Hearing a PIL filed by Central Electricity Supply of Orissa (Civil Appeal NO. 9872 OF 2013), the apex court has ruled that courts cannot order recovery of the amount of an employee while abrogating the appointment as "denial of pay for the service rendered tantamounts to forced labor which is impermissible."
The bench of Justice Anil. R. Dave and Justice Dipak Misra dismissed the order passed by Orissa High Court which quashed the appointment of BC Jena as the CEO of Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha (CESU) and also directed the PSU to recover the amount paid to Jena as honorarium. The bench said that ,"even while issuing a writ of quo warranto there cannot be any direction for recovery of the sum.,"While entertaining a PIL pertaining to a writ of quo warranto we would add that it is the obligation of the court to pave the path which are governed by constitutional parameters and the precedential set-up. It is to be borne in mind that laws are commended to establish a society as required by the paradigms laid down by law. The courts while implementing law may not always be guided by total legalistic approach but that does not necessarily mean to move on totally moralistic principle which has no sanction of law."
On the issue of the recovery of the honorarium the Bench opined that a judgment can be erroneous but when there is a direction for recovery of the honorarium, it indubitably creates a dent in the honor of a person. "Honor once lost may be irredeemable or irresuscitable", it said.
In the instant case Jena, who was earlier chairman of CESU (the distributor of electricity in the Central Zone of Odisha) was appointed CEO of CESU on March 31, 2010 and it was decided that he would enjoy all the perquisites/facilities as was being given to the earlier CEO except the monthly emoluments. Later, the scheme was amended and the Commission fixed consolidated honorarium of Rs 70,000 per month, which was later challenged in the High Court through a PIL. The High Court quashed the appointment by terming it as "illegal" and directed recovery of the amount from Jena.
The ape court set aside the order of the high court and ruled that,"The Court is required to see that the larger public interest and the basic concept pertaining to good governance are not thrown to the winds."