HC refuses to interfere with SBI order penalising two officers

Strict action: SBI issued a memo to the officers and ordered a disciplinary inquiry against them.

Strict action: SBI issued a memo to the officers and ordered a disciplinary inquiry against them.   | Photo Credit: Danish Siddiqui

Duo had organised a protest in 2012 to oppose a bank move

The Bombay High Court recently refused to interfere with an order issued by the State Bank of India (SBI) initiating disciplinary inquiry against two officers in 2012 for organising a silent protest during the lunch hour.

On August 28, 2012, the SBI chairman had said all branches would remain open on all days of the week. To oppose the move, The Federation, a recognised body of officers from the trade union and the management, organised a peaceful protest during the lunch hour for 15 to 20 minutes.

R.H. Chandanshive, the then president of the Mumbai circle of SBI officers, and Keshav Dajiba Thaokar, the then joint secretary of the circle, had informed the management and the police about the protest. However, a memo was issued ordering an inquiry against them.

‘Disturbed peace’

The memo stated, “The instigated officers of the bank held demonstrations within the bank’s premises/compound at Mumbai LHO [local head office] in Bandra Kurla Complex. They participated in these demonstrations and also shouted slogans. This behaviour on their behalf has disturbed the peace within the bank’s premises. There was hindrance in the bank’s working and disturbance in regular business activity.”

Following the inquiry, the inquiry officer said all allegations against the duo had been proved. The disciplinary authority then ruled that they should be demoted. Mr. Chandanshive and Mr. Thaokar then filed an appeal challenging the decision. The appellate authority considered the matter and concluded that the duo had to produce any fresh submission to negate the charges levelled against them. However, the appellate authority was of the view that justice would be delivered by modifying the penalty to “censure”.

Meanwhile, the SBI filed a defamation suit of ₹100 crore against the officers, claiming that their actions had tarnished the bank’s image. Advocate Anubha Rastogi, who appeared for the duo in the High Court, said, “Their acts were legitimate trade union activities and they are protected under the Trade Union Act. They have a right to protest.”

‘Allegations proved’

However, the court said the appellate and disciplinary authorities had found that the allegations against them were true. The court also said the authorities found that they had instigated the other officers to shout slogans with the intention of tarnishing the bank’s image.

The Bench said, “It was also concurrently held that there was no justification for holding the demonstration which disturbed peace, discouraged officers from discharging their lawful duties and such unjustified activities are bound to lower the bank’s image in the eyes of the customers and public.”

The Bench held that “we do not find any error apparent on the face of the record to interfere in the order” and disposed of the petition.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 8:47:49 AM |

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