It is not the amount but criminal intention is enough justification for dismissal

Though normally punishment should be proportionate to the gravity of the misconduct of an employee, for corruption/misappropriation the only deserts are dismissal, the Supreme Court has held.

It is not the amount embezzled but the mens rea (criminal intention) to misappropriate public money is enough justification to dismiss the delinquent employee, said a vacation Bench of Justices B.S. Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar.

The Bench, quoting an earlier ruling, said: “Any sympathy shown in such cases is totally uncalled for and opposed to the public interest. The amount misappropriated may be small or large; it is the act of misappropriation that is relevant.”

Fare collected but no tickets

In the instant case, the Uttar Pradesh Road Transport Corporation dismissed a bus conductor who failed to issue tickets to certain passengers after collecting the fare from them. The labour court upheld the dismissal. An appeal filed in the Allahabad High Court was transferred, on State reorganisation, to the Uttarakhand High Court in Nainital. It directed re-instatement of the respondent, Suresh Chand Sharma, but without back wages.

While the Corporation questioned the judgment, the employee argued that for embezzlement of a petty amount, dismissal was not at all justified and sought back wages.

Justice Chauhan, writing the judgment, pointed out that it was not a case where the respondent could not issue tickets to passengers and recover the money, but after collecting the fare, he did not issue tickets. Thus, there was an intention to misappropriate the fare collected from the passengers who were found travelling without ticket.

On the Corporation's submission that the High Court had not given reasons while directing the re-statement of the respondent, the Bench said furnishing reasons in a judgment was an essential element of the administration of justice. According to the law, the court while deciding a case was under an obligation to record reasons, however brief. It was a requirement of the principles of natural justice. Non-observance of this principle would vitiate the judicial order.

The Bench rejected the respondent's contention that dismissal was disproportionate to the proved delinquency. It allowed the Corporation's appeal and set aside the impugned judgment of the High Court. The labour court's award was restored.

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