|DATE:||(Date of pronouncement)|
|DATE:||February 29, 2012 (Date of publication)|
|Click here to download the judgement (Srivastava_transfer_challenge_CAT.pdf)|
Concern expressed at “mutual acrimony” between Members of Chandigarh Bench
The Applicant, an Accountant Member of the Tribunal, was transferred from Chandigarh to Rajkot. He challenged the transfer on the ground that it was punitive and had arisen because of a complaint against him by a Judicial Member. It was alleged that the Sr. VP, who decided the complaint, had indicted him without a hearing and that the said VP was part of the Collegium which had recommended the transfer. In turn, the Judicial Member alleged that she had been subjected to harassment by the Applicant and other Members of the Chandigarh Bench. She claimed that she had heard a bunch of appeals with the Applicant and that though she had drafted the judgement, the Applicant did not sign it till he sat on another Bench and decided another bunch of appeals by taking a contrary view to the view taken by her. She claimed that the Applicant had “purposely” kept the draft judgement in abeyance in order to be able to take a different view in another Bench while the Applicant alleged that there was something “extra judicial in her mind“. HELD by the CAT, dismissing the application:
(i) The documentation indicates an unsavoury and uneasy situation prevalent at the Chandigarh Bench of the ITAT and the litigating parties are found to be engaged in an unenviable endeavour to wash the proverbial dirty linen in public. The prevalence of the factual scenario, indicating almost complete want of trust and faith inter-se, ought to be foreign to each segment of dispensation of justice which (system), for optimum and unbiased delivery requires an ambience based upon balanced and conscientious approach. For reasons of propriety, we are not noticing any part of the mutual acrimony as between the personnel who are a part of the dispensation at the local Bench of ITAT. We express our deep sense of exasperation at the prevalent scenario and hope and trust that the sentiments expressed by the President of the ITAT in the course of his letter dated 4.1.2012 for ensuring bonhomie at the local Bench of the ITAT, would be pursued to its logical conclusion;
(ii) Transfer is an incident of public service. It is well settled that Courts/ Tribunals ought to refrain from interfering in transfer matters unless there is an element of perversity or extreme arbitrariness/ bias in the grant of the relevant order. The transfer order was passed on the recommendation of the collegium and though the Applicant found fault with the association of the VP who dealt with the complaint, no bias on part of the President or the other VP was alleged. Further, the claim that as the transfer was pursuant to a complaint, the competent authority ought to have granted a hearing is not acceptable. An employer is free to effect transfer on the basis of a complaint or adverse report without hearing the employee. The giving of a hearing may actually be counter-productive in such matters. Also, the Applicant was not free from blame because, having heard the bunch of appeals with the JM and having allotted the matters to her for dictation, it was not appropriate for him to retain the draft judgement till he sat on another Bench and took a view contrary to the one taken by the JM. If he was not agreeable with the view of the JM, he ought to have written an order of dissent. (Desire expressed that the competent authority may consider the feasibility of doing something to establish appropriate ambience at the Chandigarh Bench of the ITAT).