In the Supreme Court of India
|Name of the case
|J.D. Jain VS Management of State Bank of India & another.
|Civil Appeal No. 495(L) of 1979
|Date of the case
|17 December, 1981
|Management of State bank of India & Another.
|Islam Baharul (J) Talzapurkar, V.D Varadarajan , A.(J)
|Constitution of India , 1950Industrial Disputes Act,1947The Indian Evidence act,1872
|Constitution of India , 1950 Article.226 Article.227 Industrial Disputes Act,1947 Section.11A The Indian Evidence act,1872 Section.60
In the case on hand, the appellant was a cashier in one of the branch of the State Bank of India. There was a mishap with one of the depositor/account holder of the bank and there was extra withdrawal of money. The appellant was given the ‘letter of authority’ by the depositor to withdraw Rs.500 but instead there was an entry of withdrawal of Rs.1500. Further the bank referred the case to the agent of the bank and he made a disciplinary authority with an enquiry officer. The enquiry officer held that the applicant was guilty and was terminated from the services to challenge this termination the appellant moved to the Industrial tribunal, Delhi and the tribunal held the case in favour of the appellant by awarding him the full payment from the day of the termination and reinstated him. The respondent on the other hand went to the High Court to quash the award and was successful to do so, again the appellant appealed in the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court. The Supreme Court upheld the decision of the High Court and dismissed the appeal.
As India is a country which is rapidly towards more and more Industrialisation every day where the working class are labourers, these labourers make up the most of the working class in an industry setup. There are also many disputes which arise between the employers and employees that are the labourers. So the industrial Disputes act, 1947 was introduced.
Industrial disputes act, 1947
As the employer and the workers most of the time has very different viewpoints which often result in conflict between the workmen and the employer so this act was enacted to eradicate such conflict. One of the main features of the act is that a separate tribunal is set up known as the ‘industrial tribunal’ where all the industrial disputes are filed.
In the present case of JD Jain vs. Management of State bank of India & Another, the worker/appellant move to the industrial tribunal for the relief where he was awarded relief but the employer further appealed in the High Court. One thing to be noticed here is that even if a separate industrial tribunal is set up by the government, but its decision is not final High Court as well as Supreme Court also have to the jurisdiction and can entertain the appeal on a reasonable basis, like if any error is committed by the tribunal.
Facts of the case
The factual matrix in this case is that the appellant was a cashier working in the State bank of India in the Meerut city branch. On February 8, 1971 – Dishan Prakash Kansal who had a saving bank account in the bank withdraw Rs.500 through the appellant.
On June 12, 1971, the account holder came to the bank to receive his passbook. On checking the passbook the account holder claimed that he withdrew only Rs.500, but the entered amount in the passbook was Rs.1500. When the account holder was taken up to the supervisor R.P Gupta and there too account holder told his concern.
On further examining the documents, it was then found that the account holder had given a ‘letter of authority’ to the Appellant in to withdraw money of Rs.500 only but the money withdrawn was of Rs.1500. From the documents it was clearly deciphered that there was extra ‘1’ added with different ink and handwriting in the document before ‘500.’
On September 18, 1972 the Bank/respondent served charges on the appellant as he was the one who altered the letter of authority in his own handwriting and with a different ink. A disciplinary committee was set up with an enquiry officer Mr. Rajendra Prasad
The committee submitted its respond stating that the appellant confessed as well as accepted that he was the one who altered the document with his own handwriting and paid only Rs.500 to the account holder and received Rs.1000 in excess.
On December 7, 1973, the bank by its memorandum discharged the appellant from service with effect from December 22, 1973, then the appellant and went to the industrial tribunal where he was granted the award but the respondent here then approached the High Court where the award was quashed yet again the appellant and has approached the Supreme Court for the relief.
Issue raised before the court
- Whether a proper and valid domestic enquiry was held by the Bank and what was its effect?
- Whether the management of State bank of India justifies in discharging from service. Shri J.D Jain, cashier of Meerut branch with effect from December 22, 1973? If not to what relief is he entitled?
Arguments from the appellant’s side
- First of all the council from the Appellant ‘s side contended that the industrial tribunal tried this case with the power which was conferred upon it by section 11-A of the industrial disputes act, but the High Court has no power under article 266/227 of the Constitution. According to which it can’t try this case that is it has no jurisdiction to interfere with the decision made by the tribunal.
- The counsel further said that the evidence provided by the learned counsel of the respondent was not reliable. Evidence was just hearsay as the account holder Mr. Dishan Prakash Kansal was not examined so, the appellant cannot be held guilty when the evidence was not examined.
- The appellants counsel highlighted the point stating that in an application of the writ of certiorari under article.226 of the Constitution for quashing an award of an industrial tribunal, the jurisdiction of the High Court is limited as to exercise the power of quashing the award, the High Court have to point out an error committed by the tribunal on the face of the record or when the tribunals facts are unacceptable or unreasonable.
- The appellant’s counsel further pointed out that the order held by the tribunal that although the alteration were made by the appellant but the question still remains that whether it was done without the consent or knowledge of the account holder or not, as there is no evidence to prove the same.
Arguments from the respondent side
- The council from the respondent side professed that departmental enquiry was carried out by the bank. The disciplinary committee was set up with an enquiry officer. There were six witnesses among which only one witness did not support the case as he was a leader of the employees union.
- Further, the counsel stated that the appellant confessed and agreed to the claims that were made against him that he forged the document with his own handwriting and withdrew Rs.1500 instead of Rs.500. The confession was made in the presence of the witnesses including one of the higher officers. So the report of the disciplinary committee stated all the true facts which were made after the inquiry into the matter and the appellant was held guilty.
- The counsel further pointed out that the evidence was being examined in the domestic enquiry and not in a criminal prosecution, in cases of domestic enquiry, three type of proceedings against the accused were possible:
- Departmental proceeding and action.
- Criminal prosecution for forgery and misappropriation.
- Civil proceedings for recovery of the amount alleged to be misappropriated.
The respondent followed course (i) so the principle of tribunal that the guilt should be established is not applicable.
- The counsel from the respondent’s side further proposed that in the case of domestic enquiry, strict rules of evidence are not applicable as well as the word ‘hearsay’ is used in various senses sometime it means whatever a person is heard to say; sometimes it means whether a person declares on information given by someone else.
- Constitution of India, 1950
Ar.226: (Power of High Courts to issue certain writs)- (1) Notwithstanding anything in Article 32 every High Court shall have powers, throughout the territories in relation to which it exercise jurisdiction, to issue to any person or authority, including in appropriate cases, any Government, within those territories directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibitions, quo warranto and certiorari, or any of them, for the enforcement of any of the rights conferred by Part III and for any other purpose.
(2) The power conferred by clause (1) to issue directions, orders or writs to any Government, authority or person may also be exercised by any High Court exercising jurisdiction in relation to the territories within which the cause of action, wholly or in part, arises for the exercise of such power, notwithstanding that the seat of such Government or authority or the residence of such person is not within those territories.
(3) Where any party against whom an interim order, whether by way of injunction or stay or in any other manner, is made on, or in any proceedings relating to, a petition under clause (1), without- (a) furnishing to such party copies of such petition and all documents in support of the plea for such interim order; and
(b) giving such party an opportunity of being heard, makes an application to the High Court for the vacation of such order and furnishes a copy of such application to the party in whose favour such order has been made or the counsel of such party, the High Court shall dispose of the application within a period of two weeks from the date on which it is received or from the date on which the copy of such application is so furnished, whichever is later, or where the High Court is closed on the last day of that period, before the expiry of the next day afterwards on which the High Court is open; and if the application is not so disposed of, the interim order shall, on the expiry of that period, or , as the case may be, the expiry of the aid next day, stand vacated.
(4) The power conferred on a High Court by this article shall not be in derogation of the power conferred on the Supreme Court by clause (2) of Article 32.
Ar.227: (Power of superintendence over all courts by the High Court) – (1) Every High Court shall have superintendence over all courts and tribunals throughout the territories interrelation to which it exercises jurisdiction.
(2) Without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing provisions, the High Court may – (a) call for returns from such courts;
(b) Make and issue general rules and prescribe forms for regulating the practice and proceedings of such courts; and
(c) Prescribe forms in which books, entries and accounts shall be kept by the officers of any such courts.
(3) The High Court may also settle tables of fees to be allowed to the sheriff and all clerks and officers of such courts and to attorneys, advocates and pleaders practicing therein:
Provided that any rules made, forms prescribed or tables settled under clause (2) or clause (3) shall not be inconsistent with the provision of any law for the time being in force, and shall require the previous approval of the Governor.
(4) Nothing in this article shall be deemed to confer on High Court powers of superintendence over any court or tribunal constituted by or under any law relating to the Armed Forces.
- Industrial Disputes Act, 1947
Sec.11-A: (Powers of Labor Court Tribunal, and National Tribunal to give appropriate relief in case of discharge or dismissal of workmen)
Where an industrial dispute relating to the discharge or dismissal of a workman has been referred to a Labor Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal for adjudication and, in the course of the adjudication proceedings, the Labor Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, is satisfied that the order of discharge or dismissal was not justified, it may, by its award, set aside the order of discharge or dismissal and direct reinstatement of the workman on such terms and conditions, if any, as it thinks fit, or give such other relief to the workman including the award of any lesser punishment in lieu of discharge or dismissal as the circumstances of the case may require:
PROVIDED that in any proceeding under this section the Labor Court, Tribunal or National Tribunal, as the case may be, shall rely only on the materials on record and shall not take any fresh evidence in relation to the matter.
- Indian Evidence Act, 1872
Sec.60: (Oral evidence must be direct) – Oral evidence must, in all cases whatever, be direct; that is to say— if it refers to a fact which could be seen, it must be the evidence of a witness who says who says he saw it;
If it refers to a fact which could be heard, it must be the evidence of a witness who says he heard it;
If it refers to a fact which could be perceived by any other sense or in any other manner, it must be the evidence of a witness who says he perceived it by that sense or in that manner;
If it refers to an opinion or to the grounds on which that opinion is held, it must be the evidence of the person who holds that opinion on those grounds:
Provided that the opinions of experts expressed in any treatise commonly offered for sale, and the grounds on which such opinions are held, may be proved by the production of such treatises if the author is dead or cannot be found, or has become incapable of giving evidence, or cannot be called as a witness without an amount of delay or expense which the Court regards as unreasonable:
Provided also that, if oral evidence refers to the existence to the existence or condition of any material thing other than a document, the Court may, if it thinks fit, require the production of such material thing for its inspection.
The Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld the judgement of the High Court which quashed the award of reinstatement by the industrial tribunal and also stated that the High Court was fully in his jurisdiction in quashing the award of the tribunal.
The court further made distinction between the domestic enquiry and the criminal prosecution evidence. Section.60 of the Indian Evidence act, 1872, clearly states that hearsay evidence is not admissible, but the evidence stated in this case was not hearsay, but was relevant as it was direct evidence.
The court referred to the case of State of Haryana vs. Rattan Singh where it was held “It is well settled that in a domestic enquiry, direct and sophisticated rules of evidence under the Indian Evidence act may not apply. All materials which are logically probative for a prudent mind are permissible. There is no allergy to hearsay evidence, provided it has reasonable Nexus and credibility.”
In another case of Privy Council, Subramanian vs. Public Prosecutor, it was observed that “the evidence of a statement made to a witness who is not himself called as a witness may or may not be hearsay. It is hearsay and inadmissible, when the object of the evidence is to establish the truth of what is contained in the statement. It is not hearsay and is admissible when it is proposed to establish by the evidence, not the truth of the statement, but the fact that it was made. The fact that it was made quite apart from its truth is frequently relevant in considering the mental state and conduct thereafter of the witness or some other persons is whose presence these statements are made.”
The court said that the tribunal has made several errors in the fact of the case and these errors invoke the power of article 226/227 of the Constitution and give the jurisdiction power to the High Court. The High court took the necessary time to verify the facts of this case and as a result the appeal of the appellant was dismissed. The appellant remained discharged from the duties of the cashier and the services were terminated as well.
It was obvious from the facts and evidences present that the appellant forged the documents with his own handwriting and violated the conduct of a worker; the Bank/respondent only proceeded with the departmental enquiry and did not proceed with the criminal prosecution as forging document is a crime.
In my view point, the termination of the appellant service was the right decision as he breached the confidence which a consumers vests in their sellers/service provider. This breach of confidence puts the whole organisation in front of a big question mark and makes their services questionable as well as undesirable.
Also, there is difference between domestic enquiry and criminal prosecution and the form of evidence admissible are also different. So the evidence in this case was not hearsay, but they were admissible in the court of law. The distinction should be made in these two types of proceedings.
 INDIA CONST. art.226
 INDIA CONST. art.227
 The Industrial Disputes act, S.11-A, No. 14, Act of Parliament, 1947 (India)
 The Indian Evidence Act, S.60, No.1, British Parliament, 1872 (India)
 State of Haryana vs. Rattan Singh, AIR 1977 SC 1512
 Subramanian vs. Public Prosecutor, (1956) 1 WLR 965