[A.01] S. Govinda Menon vs The Union Of India & Anr on 2 February, 1967 = 1967 AIR 1274, 1967 SCR (2) 566:-
The Supreme Court, in S. Govinda Menon Vs. Union of India, AIR 1967 SC 1274, has held as under:-
” ….. It is not necessary that a member of the service should have committed the alleged act or omission in the course of discharge of his duty as a servant of the Government in order that it may form the subject matter of disciplinary proceedings. In other words, if the act or omission is such as to reflect the reputation of the officer for his integrity or good faith or devotion to duty, there is no reason why disciplinary proceedings should not be taken against him for that act or omission…. The test is whether the act or omission has some reasonable occasion with nature and condition of his service or where the act or omission has caused any reflection upon the reputation of the member of the service for integrity or devotion of duty as a public servant…. The proposition put forward was that quasi-judicial orders, unless vacated under the provisions of the Act, are final and binding and cannot be questioned by the executive government through disciplinary proceedings….. The charge is, therefore, one of misconduct and recklessness disclosed by the utter disregard of the relevant provisions……. But in the present proceedings what is sought to be challenged is not the correctness or the legality of the decision of the Commissioner but the conduct of the appellant in the discharge of his duty as Commissioner. The appellant was proceeded against because in the discharge of his function, he acted in utter disregard of the provisions of the Act and the Rules. It is the manner in which he discharges his function that brought up in these proceedings…..It is manifest, therefore, that though the propriety and legality of the sanction to the leases may be question in appeal or revision under the Act the Government is not precluded from taking disciplinary act if there is proof that the has acted in gross recklessness in the discharge of his duties or that he failed to act honestly or in good faith or that he omitted to observe the prescribed conditions which are essential for the exercise of the statutory power.”
Thus, the aforesaid judgment is an authority that disciplinary proceedings can be initiated against an employee in respect of the action, even if it pertains to exercise of judicial or quasi-judicial powers.
In S. Govinda Menon (supra), the Hon’ble Supreme Court had relied upon the judgment in Pearce Vs. Foster, (1966) 17 QBD 536, wherein it had been held as under:-
“If a servant conducts himself in a way inconsistent with the faithful discharge of his duty in the service, it is misconduct which justifies immediate dismissal.”
The Supreme Court in Union of India & Ors. Vs. K.K. Dhawan, AIR 1993 SC 1478, very heavily relied upon its earlier judgment in S. Govinda Menon (supra) and observed that the officer who exercises judicial or quasi-judicial powers, acts negligently or recklessly or in order to confer undue favour on a person, is not acting as a Judge, and in the disciplinary proceedings, it is the conduct of the officer in discharge of his official duties and not the correctness or legality of his decisions or judgments which are to be examined, as the legality of the orders can be questioned on appellate or revisional forum. In such a case the Government cannot be precluded from taking the disciplinary action for violation of the Conduct Rules. The Court summarised some circumstances in which disciplinary action can be taken, which are as under:-
“(i) Where the Officer had acted in a manner as would reflect on his reputation or integrity or good faith or devotion of duty;
(ii) if there is, prima facie, material to show recklessness or misconduct in the discharge of his duty;
(iii) if he has acted in a manner which is unbecoming of a Government servant;
(iv) if he had acted negligently or that he omitted the prescribed conditions which are essential for the exercise of the statutory powers;
(v) if he had acted in order to unduly favour a party;
(vi) if he had been actuated by corrupt motive, however, small the bribe may be, because Lord Coke said long ago ” though the bribe may be small, yet the fault is great.”
The Court further observed that the said instances were not exhaustive. However, it was further observed by the Supreme Court that each case would depend upon the facts and circumstances of that case, and no absolute rule can be postulated.