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Shubham Bahuuddeshiya Sanstha, Waddhamana & Anr.
V.
Shri Dnyaneshwar Govindrao Daigavhane & Ors.

Abhay Manohar Sapre & R. Banumathi, JJ.



Headnote

SERVICE & LABOUR LAWS
Maharashtra Employees of Private Schools (Conditions of Service) Regulation Act
Termination - Enquiry committee found 17 charges proved against respondent and passed termination order - Appeal to tribunal failed - During pendency of writ in High Court disputes arose between members of the management committee of Trust - One group supported termination and other filed intervention application in writ and made statement about withdrawal of termination order and reinstatement of respondent - High Court on basis of statement cancelled order of termination. Held, as there was a spilt between the members of the committee, High Court should not have accepted the stand of one group and ought to have decided the legality of Tribunal's order. It erred in allowing withdrawal of writ petition by respondent on one hand and setting aside tribunal's order on the other hand. Writ filed by respondent revived to decide validity of Tribunal. Respondent will not be allowed to work till the disposal of the writ.


Held

HELD

High Court should not have accepted the stand of one group andshould have proceeded to decide the writ petition on its merits regardless ofany internal differences between the Management Committee Members with a viewto find out as to whether the order of the Tribunal impugned by respondent No.1(writ petitioner) is legally sustainable or not? (Para 22)

It is for these reasons, we are of the considered view that wecannot concur with the manner, reasoning and the conclusion of the High Court,which on the one hand allowed respondent No.1 to withdraw his writ petition andon the other hand proceeded to set aside the order of the School Tribunalwithout examining its legality and correctness on merits and at the same timeproceeded to set aside the termination order also by accepting the statement ofone group of Management. (Para 23)

Impugned order is set aside and the writ petition filed byrespondent No.1 is revived for being heard on merits in accordance with law.(Para 24)




Abhay Manohar Sapre, J.

1. Leave granted.

2. This appeal is filed against the final judgment andorder dated 16.03.2017 passed by the High Court of Judicature at Bombay, NagpurBench, Nagpur in Writ Petition No. 1958 of 2015 whereby the High Court setaside the judgment and order of the School Tribunal, Nagpur, cancelled thetermination order of respondent No.1 and permitted him (writ petitioner) towithdraw his writ petition.

3. In order to appreciate the short controversy involvedin this appeal, the relevant facts need mention in brief infra.

4. There is a Trust called “Shubham BahuuddeshiyaSanstha, Waddhamana, Nagpur-23”. It is registered under the provisions of theBombay Public Trust Act, 1950 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”). The Trustis running one school by and under the name of “Swami Vivekanand HighSchool" at "Waddhamana" in Tah. Hingna, District Nagpur, Maharashtra.The affairs of the school is managed and looked after by the Managing Committeeof the Trust. Respondent No. 1 was working as Assistant Teacher in this school.

5. On 26.06.2003, Respondent No. 1 was served withcharge-sheet as per the procedure prescribed under Maharashtra Employees ofPrivate Schools (Conditions of Service) Regulation Act (hereinafter referred toas “MEPS Rules”). The charge-sheet contained as many as 17 charges levelledagainst“ Respondent No. 1 which he is alleged to have committed in discharge ofhis duties as Assistant Teacher. It is not necessary to set out the details ofthe charges here except to mention that perusal of the charges would revealthat most of them were quite serious in nature.

6. The Managing Committee of the School then appointedThree-Member Inquiry Committee to hold an inquiry into the charges levelledagainst respondent No.1 as per the provisions of the MEPS Rules and submit thereport. Respondent No.1, felt aggrieved of this action of the School Management,filed a civil suit and sought stay of the proceedings initiated against him.The matter eventually went to the High Court at the instance of the respondentin writ petition (W.P. No. 892/2004) wherein the High Court disposed of thewrit petition with the consent of the parties by order dated 22.11.2005 anddirected the Inquiry Committee to conclude the inquiry within 4 months strictlyin accordance with the provisions of the MEPS Rules.

7. The Inquiry Committee then held an inquiry whereinrespondent No. 1 appeared and participated through his representative-one Mr.Keshavarao Dahake. He filed his reply and denied the charges levelled againsthim. Both parties, i.e., the appellant (School Management) and respondent No.1,filed documents and examined the witnesses in support of their case. TheInquiry Committee held several sittings.

8. The Inquiry Committee on 20.03.2006 submitted thereport, which runs into 43 pages (Annexure-P-3). The Committee (by majority)held all the 17 charges proved against respondent No. 1. The School Managementconcurred with the report and keeping in view the gravity of the charges whichstood proved, terminated the services of respondent No.1 by order dated01.02.2010 (Annexure-P-5 ).

9. Respondent No. 1, felt aggrieved of his terminationorder, filed appeal being Appeal No. STN10/2010 before the School Tribunal atNagpur as provided in the Rules. The School Management (Employer) on beingnoticed of the appeal filed reply and defended the termination order includingthe inquiry report. By order dated 30.01.2015 (Annexure-P-6) the SchoolTribunal dismissed the appeal and upheld the termination order holding it legaland proper.

10. Respondent No. 1, felt aggrieved of the order of theSchool Tribunal, filed writ petition (W.P.No. 1958 of 2015) out of which thisappeal arises before the High Court.

11. It appears from the record that during the pendency ofthe writ petition, the disputes started inter se Members of theManagement Committee of the Trust resulting in emerging of two rival groups inthe Management of the school.

12. One group of the Committee, who are prosecuting thisappeal, supported the termination order of respondent No.1 before the SchoolTribunal and the High Court in the writ petition and wanted the termination tobe upheld whereas the other rival group was opposing the termination order andwas keen to settle the matter with respondent No.1 by withdrawing histermination order and reinstating him in service. This rival group of CommitteeMembers, therefore, filed intervention application in the writ petition andmade a statement that they have resolved to reinstate respondent No. 1 and arealso ready to cancel his termination. The intervener also stated that havingregard to the fact that respondent No. 1 was in school since long and secondly,some charges have also not been proved against him, particularly the charge inrelation to mass copying, the Management Committee has resolved to withdraw histermination and reinstate respondent No.1 in service of the school. It wasopposed by other group who was supporting the termination, i.e., the groupwhich has filed this appeal.

13. The writ Court accepted the aforementioned statementof the intervener and on that basis set aside the order of the Tribunalimpugned by respondent No. 1 in his writ petition and at the same time alsoallowed respondent No.1 to withdraw his writ petition. This is how the writCourt (single Judge) dealt with the issue in para 8 of the impugned order.

     “8. As referred toabove, in the peculiar circumstances, when the management is ready to reinstatethe petitioner and to cancel the termination order on the backdrop of the factsthat the petitioner is served in the institute for more than 16 years. Inaddition, the charge leveled against the petitioner of his involvement in masscopy was not supported by any material in the investigation carried out by theinvestigation agency and the investigation agency sought discharge of thepetitioner from the criminal charges leveled against the petitioner. In thissituation, the petitioner is permitted to withdraw the petition in view of theresolution passed by the management committee dated 15.1.2017. On the backdropof the resolution passed by the management dated 15.1.2017, the judgment andorder passed by the learned Presiding Officer, School Tribunal is quashed andset aside.”

14. It is this order, which is impugned in this appeal byone group, who had been defending the termination of respondent No.1 before theTribunal and the High Court and opposing the prayers made by the intervener inthe writ petition which found acceptance to the writ Court resulting in passingof the impugned order.

15. It may be mentioned that the effect of the impugnedorder is that firstly, the order of Tribunal dated 30.01.2015 stands set aside;secondly, the termination order dated 01.02.2010 of respondent No.1 also standsset aside; and thirdly, respondent No.1 stands reinstated in services of theSchool. It is stated at the bar that respondent No. 1 has since been reinstatedin service and now serving.

16. Heard Ms. Meenakshi Arora, learned senior counselfor the appellant, Mr. R. Basant, learned senior counsel for respondent No.1and Mr. Kishor Lambat, learned counsel for respondent No.2.

17. Having heard learned counsel for the parties and onperusal of the record of the case, we are inclined to allow the appeal in partand while setting aside the impugned order restore the writ petition filed byrespondent No. 1 to its original file and request the High Court to decide thewrit petition on merits in accordance with law.

18. In our considered view, the question before the HighCourt (writ court) was only one, namely, whether the order passed by the SchoolTribunal dated 30.01.2015, which upheld the Inquiry Report and, in consequence,the termination of respondent No.1, is legal or not? It is this question, whichthe High Court had to answer on its merits in accordance with law, one way orthe other.

19. The disputes which had surfaced in the meantimebetween two rival groups of Management Committee in regard to managing theaffairs of the School wherein one group was supporting respondent No.1’stermination and the other group opposing the termination should not have beentaken note of much less relied on by the Writ Court for disposal of the writpetition nor these facts, in our view, could be made subject matter of writpetition filed by respondent No.1-they being wholly irrelevant for deciding thelis involved in the writ petition.

20. Had there been unanimity between the Members of theManaging Committee of the School resolving to settle the issue with respondentNo.1 amicably on terms agreed upon then perhaps, compromise between respondentNo.1 on the one hand and the Management of School on the other would have beenpermissible subject to obtaining of any sanction from the authorities, ifprovided under the Rules for giving effect to it.

21. However, such was not the case. Here, as mentionedsupra, appears to be a case where there is a split between the Members of theManaging Committee - one group saying that we should compromise with respondentNo.1 and the other group saying that we should not compromise with respondentNo.1.

22. In such situation, the High Court should not haveaccepted the stand of one group and should have proceeded to decide the writpetition on its merits regardless of any internal differences between theManagement Committee Members with a view to find out as to whether the order ofthe Tribunal impugned by respondent No.1 (writ petitioner) is legallysustainable or not?

23. It is for these reasons, we are of the consideredview that we cannot concur with the manner, reasoning and the conclusion of theHigh Court, which on the one hand allowed respondent No.1 to withdraw his writpetition and on the other hand proceeded to set aside the order of the SchoolTribunal without examining its legality and correctness on merits and at thesame time proceeded to set aside the termination order also by accepting thestatement of one group of Management.

24. In view of foregoing discussion, the appeal succeedsand is allowed. Impugned order is set aside and the writ petition filed byrespondent No.1 is revived for being heard on merits in accordance with law.

25. We, however, consider it apposite to make it clearthat the writ Court would only decide the main question which is involved inthe writ petition as to whether the order passed by the School Tribunal, whichis impugned by the writ petitioner (respondent No.1) is legally sustainable ornot? Depending upon the outcome of the writ petition, consequential orderswould be passed. We also make it clear that the writ Court would consider theManagement (employer) to be the contesting respondent who would be supportingthe order of the Tribunal and opposing the writ petition. We also make it clearthat the writ Court would not probe into any internal issues arising betweenthese warring groups of Managing Committee of the School nor they would beallowed to take inconsistent stand qua the writ petitioner except the onementioned above. We also make it clear that we have not gone into the merits ofthe controversy which is subject-matter of writ petition before the High Courtand hence writ court would decide the writ petition strictly in accordance withlaw on merits uninfluenced by any observations made in this order.

26. During the pendency of the writ petition, respondentNo. 1 will not be allowed to work (if he is already reinstated pursuant to theimpugned order). In other words, so long as the termination order remains andnot set aside by the competent Court, respondent No. 1 would remain out ofemployment of the appellant - Trust-School. We also grant liberty to theMembers of Managing Committee (two rival groups) to settle their internaldisputes, if any, in appropriate forum in accordance with law and in doing so,this order would not, in any manner, come in their way.

27. We request the writ Court to ensure early disposal ofthe writ petition preferably within 6 months as an outer limit.

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