The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) Chandigarh, allowed the plea of nineteen employees of the Central Excise and Income Tax department, who were terminated from service in 2001, following an inquiry by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), and have directed the department to reinstate in the employees service.
The bench of Sanjeev Kaushik, Member (Judicial) and Anand Mathur, Member (Administrative) setting aside the 19-year-old termination order, held, “The impugned orders are quashed and set aside. The respondents are directed to reinstate the applicants in service. However, it is made clear that the applicants would be entitled to only notional benefits and actual benefit would start from the date they join back their duties.”
As per the case, Prinder Pal Singh, through his counsel Senior Advocate DS Patwalia and Advocate Gaurav Rana, contended that, he applied for the post of Inspector, Central Excise and Income Tax, against an advertisement issued by the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), New Delhi. On being successful, his name was recommended for appointment to the post of Inspector (Income Tax) vide nomination in January 1992 by the SSC. He joined the duties as Inspector at Chandigarh, and his position in seniority in the cadre was also fixed at serial number 300/347. He passed the departmental Inspector Examination on December 26, 1999. However, all of a sudden, he was served with a charge sheet dated on November 29, 2000, on the allegations that appointment to the post of Inspector has been secured by him on the basis of a forged nomination. Simultaneously, an FIR in the matter was again registered by CBI in October 2000 at Chandigarh, and the services of applicant were terminated on the ground that SSC had informed that name of applicant does not figure in the result, therefore, no nomination paper recommending his appointment was issued. Similarly, along with Prinder Pal, 18 other Central Excise and Income Tax department officials were terminated from the service following the matter.
All the petitioners thus moved CAT in 2001, wherein year 2003, CAT directed the department to hold an enquiry with regard to genuineness of the nomination letters and if it is found that letters are not forged, fictitious or bogus, in that the orders of termination shall stand set aside and applicants shall be reinstated in service ignoring the termination orders with all the consequential benefits. The department, however, reiterated the earlier order of termination. The petitioners moved to CAT again in 2006, but the matter was dismissed. The petitioners then moved to the High Court, wherein the matter was remanded back to CAT. The Tribunal in April 2011 adjourned the case to await the final outcome of order to be passed by learned Special Court, CBI, Patiala, where the trial of the CBI case was going on. The Learned Special Court, CBI, Patiala, in May 2011 acquitted the applicant as well as other accused under Section 468 IPC. However, it convicted them under sections 420, 471 and 120 B IPC. The petitioners moved High Court, against the CBI Court conviction order, wherein the High Court found that the employees cannot be faulted and, therefore, order of CBI court was set aside.
The petitioner thus filed a representation to the department pleading that since they have been acquitted of all criminal charges, so they may be reinstated in services from 2001, however the matter was then sent to Cadre Controlling Authority for decision. The Appellate Authority, however, passed order in 2019 dismissing the appeal/representations filed by the applicants on the premise that setting aside of conviction of applicant by High Court does not lead to automatic inference that the applicants were nominated by SSC, especially in view of specific denial by SSC.
The petitioners have thus moved to the Tribunal seeking to quash the order dated August 22, 2001, as per which their services as Inspector, Income Tax, were terminated, and thus they have sought to reinstate into service with effect from August 22, 2001 with all the consequential benefits including arrears of pay, seniority etc, and also quashing of order of 2019 of appellant authority.
The Income Tax department in reply submitted that Disciplinary Authority finding that since very basis on which appointment was given does not exist, thus, terminated services of the applicant.
The Tribunal bench thus held, “the finding recorded on departmental side based on circumstantial evidence only, that too without conducting any proper enquiry as envisaged under CCS Rules, 1965.”
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