1- Vishnu being the introvert person that he is and going by the rule book all the time was justified in his actions. He tried to be act in a dignified and professional manner and befitting in a way that the company would expect him. Vishnu in fact felt that now he had the support of the Financial Controller after resolving the issues raised by external auditors w.r.t. earlier bill payments and their one to one discussions and also subsequent framing of a revised policy wherein only two senior personnel were authorized to approve payments in deviation cases. Hence Vishnu was justified in his role and behavior and he had always maintained it that way even though it came at the cost of his PMS ratings, increment amount and career progression.
The marketing head probably being responsible to get new business by taking proper care of the company's potential customers didn't care for the rule book or company's policies. He only wanted things to be done his way because he was getting business for the company. But it doesn't work all the time. A company who is serious about its systems, processes and policies and knows that finance has to be strictly monitored or controlled because that is the only way it can survive, sustain and grow will not allow such leeway expenses to be approved without proper justification or a business case related to it. The marketing head should have checked with his finance counterpart on the expense policies before embarking on lavish expenses for the company's potential customers. A little bit of common sense on part of the marketing head could have avoided the entire situation.
2- Absolutely not, physically abusing someone doesn't justify the actions especially if you are in a senior most and leadership level position which in this case is the marketing head. People look up to you for command and respect as a leader but if the marketing head starts verbally abusing his subordinates trying to show them as to who's the boss and even gets physical in certain scenario, then he is not fit to be a head for any position in any organisation. Leadership and people management skills matter at a certain seniority level and not just technical skills alone, no matter how good one maybe at it. Ability to get along with colleagues, work together with them and not just by authority and use of force do matter a lot in 21st century times. BOSS culture just does not work any longer.
3- Yes, Vishnu was right to some extent. It's not being junior or senior when it comes to following company's rules, policies and processes. They are meant to be same for everyone. There can't be two different yard sticks for measurement for two different people in the same organization. And Vishnu was ultimately responsible for all payables for all internal and external stakeholders. Vishnu was also liable to answer to external auditors for payments made by him to the stakeholders. Also Vishnu was comfortable by the fact that he had the Financial Controller's backing incase of deviations from policies for making payments & the fact that a revised policy had also been made to that effect.
However, in spite of all this, the Marketing head wanted to have his way. He wanted to circumvent the rules in his favour as he was not used to following policies. When Vishnu pointed out what was right and what needed to be done, the marketing head did some patchy work to show compliance. Vishnu being the compliant person that he is didn't accept it. This provoked the marketing head who tried to show him who's the boss and that resulted in physical altercation between the two.
Ideally, Vishnu should have escalated the matter to his reporting authority i.e. the Financial Controller. He should have stopped there since it was getting out of his control and boundary. Retaliation, though a natural human tendency, can be controlled. Vishnu should have known that confronting his senior will not work in his favor as the odds were stacked against him. And Vishnu was not a popular person in the organization nor was his performances on paper that great even though he was sincere and loyal. Tactfully referring the payment matter to his superiors for resolution would have helped avoiding the confrontation.
4- No, the management's action in suspending Vishnu is neither right nor appropriate. It sends out the wrong message to others in the organisation that superiority or seniority will have its way and that insubordination to them will not be tolerated.
As HR head, I would have first taken note of all the facts that led to this situation. I would have heard versions of both the parties. Also the HR policies would have served as a guide or reference book when it came to analyzing the situation and determining as to who is right and who is wrong. Arbitrarily suspending Vishnu just because he confronted the marketing head over a matter what he felt was right is not the correct thing to do. He should have been given an opportunity to present his version of the case. Also the HR head can speak to his marketing colleague and counsel him as how to handle such situations as he is in a senior position. The HR Head could have also taken views of the Financial Controller before arriving at a final decision as ultimately the matter was related to finance & payment.