Wednesday, September 28, 2011

OA No.227 / 2008 on ????????-05-2010



.........DAY, THIS THE .......... DAY OF MAY, 2010



Mr. J. Prakash,
S/o Late Sri Jamnadas C. Samani,
Aged about 51 years,
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya,
Devarahalli, Channagiri Taluk,
Davangere District – 577 213. ... Applicant

(By Advocate Mrs. Bhanu Ravinder)


1. The Enquiry Officer and Deputy Commissioner,
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti,
Regional Office,
H.No.1-1-10/3, Sardar Patel Road,
Secunderabad – 500 003.

2. The Commissioner,
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti,
Department of Secondary & Higher Education,
A-26, Kailash Colony,
New Delhi – 110 048.

3. The Joint Commissioner (Personnel)
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti,
Department of Secondary & Higher Education,
A-26, Kailash Colony,
New Delhi – 110 048.

4. The Chairman,
Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti,
Department of Secondary & Higher Education,
A-26, Kailash Colony,
New Delhi – 110 048. ... Respondents

(By Advocate Shri N. Amaresh,
Addl. Central Govt. Standing Counsel)


Hon'ble Smt. Leena Mehendale, Member (A) :

The applicant has filed this OA under Section 19 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985.

2. This case arises out of order No.P.29/02-NVS(PERS.), dated 13.07.2007, passed by the 2nd respondent (Annexire-A/4) and order NoP.29/02-NVS, dated 10.2.2008 (Annexure-A/5) passed by Respondent No.4.

3. Briefly, the case of the applicant is that he was working as Principal in Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Davanagere, Karnataka. He along with another Teacher of the same School Shri Muralidharan also acting as one of the housemasters of the Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya were placed under suspension with effect from 16.1.2004. The Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya is a residential school housing several students. In one unfortunate incident on 15.1.2004, while the school was having a holiday and there was an acute problem regarding water supply, the said housemaster Shri Muralidharan took out the children under his charge for bathing to the nearby river without the permission of the Principal and one child of the school drowned. Responsibility was fixed on both the Principal and Shri Muralidharan and both were placed under suspension. The applicant's suspension was revoked on 13.5.2004 and he was transferred to Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Aurangabad, on administrative grounds vide Order No.P.29/02-NVS(Pers.), dated 15.1.2007 (Annexure-A/2). He was also charge sheeted and in the ensuing enquiry, the Inquiry Officer came to the conclusion that "charges not proved". Even then, the Disciplinary Authority, the Commissioner, Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan, New Delhi, disagreeing with the findings of the Inquiry Officer, held the applicant partly responsible for the unfortunate incident. Accordingly, he issued order No.P.29/02-NVS(PERS.), dated 13.07.2007, observing that the applicant "being the head of institution has the overall responsibility
to take all measures including providing water and preventing the movement of children outside the premises especially to take bath in the river. He also failed to enforce a system in the Vidyalaya to regulate the exit of the students. Had it been there, the House Master would have been prevented from taking the students to the river and the unfortunate incident of drowning of the student could have been avoided. I, therefore, find that charged officer was negligent in enforcing the safety guidelines of the Vidyalaya". Accordingly, he imposed the penalty of withholding one increment with cumulative effect for a period of one year.

4. Heard Smt. Bhanu Ravinder, learned counsel for the applicant and Shri N. Amaresh, learned Addl. Central Govt. Standing Counsel for the respondents.

5. The learned counsel for the applicant has argued as under:

(a) In this case, initially the responsibility for the unfortunate drowning of the child was fixed both on the applicant who worked as Principal as well as Shri Muralidharan, a teacher and also House Master for a group of children. Both were suspended and a separate departmental enquiry was instituted against both. The Inquiry Officer in respect of the applicant held that the charges were not proved. Even then the Disciplinary Authority has imposed the punishment.
(b) The main responsibility for the drowning of the student was that of Shri Muralidharan, who admittedly has not taken permission of the Principal while taking the children out for bathing to the river. Shri Muralidharan, during his departmental enquiry had stated that he was aware of the safety and security guidelines of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti and his action was not in accordance with the said guidelines.
(c) The counsel for the applicant also claimed that the action against the applicant was not without bias and discrimination because the House Master was given a punishment which has less financial stringency as compared to the financial loss suffered by the applicant. The lerned counsel therefore, argued that the Principal who was already under pressure from the fact that he had to look after the need of several students regarding their water requirements and in view of the fact that water supply system was damaged and could not be immediately repaired, it being the day of Sankranti and a holiday and that he was under pressure from the parents of many students and was holding meeting with them for finding a solution to the problem, it was not justified to hold him responsible for the action taken by the House Master without his permission. Further, the fact that water supply system needed repairs was brought to the notice of higher authorities on earlier occasions but no money was forthcoming from them.

6. Shri N. Amaresh, the learned counsel for the respondents pointed out that the Disciplinary Authority was justified in coming to his own conclusion by disagreeing with the findings of the Inquiry Officer. He has passed a well reasoned order dated 13.7.2007. It is a well established principle that the Disciplinary Authority can, if they so feel for justified reasons, disagree with the findings of the Inquiry Officer. The question of comparing financial loss of the two officers held responsible does not arise because both carry separate quantum of responsibility and authority. The applicant was overall incharge of the school and had the responsibility not only for the safety and security of the students but also maintaining proper discipline and control over the action of the House Masters.

7. We have considered the arguments of both the counsels and are convinced with the arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the respondents Moreover, it was also the responsibility of the Principal to set out proper systems for the functioning of school in which there are immdiate Joint Consultations for action among all the teachers whenever a contingency arises. The higher-ups in the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti authorities also have the responsibility to make sure that the Principals under whose charge hundreds of students are placed are much more cautious, careful and alert for the safety of the children and that various repair needs are taken care in time. They have to set up a system of periodical discussions on these measures. Moreover, the punishment cannot be called too harsh. It is only the stoppage of one increment with cumulative effect as against the lost life of one child and therefore, we are inclined to dismiss the OA. Accordingly, the OA is dismissed with no order as to costs.



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