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A life lost to litigation

Central Bank of India drags employee to apex court despite having lost several rounds of legal battles.

delhi Updated: Apr 10, 2011 23:08 IST
Satya Prakash

For 33 years, he has been fighting a protracted legal battle with his employer. The three decades that Ashok Kumar Aggarwal spent doing countless rounds of courtrooms have cost him dear. He lost both his parents and could not find a life partner. "If you have a criminal case pending against you, who will marry you?" Aggarwal, who is in Delhi to attend the hearing of his case in the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday, told HT.

Aggarwal, from Jalandhar in Punjab has been engaged in litigation against his employer - Central Bank of India - seeking reinstatement.

Aggarwal was 29 years old when he was falsely implicated in an embezzlement case.

He is now 62.

In 1978, the bank had lodged a criminal case against two of its employees, including Aggarwal, for allegedly withdrawing R1.59 lakh from six inoperative depositor accounts. Aggarwal was then suspended.

However, in 1983, a trial court in Jalandhar acquitted him in the case. In 1991, the Punjab and Haryana High Court dismissed the bank's appeal in the case.

However, 12 years after the alleged misconduct and seven years after his acquittal in the criminal case by the trial court, the bank initiated departmental proceedings against Aggarwal for "gross misconduct". In October 2007, the Punjab and Haryana HC quashed the departmental proceedings and the bank's appeal against this order, too, was rejected by a division bench in December 2007.

In February 2008, the bank moved the SC against the division bench's order on the ground that the alleged offence was of "a very serious nature" and the accused had been acquitted merely on technical grounds.

The bank also contended that Aggarwal never raised any objection to departmental proceedings when they began.

In the meantime, during the pendency of the case in the SC, just a day before his due date of retirement, the bank passed an order dismissing Aggarwal from service.

But this order has not been implemented in view of SC's directions and the fact that the issue is pending in the apex court.

Already, there have been 18 hearings of the case in the SC but most of them were adjourned.

"After one year of suspension, I should have started getting all emoluments and benefits, but for the suspension. However, it has been denied to me for 31 years. Between 1979 and 1987, I was given only a paltry sum of R500-600 a month. From 1987 to March 2009, I was given only R1,380 a month," Aggarwal said. "You can imagine how I have survived and fought this protracted legal battle," he added.

The bank's decision to fight this kind of protracted legal battle against an employee despite losing several rounds of litigation goes against the UPA government's national litigation policy - unveiled in June 2010 - that talks of cutting down government litigation and becoming a "responsible litigant".