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IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS DATED : 04.11.2013 CORAM: THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE S.MANIKUMAR Writ Petition No.28488 of 2013 M.P.No.1 of 2013 M. Murugan … Petitioner Vs. 1. The Co-operative Sub Registrar/Field Officer cum Surcharge Enquiry Officer, Madhanur, Gudiyatham Taluk, Vellore District. Court under Para 14 has explained rem & persona judgements
January 25, 2020
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS DATED : 04.11.2013
THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE S.MANI KUMAR Writ Petition No. 28488 of 2013
M.P.No.1 of 2013 M.MuruganVs. The Co-operative Sub Registrar / Field Officer cum Surcharge Enquiry Officer, Madhanur, Gudiyatham Taluk, Vellore District.
In the present writ petition, it is the case of the petitioner that as he had not opposed or challenged the surcharge proceedings initiated by the then Co-operative Sub Registrar / Field Officer, Jolarpet, Mr.M.M.Subramanian, the judgment rendered in W.P.No.15758 of 2006, dated 22.06.2012, can be treated only as a “judgment in personam” and not as “judgment in rem”. In C.L. Pasupathy v. Engineer in Chief (WRO) reported in 2009 (2) MLJ 491, this Court has considered the expressions, “judgment in ‘in rem’ or a judgment ‘in personam’”, as follows: Read further under Para 14 in main judgement to understand Judgement in rem & Judgement in Persona .
IN THE HIGH COURT OF JUDICATURE AT MADRAS DATED : 04.11.2013
THE HONOURABLE MR.JUSTICE S.MANIKUMAR
Writ Petition No.28488 of 2013 M.P.No.1 of 2013
M.Murugan … …………………………..Petitioner
The Co-operative Sub Registrar/Field Officer cum Surcharge Enquiry Officer, Madhanur, Gudiyatham Taluk, Vellore District.
The President, Chinnakallupalli Primary Agricultural Co-operative Bank, Chinnakallupalli Village, Vaniyambadi Taluk, Vellore District.
The Deputy Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Tirupattur Circle, Tirupattur, Vellore District. ……… Respondents
Writ Petition filed under Article 226 of Constitution of India, praying for a Writ of Certiorari, to call for the records, relating to the surcharge show cause notice, Tha Thi 2/2013-14 Sa.Pa. dated 25.09.2013 of the 1st respondent, issued under Section 87 of the Tamil Nadu Co- operative Societies Act, 1983.
For Petitioner : Mr.S.Venkataraman
For Respondents : Mr.L.P.Shanmughasundaram,
Spl. Govt. Pleader (Co-op.)
Being aggrieved by the notice in the surcharge proceedings, made in Tha Thi 2/2013-14 Sa.Pa. Dated 25.09.2013, of the Co-operative Sub Registrar / Field Officer cum Surcharge Enquiry Officer, Madhanur, Gudiyatham Taluk, Vellore District, 1st respondent herein, has issued under Section 87 of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act, 1983 (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”), calling upon the petitioner, the erstwhile Sub-Registrar, Chinnakallupalli Primary Agricultural Co- operative Bank, Chinnakallupalli Village, Vaniyambdi Taluk, Vellore, to submit his explanation within 15 days from the date of notice, the present writ petition has been filed.
2. According to the petitioner, he had worked as Sub-Registrar in the above said Bank, for the period between 26.07.2001 and 01.07.2003 and thereafter, between 25.11.2003 and 13.04.2004. An enquiry under Section 81 of the Act came to be ordered by the Deputy Registrar, Tirupattur Circle, on 25.01.2005 and pursuant to the report, dated 03.08.2005, a show cause notice, dated 18.04.2006, has been issued in the Surcharge Proceedings, by one Mr.M.M.Subramanian, the then Co-operative Sub Registrar / Field Officer, Jolarpet. The petitioners and others were alleged to have failed to carry out proper supervision, which enabled the Secretary of the Society to misappropriate Rs.1,02,980/-.
3. The petitioner has further submitted that he was summoned to appear for an enquiry on 25.05.2006, by a memo, dated 18.05.2006, by the Enquiry Officer. On receipt of the same, the petitioner has sent a representation, seeking production of the supporting materials, to enable him to submit his explanation. He has appeared in the enquiry on 25.05.2006 and submitted a detailed representation, demanding documents.
4. Thereafter, the Enquiry Officer has issued a fresh summons, posting the enquiry on 31.01.2006. According to the petitioner, notice of enquiry was received by the petitioner on 31.05.2006 and hence, he could not attend the enquiry, on the fixed date. Therefore, he sent a representation on 01.06.2006 and sought for an alternative date of enquiry. Now, after nearly seven years, a fresh show cause notice, dated 25.09.2013, has been issued by the 1st respondent.
5. Assailing the correctness of the impugned notice, Mr.S.Venkataraman, learned counsel for the petitioner submitted that the alleged occurrence was between the period 2001 and 2004, when the petitioner was deputed to work as the Special Officer. According to him, a fresh surcharge proceedings has been initiated only on 25.09.2013, after a lapse of seven years and therefore, no action can be taken, as per the 1st proviso to Section 87 of the Act.
6. Learned counsel for the petitioner further submitted that citing the order of this Court made in W.P.No.15758 of 2006, dated 22.06.2012, surcharge proceedings are now reviewed. The above said writ petition, came to be allowed, setting aside the surcharge proceedings with liberty to hold a fresh enquiry, with a further condition that the petitioner therein, should not raise the plea of limitation.
According to him, the order made in the above writ petition, is not a “judgment in rem” and it should be read as “judgment in personam” and therefore, it can be applied only to the petitioner therein, and should not have been extended to the other delinquents.
7. It is the contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner that the petitioner has not challenged the earlier proceedings, on the grounds, including bias or mala fide, raised by the writ petitioner in W.P.No.15758 of 2006 and that there was no order, preventing the enquiry officer to proceed against the petitioner and other delinquents. In the above said circumstances, 1st proviso to Section 87, is attracted and therefore, the present impugned proceedings have to be set aside. Excepting the above, no other points are urged by the learned counsel for the petitioner.
Heard the learned counsel for the petitioner as well as Mr.L.P.Shanmugasundaram, learned Special Government Pleader (Co- operatives) and perused the materials available on record.
8. Before adverting the facts of the case, Section 87 of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act, 1983, is extracted:
“87. Surcharge– (1) Where in the course of an audit under section 80 or an inquiry under section 81 or an inspection or investigation under section 82 or inspection of books under section 83 or the winding-up of a society, it appears that any person who is or was entrusted with the organisation or management of the society or any past or present officer or servant of the society has misappropriated or fraudulently retained any money or other property or been guilty of breach of trust in relation to the society or has caused any deficiency in the assets of the society by breach of trust or wilful negligence or has made any payment which is not in accordance with this Act, the rules or the by-laws the Registrar himself or any person specially authorised by him in this behalf, of his own motion or on the application of the board, liquidator or any creditor or contributory may frame charges against such person or officer or servant and after giving a reasonable opportunity to the person concerned and in the case of a deceased person, to his representative who inherits his estate, to answer the charges, make an order requiring him to repay or restore the money or property or any part thereof with interest at any such rate as the Registrar or the person authorised as aforesaid thinks just or to contribute such sum to the assets of the society by way of compensation in respect of the misappropriation, misapplication of funds, fraudulent retainer, breach of trust or wilful negligence or payments which are not in accordance with this Act, the rules or the by-laws as the Registrar or the person authorised as aforesaid thinks just:
Provided that no action shall be commenced under this sub-section after the expiry of seven years from the date of any act or omission referred to in this sub-section.
Provided further that the action commenced under this sub-section shall be completed within a period of six months from the date of such commencement or such further period or periods as the next higher authority may permit but such extended period or periods shall not exceed six months in the aggregate.”
9. Materials on record shows that Mr.M.M. Subramanian, the then Co-operative Sub Registrar / Field Officer, Jolarpet, has issued show cause notices, in Surcharge 12/2005-06 Sa.Pa., dated 18.04.2006, under Section 87 of the Act, to seven persons, including the petitioner, who was the then Sub-Registrar, Chinnakallupalli Primary Agricultural Co- operative Bank, Chinnakallupalli Village, Vaniyambdi Taluk, Vellore.
10. Materials on record further discloses that after the receipt of notice, the petitioner seemed to have made representations, dated 20.05.2006 and 25.05.2006 respectively, seeking certain documents. In the said representations, he has also sought for copies of the enquiry report, under Section 81 of the Act and the other documents.
11. Perusal of the order made in W.P.No.15758 of 2006, dated 22.06.2012, shows that one of the co-delinquents, Mr.G.Srinivasan, a former Secretary of the Chinnakallupalli Primary Agricultural Co- operative Bank, Chinnakallupalli Village, Vaniyambdi Taluk, Vellore, had challenged the above show cause notice, issued in Surcharge 12/2005-06 Sa.Pa., dated 18.04.2006, under Section 87 of the Act, on the grounds, inter alia, that surcharge proceedings have been entrusted to a person, who had earlier functioned as a Special Officer of Chinnakallupalli Primary Agricultural Co-operative Bank and requirements of fairness and justice, demand that the surcharge proceedings be conducted by a person, other than the said officer. Bias has been alleged on the then Enquiry Officer, under Section 87 of the Act. Considering the rival submissions, this Court, at Paragraphs 5 to 8, has passed the following orders,
“5. Considering the rival submissions, this Court is of the view that though it cannot be stated as a general rule that the officer placed in-charge of the surcharge proceedings necessarily would be prejudiced against the petitioner because he happened to be the special officer during the alleged wrong doing of the petitioner, following the principle that justice should not only be done, but also should be seen to be done, this Court would allow this petition.
6. Accordingly, the writ petition stands allowed and the proceedings 12/2005-06 Sa.Pa., dated 18.04.2006 stand quashed. No costs.
7. It is now open to the second respondent to appoint a fresh officer for the purpose of conducting surcharge proceedings under Section 87 of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act, 1983. This Court clarifies that since the proceedings stand delayed owing to the interim order passed by this Court in W.P.No.15758 of 2006, the petitioner now cannot raise any plea under first proviso to Section 87 of the Tamil Nadu Co-operative Societies Act, 1983.
8. This Court directs the respondents to initiate surcharge proceedings afresh in keeping with this order and to complete the same as expeditiously as possible.”
12. It is the further contention of the learned counsel for the petitioner that even assuming that action has been taken well within the period of limitation, continuation of the said action, so taken, can be only with the permission of the higher authorities and in such circumstances, the extended period or periods shall not exceed six months in the aggregate. According to him, initially, action has been taken in the year 2006 by issuance of a surcharge notice and thereafter,there was no progress. As the order made in W.P.No.15758 of 2006,dated 22.06.2012, filed by Mr.G. Srinivasan, is not applicable to the writ petitioner and in the absence of any permission from the higher authorities to continue with the surcharge proceedings, after six months,from the date of commencement, the impugned show cause, has to beset aside ….