An employee who causes loss to the employer either through his direct criminal act or through abetment can be dismissed from service and such punishment cannot be termed as shockingly disproportionate to the offence committed, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

Allowing a writ petition filed by Cumbum Urban Cooperative Society, Justice M. Venugopal said that loss of confidence would be the primary factor in deciding the quantum of punishment and not technical issues such as the direct or indirect involvement of the employee concerned in the offence.

The Cooperative Society had filed the present writ petition challenging an order passed by the Madurai Labour Court in October 2004 directing it to reinstate, with back wages, a clerk who was dismissed on charges of misappropriation of funds in connivance with its Secretary. Reversing the order, Mr. Justice Venugopal said that the Society had rightly dismissed the clerk accused of abetting the offence and acting against the interest of his employer without exercising an impeccable standard of honesty and integrity.

“When the Society has lost the confidence upon the employee, the Labour Court cannot exercise its discretion and set aside the order of termination. The view taken by the labour court is an illogical and illegal one. Hence, this court interferes with the award of the court to prevent an aberration of justice,” he said.

Further, stating that a labour court was not empowered to interfere with a punishment imposed after a fair departmental enquiry, the judge said: “It is to be borne in mind that as per Section 11A of the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, a labour court should act as a court of revision and not an appellate court.” The judge pointed out that the secretary of the cooperative society had taken away Rs.3.37 lakh deposited by its customers who redeemed their pledged jewels. The clerk did not bring the misappropriation to the notice of the Special Officer of the Society despite being aware of it.

“This goes to show that the employee had connived or aided or abetted the misdeeds or misconducts of the said Secretary of the Society and… if he is retained in employment, then it will be against the interest of the petitioner Society,” the judge added.

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