Shimla: Himachal Pradesh High Court on Tuesday has taken exception to the order passed by the Director of Agriculture for imposing only a minor penalty of censure upon the petitioner, in a case of proven misconduct of embezzlement of Rs.26,69,447/- of the sale proceeds.
Therefore, the Court has directed the Director of Agriculture, to explain his position in this matter on the next date of hearing.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Tarlok Singh Chauhan and Justice Chander Bhusan Barowalia passed these orders on a writ petition challenging the penalty order dated June 4, 2019, passed by Director of Agriculture qua imposition of penalty of Censure upon the petitioner, with direction to deposit a sum of Rs.26,69,447/- alongwith interest as applicable on GPF and further direction to treat the suspension period of the petitioner as leave of kind due. The petitioner has alleged that he has been malafide involved in a fictitious case and even in the departmental inquiry initiated against him, no proper opportunity was afforded to him and no rules or principles of natural justice were followed.
He has alleged that since he had attained the age of superannuation of June 30, 2019, the department was in hot haste to conclude the inquiry and impose penalty without considering the stand of the petitioner.
The Court observed that the record reveals that even the Employer, i.e. Director of Agriculture had come to a firm conclusion that the petitioner had embezzled Rs.26,69,447/- of the sale proceeds and had not deposited this amount in the Government Treasury despite repeated directions from his superiors, yet the Director of Agriculture, instead of imposing major penalty on the petitioner, has only imposed a minor penalty of `Censure’.
The Court said that it has failed to understand and appreciate as to what was the source of power or authority of the Director of Agriculture to pass an order of Censure especially in a case of proven misconduct of such a huge amount.
However, the Court made it clear that it has not expressed any opinion on the merits of this case and has only proceeded to pass this order on the basis of the record as it stands today.
The Court directed the respondent State to file reply within a period of four weeks and posted the matter for 18.05.2021.