The Delhi High Court has directed the DDA to pay a lump sum compensation of Rs. 2 lakh to a man whose services as ‘chowkidar’ (security guard) were terminated 37 years ago following a theft at its godown, while observing that the trend of judicial thought appears to have sharply swung from the theory of "reinstatement with back wages (in whole or in part)" to the theory of "lump sum compensation".Justice C Hari Shankar said so, as he upheld the finding of the Labour Court that the man’s termination was illegal.Justice Shankar was hearing a petition moved by DDA against two orders of the Labour Court passed in January and March, 2003, declaring the termination of Mool Chand ‘illegal’ and directing his reinstatement with 50 per cent back wages.However, while noting that the order of the Labour Court to reinstate the man with 50 per cent back wages was “understandable”, Justice Shankar modified the same to Rs. 2 lakh compensation as he was of the opinion that “The respondent was appointed as chowkidar more than 40 years ago in 1976; in all probability therefore, he would have crossed the age of superannuation. No useful purpose would, therefore, be served, by directing the petitioner (DDA) to reinstate the respondent in service, at this distance of time.”“… it would be necessary to substitute the decision of the Labour Court to reinstate the respondent with 50% back wages, to an award of lump sum compensation. While deciding on the compensation to be awarded, this court cannot lose sight of the fact, that had the award been implemented, the respondent would have been in the employment of the petitioner till today, and would also be entitled to retiral benefits,” he said, directing the payment to be made within four weeks.In the instant case, Mool Chand was posted as chowkidar with DDA. On June 14, 1980, GI pipes worth Rs.73,600 were stolen from DDA’s godown. Mool Chand was held guilty of laxity and absence from duty and his services were terminated.He was forced to make a living performing poojas and reading horoscopes.When the matter reached Labour Court, it was held on March 24, 1998, that Mool Chand’s services were terminated illegally and unjustifiably on the grounds of principle of natural justice, and that he was entitled to be reinstated in service.The DDA challenged this award before the high court where a single judge bench set aside the order with directions to the Labour Court to give management a chance to lead evidence.In January 2003, the Labour Court held that the management had failed to prove the charges against Mool Chand and, consequently, exonerated him. In March, he was directed to be reinstated.On the issue of back wages, the Labour Court, while accepting the submission of the respondent that he had remained unemployed after his termination and that the work of conducting Poojas and advising on horoscopes and marriages, practiced by him, could not be regarded as gainful employment, directed that he be reinstated in service with 50% back wages and continuity of service.This decision came to be challenged once again by the DDA before the high court where Justice Shankar held that “it cannot be said that the Labour Court acted perversely in entering a finding that there was no cogent or corroborative evidence on record, to the effect that the respondent was unauthorizedly absent from duty”.“…as things stand, there was no clear-cut evidence regarding the time when the theft took place, and the finding, of the Labour Court, to that effect, cannot be characterized as so perverse as to vitiate its order… Almost as a post script, it is relevant to note that there is no allegation that the respondent was complicit in the actual commission of theft,” he said.