Pith and Substance Matter, not the Title. The Punjab Civil Servant Act and Tribunal Provide a Civil Servant with the Right of Representation, If not the right to Appeal, to a Higher Authority: SC
A civil servant/a police official was discharged from his duty on the ground that he had been absent from duty for more than four months without an application to or permission from the concerned authority. In this connection, an inquiry was also conducted. The civil servant filed a departmental appeal to a higher authority against the order of his discharge from service, which was also dismissed being not maintainable under Rule 12.21 of the Police Rules, 1934. The said rule is reproduced herein below for ease of reference:
“12.21 Discharge of inefficient. A constable who is found unlikely to prove an efficient police officer may be discharged by the Superintendent at any time within three years of enrolment. There shall be no appeal against an order of discharge under the rules”.
Aggrieved by the order of the higher authority, he filed his appeal before the Punjab Service Tribunal. The Tribunal also dismissed his appeal as time bared, asserting that the appeal should have been filed within the prescribed time limit, which was not done so. Hence, the appeal fore the Tribunal also met the fat of dismissal. In fact, the civil servant had spent some time during filing and pursuing his departmental appeal before the higher authority, which rendered his appeal before the Service Tribunal time bared, as the Tribunal maintained that the departmental appeal before the higher authority is not provided in law and it was a wrong forum. Hence, the appeal before the Tribunal would have been well within time if the departmental appeal was not preferred or a wrong forum was not availed.
The Court referred to the Rule 12.21 of the Police Rules, 1934, which does not provide right to appeal, section 21(2) of the Punjab Civil Servants Act, 1974 and section 4(1) of the Punjab Service Tribunal Act, 1974, and held that though the said police rule does not provide such right of appeal but the provisions of other two acts i.e. section 21(2) of the Punjab Civil Servants Act, 1974 and section 4(1) of the Punjab Service Tribunal Act, 1974, do provide an aggrieved civil servant from the order of his discharge from service with the right of representation to a higher authority.
In the case in hand, the aggrieved servant had preferred a representation before the higher authority but he had titled his representation as an appeal. This is a settled law that title of a document does not matter, it is the pith and substance which ought to be taken into account while assessing the true nature of a document. Mere providing a title of an appeal to a representation does not change the nature of a representation into an appeal and vise versa. A wrong title to a document does not render it wrong.
The Court at the end ruled that the departmental appeal filed by the aggrieved servant shall be considered as a representation pending before the higher authority and the authority shall decide it in accordance with law.c.p._3186_2020