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Municipal Board Through B. Durga ... vs Pt. Hoti Lal

High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad|11 May, 1938


ORDER Mohammad Ismail, J.
1. This is an application in revision directed against an order of the learned Judge of Small Cause Court, Etah. The plaintiff, Pt. Hoti Lal, was employed by the Jalesar Municipal Board as the head-master of a school maintained by the Municipality. By an order dated 19th February 1936 the senior Vice-Chairman suspended the plaintiff for 40 days. Again on 9th June 1936 the Vice-Chairman fined the plaintiff Rs. 25. The plaintiff alleged that the aforesaid orders were illegal and without authority and they are not binding on the plaintiff. The plaintiff therefore claimed Rs. 58 which represented his pay of 40 days and Rs. 25 deducted from his salary on account of fine. The Board filed a written statement under the signature of the Chairman denying the liability of the Board for the payment of the money claimed and justifying the action taken by the Vice-Chairman. In the pleadings allegations have been made by the parties, against each other which do not appear to me relevant for the purposes of the present revision. The main points that had to be considered by the Court were : (1) Whether the order passed by the Vice-Chairman was a legal order? (2) Whether the Court had jurisdiction to entertain the suit? The plaintiff contended that the Vice-Chairman had no authority to punish him under the Act and therefore any orders passed by that officer were inoperative. Section 55 (b), U.P. Municipalities Act provides that:
A Vice-Chairman shall during a vacancy in the office of Chairman or the incapacity or temporary absence of the Chairman, perform any other duty and if occasion arises exercise any other powers of the Chairman.
2. It is not disputed that the Chairman had full authority to punish or dismiss the plaintiff who is an employee on the establishment of the Board. The only question is whether the action of the Vice. Chairman was legal and authorized by the Act. In examining the question it should not be overlooked that in a matter like this the powers of the Civil Court are circumscribed by certain well-recognized limitations. The plaintiff appeared as a witness to support the allegations made in the plaint. The lower Court was not satisfied with the statement of the plaintiff and commented upon that statement in the following words : "The plaintiff's statement is not clear on the point. It does not point either way." The Court below then considered the evidence of the defendant and remarked as follows:
It was for the defendant to prove that the orders of suspension and fine were passed by the person who was really competent to do so. The defendant has failed to prove that.
3. It is manifest that the learned Judge of the Court below has placed the burden on the wrong party. In the first instance it was for the plaintiff to substantiate his allegations in the plaint. It was then for the defendant to rebut them. When the parties lead evidence on both sides the question of burden of proof loses much of its importance. But in a case like the present where the plaintiff's evidence does not satisfy the Court and the Court proceeds to decide the issue on presumptions raised against the defendant because of non-production of certain documents, it is the duty of this Court to interfere. From the statements of the Vice-Chairman, it appears that it was the practice of the Chairman to send a note to the office when he absented himself from the town. No such document was produced by the defendant, nor was this document summoned by the plaintiff from the office of the Municipality. Prom the written statement filed by the defendant Board it is obvious that the Chairman of the Municipal Board is supporting the action of the Vice-Chairman. Under the circumstances the production of any document in the handwriting of the Chairman would not have added to the strength of the statement of the Vice-Chairman. The only reason however which has induced me to interfere is that the Court below had erred in placing the burden of proof on the defendant in the first instance. The plaintiff had to prove his allegations and in the absence of such proof there should be the presumption that the Board conducted its business in accordance with the directions of the law. In my judgment therefore the Court below has erred in holding that the Chairman was not absent when the two orders were passed. I may further refer to Section 53 of the Act which invests the Chairman with very wide powers of delegation. A Chairman may empower by general or special power any Vice-Chairman to exercise under his control any one or more of his powers, duties or functions except those specified in Clauses (a) and (b) of Section 51. If the Chairman did not approve of the order of the Vice-Chairman he could have cancelled the order or may have ignored it. The payment of salary of an employee of the Board depends on the sanction of the Chairman and the monthly pay bill has to be signed by the Chairman before any money can be withdrawn from the treasury. It would have been impossible for the Vice-Chairman to have fined the plaintiff or to have withheld his salary without the approval and consent of the Chairman. There does not appear to be any justification therefore for holding that the Vice-Chairman surreptitiously fined the plaintiff behind the back of the Chairman and that he was induced to take such steps at the instance of the Chairman of the education sub-committee. A municipal employee is entitled to appeal in certain cases. No action appears to have been taken by the plaintiff in that behalf. It was open to him to have moved the Chairman or the Board or other higher authorities against the alleged highhanded action of the Vice-Chairman. On the materials on the record I have no hesitation in holding that the plaintiff has failed to prove that the action of the Vice-Chairman was without authority or that the orders were passed when the Chairman was present in the town.
4. In view of what I have held above the question of jurisdiction becomes unimportant. The learned Judge of the Court below very properly held in one part of the judgment that the question of the propriety or adequacy of punishment could not be considered by him. But ultimately he has held that the orders of suspension and fine were not justified. In my judgment it is not for the Civil Court to review the orders of a statutory body like the Municipal Board as long as the officers of that body act within the power vested in them by law. It is not necessary for me to consider the authorities of this Court on this subject at any length. In Prabhu Lal Upadhya v. District Board of Agra (1938) 25 A.I.R. All. 276 a Bench of this Court has reviewed all the authorities on the subject and has held as follows:
Ordinarily, a Government servant or a public servant (e.g. officer of a Local Board or Municipality) holds his office at pleasure and is therefore liable to be dismissed without cause assigned. Noncompliance with any rules framed under statutes by Government or public authority will not give a dismissed servant a cause of action for damages or other relief, as such rules are framed for the guidance of officers of the Government or the public authority and can be changed from time to time. But where a statute under which an officer or servant is appointed imposes restrictions on the power of dismissal, the failure to comply with the strict provisions relating to dismissal can give the servant a cause of action for a suit.
5. See also Sankar Lal Dhania v. Balkishan (1938) 25 A.I.R. All. 57. In my judgment the Court below could assume jurisdiction only in case the Chairman or any other officer acted in contravention of the mandatory provisions of the Act. I am not satisfied that such is the case here. Having regard to all the circumstances I hold that the plaintiff is not entitled to any relief. I allow the application, set aside the order of the Court below and dismiss the plaintiff's suit. The plaintiff is entitled to his costs of this application. Costs of the Court below as in the decree of that Court.
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Municipal Board Through B. Durga ... vs Pt. Hoti Lal


High Court Of Judicature at Allahabad

11 May, 1938