless  he



is  informed  in  writing  of the grounds  on  which  it  is proposed,  to take action and has been afforded an  adequate opportunity  of defending himself.  The grounds on which  it is proposed to take action have to be reduced to the form of a  definite charge or charges which have to be  communicated to  the  person  charged together with a  statement  of  the allegations  on  which each charge is based  and  any  other circumstance   which  it  is  proposed  to  be  taken   into consideration in passing orders has also to be stated.  This rule embodies a principle which is one of the basic contents of  a  reasonable  or  adequate  opportunity  for  defending oneself.   If  a person is not told clearly  and  definitely what  the  allegations are on which  the  charges  preferred against  him are founded he cannot possibly,  by  projecting his   own   imagination,   discover  all   the   facts   and circumstances  that  may  be in  the  contemplation  of  the authorities to be established against him.  By way of illus- tration one of the grievances of the appellant contained  in his letter dated March 24, 1950, to the Enquiry Officer  may be  mentioned.   This is what he said  though  the  language employed is partly obscure and unhappy :-               "Regarding  the first charge I beg  to  submit               that  the allegation is vague.  In the  charge               it  has  not been specifically  stated  as  to               where, when and before whom I circulated false               rumours, regarding retrenchment policy of  the               Government       and      thereby       spread               insubordination.In  fact if one  goes  through               the statements of P.Ws.   made  to  D.F.S.  as               submitted before my suspicion, it   will               appear  that no specific case could have  made               with all material particular as to date,  time               and   person.   Having  been  able   to   take               deposition  and to conduct enquiry keeping  me               in dark and finally put me out of office,  Sri               S. Bose was able to win over the witnesses and               was  able to shape his case to suit  his  pur-               pose.  " Now in the present case each charge was so bare that it  was not  capable of being intelligently understood and  was  not sufficiently definite to furnish materials to the  appellant to  defend  himself.  It is precisely for this  reason  that Fundamental  Rule  55 provides, as stated before,  that  the charge should be accompanied by a statement of  allegations. The whole object of furnishing the statement of  allegations is  to give all the necessary particulars and details  which would  satisfy  the  requirement  of  giving  a   reasonable opportunity to put up defence.  The appellant repeatedly and at every stage brought it to the notice of the 8 authorities  concerned  that he had not  been  supplied  the statement of  allegations  and  that   the-charges   were extremely vague and indefinite.  In spite of all this no one cared  to  inform  him  of  the  facts,  circumstances   and particulars  relevant to the charges.  Even if  the  Enquiry Officer  had made a report against him the  appellant  could have  been given a further opportunity at the  stage  of-the second  show cause notice to adduce any further evidence  if he  so  desired  after  he  had  been  given  the  necessary particulars  and  material  in the form of  a  statement  of allegations  which  had never been supplied to  him  before. This could undoubtedly be done in view of the provisions  of Art.  311  (2) of the Constitution as they  existed  at  the material  time.   The  entire proceedings  show  a  complete disregard  of Fundamental Rule 55 in so far as it lays  down



in  almost mandatory terms that the charges, must be  accom- panied by a statement of allegations.  We have no manner  of doubt that the appellant was denied a proper and  reasonable opportunity  of defending himself by reason of  the  charges being  altogether vague and indefinite and the statement  of allegations current findings against the respondent on  that point.   The resupplied to him.  In this situation, for  the above  reason alone, the trial judge was fully justified  in decreeing the suit A  faint  attempt was made by the learned  counsel  for  the respondent  to  assail the decision of the  trial  court  on issue No. 1 Both the single Judge and the Division Bench had given  con-current  finding against the respondent  on  that point.  The respondent cannot be permitted to reagitate  the matter before us. We accordingly allow this appeal, set aside the judgment and decree  of the Division Bench and restore that of the  trial ,court.  The appellant will further be granted a declaration that  he  is entitled to the salary and allowances  for  the period  subsequent to the date of the decree of the  learned Single  Judge  of  the  High  Court  to  the  date  of   his superannuation.  The appellant will be entitled to his costs in this, Court. G.C.                                        Appeal allowed 9