The Madras High Court has directed the Railways to reinstate a person with disability, who was dismissed 25 years ago on charges of not being available in office after signing the muster, deliberately receiving her colleague's salary, and leaving without informing anybody.

In its judgment on an appeal by the woman, a Division Bench, comprising Justices Elipe Dharma Rao and D. Hariparanthaman, however, modified an order of Central Government Industrial Tribunal-Cum-Labour Court, Chennai, and said the reinstatement would be without back-wages but with continuity of service and attendant benefits. The Railways must pay wages from the date of the Tribunal's award till her reinstatement.

G. Annie Christy was appointed as Clerk at Tiruchirappalli in September 1980. On September 29, 1984 she signed the muster. It was a Saturday and half working day.

Ms. Christy collected her salary. As one of her colleagues was not present when her name was called for receiving salary, the appellant collected her salary too.

Ms. Christy, who was suffering from stomach pain, sensed it was turning acute. She placed a leave letter on the Superintendent's table as the Head Clerk was not available, and left for home.

She returned the same day to hand over the salary to her colleague but, by then, the latter had left office. She handed over the colleague's salary to the Superintendent.

Charges were framed against her and, after an enquiry, she was dismissed from service on June 6, 1985.

After her appeal and revision petitions to authorities were dismissed, she moved the Tribunal, which reviewed the evidence adduced in the domestic enquiry held in February 2003.

The Tribunal ruled that the dismissal was not justified and ordered her reinstatement with continuity of service and back-wages.

The Railways moved the High Court and a single judge in November 2008 set aside the Tribunal's award. Hence the present appeal by Ms. Christy.

Setting aside the single judge's order, the Bench said Industrial Tribunals were specially-constituted courts.

They had powers to re-evaluate evidence. The Tribunal had held that the appellant left office urgently because of severe stomach ache caused by menstrual problem.

The judges said that it was an admitted fact that the appellant came back to office the same day and returned the salary payable to her colleague to the Superintendent. Hence they did not find any error in the Tribunal's findings that Ms. Christy's act could not be characterised a “deliberate act” to cheat her colleague.