J. Venkatesan

"It has become a principal cause of indiscipline affecting government services"

Judgments earlier approved dismissals for "sleeping" during office hours, for "using abusive language" and for gheraoing senior officersAppeal was filed by Rajasthan Government after High Court reduced punishmentHigh Court cannot interfere with findings of fact based on evidence

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has given its nod for yet another reason for dismissal of an employee from government service - long absence from duty.

The apex court in a series of judgments earlier approved the dismissal of a worker for "sleeping" during office hours, for "using abusive language," for "assaulting" his boss and for gheraoing senior officers in an organisation. It held that punishment of dismissal for such acts could not be construed as disproportionate to the charge.

In the present case, allowing an appeal filed by the Rajasthan Government, a Bench of Justice Ruma Pal and Justice A.R. Lakshmanan observed: "Absenteeism from office for prolonged periods without prior permission by the government servants has become a principal cause of indiscipline which has greatly affected various government services."

Writing the judgment, Justice Lakshmanan said the Rajasthan Service Rules contemplated that if a government servant remained wilfully absent for a period of more than one month and if the charge of his absence was proved, he could be dismissed from service. While so, the High Court committed an error in reducing the punishment, the Bench said.

Cautioning the High Courts on reducing the punishment, the Bench said: "While considering the quantum of punishment, the role of the administrative authority is primary and that of the court secondary, confined to see if discretion exercised by the administrative authority caused infringement of rights."

The judges further said the court could not interfere with the findings of fact based on evidence and substitute its own independent findings.

The Bench noted that judicial review was not an appeal from a decision but a review of the manner in which the decision was made. The power of judicial review was meant to ensure that the individual concerned received fair treatment and not to ensure that the conclusion arrived at by the authority was correct.

Quoting various decisions, the Bench said the court should not interfere with the administrative authority's decision on the quantum of punishment unless it was illogical or suffered from procedural impropriety or was shocking to the conscience of the court.

The Bench noted that in this case, the respondent, Mohammed Ayub Naz, was given an opportunity to contest the disciplinary proceedings and it was proved that he absented himself from duty.