Axing employees on peccadilloes spells doom, of all, to the well being of the very organization. Intolerance of triviality is as dangerous as tolerance of barbarity, the court said.
An SBI Life employee, having won a contest, was sent for training abroad. On his flight to Colombo, where he would attend the training, he was deplaned having found ‘drunk’. The employer fired him, dismissing him from service. Now, the Kerala High Court found this dismissal ‘shockingly disproportionate’.
Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu has framed the question to be decided in the case as follows;
"An employee wins a foreign jaunt; apart from the pleasure pursuit, the employee will undergo training abroad. On board the flight bound overseas, the employee is found drunk, too much. He is deplaned. The employer treats it as grave misconduct, punishes him —with removal from service. Is the punishment shockingly disproportionate?"
Justice Naidu observing that it is not a case of misbehaviour or misconduct on duty, but on the ‘way to duty’ and it can be taken as a mitigating factor, said: “Venu deserves, at least, one more chance to redeem himself. Wisdom may dawn on him: Ethanol may enthrall him, but it can end his career, too—which it almost did now.”
Rejecting the contention of the employer that Venu’s conduct was unbecoming of its officer, the court said his conduct on board a flight bound abroad may have embarrassed the employer and nothing more.
“Axing employees on peccadilloes spells doom, of all, to the well being of the very organization. Intolerance of triviality is as dangerous as tolerance of barbarity,” the court said.
Having noted the successful career graph of Venu, who had earned five promotions for his good performance, the court that his summary dismissal for a minor misconduct is not only shockingly disproportionate, but also institutionally inappropriate.
Setting aside the dismissal order, the high court then remanded the matter to the appellate authority to reconsider the issue for imposing an alternative punishment, short of dismissal from service.
Read the Judgment here.