1 Dec 2023 4:45 AM GMT
The Madras High Court has recently observed that in service jurisprudence when two interpretations could be given to rules relating to penalty and punishment, the one favourable to the employee should be given effect. In allowing the plea by directing an enhancement in the petitioner's retirement benefits, Justice RN Manjula observed that since service jurisprudence was similar...
The Madras High Court has recently observed that in service jurisprudence when two interpretations could be given to rules relating to penalty and punishment, the one favourable to the employee should be given effect.
In allowing the plea by directing an enhancement in the petitioner's retirement benefits, Justice RN Manjula observed that since service jurisprudence was similar to penal jurisprudence due to the imposition of a penalty, such a view, akin to one taken in penal jurisprudence while giving the accused the benefit of doubt, could be imported to service jurisprudence as well.
“Even if a rule about penalty or punishment is capable of giving two interpretations, the interpretation which is favourable to the employee should be given effect to. Such interpretation in service jurisprudence is possible, because it is as similar as to penal jurisprudence where also, when two views are possible, the view which is favourable to the accused is given to his benefit. The similarity is due to the imposition of penalty and its consequences on the employee, while dealing him under the Service Rules,” the court observed.
The court was hearing a plea by one Selvamoorthy, who had retired from TANGEDCO seeking the department to consider his representation for notional promotion as Junior Engineer/Electrical Grade II, on par with his immediate junior in the selection list to enable him to get better terminal benefits.
On behalf of TANGEDCO, it was submitted that Selvamoorthy's name was not considered given an earlier punishment imposed on him. It was submitted that once a punishment was imposed on a person, he would not be included in the promotion panel for the next five consecutive years.
The department submitted that as per the Tamil Nadu Government Servants (Conditions of Service) Act, 2016, Schedule XI(1), the merit, ability, and other aspects of the employees shall be assessed over five years as per annual confidential reports and punishments, if any, imposed for promotion.
The court noted that Selvamoorthy was imposed a punishment involving the stoppage of one increment beginning on October 21, 2019, which would have expired on October 21, 2020. Though the department contended that the one year period would be counted only after the order was received, the court noted that the order did not state anything to that effect.
The court further observed that as on the date of the promotion panel, on February 26, 2021, there was no currency of punishment.
The court also observed that as per the Tamil Nadu Board Disciplinary and Appeal Regulations, one of the punishments for erring employees was withholding of increment OR promotion. The court thus observed that when an increment was withheld, promotion could not be simulatenously denied as it would amount to punishing twice for the same offence.
“According to the Tamil Nadu Electricity Board Disciplinary and Appeal Regulations, one of the punishments for the erring employee is withholding the increment or promotion. When an increment is withheld, the petitioner cannot be denied with promotion. If promotion is stopped, then the increment also cannot be stopped. It is like punishing twice for the same lapse,” the court observed.
The court further observed that by keeping the check-period as five years, the Rules only conveyed that a person could not be denied promotion for more than five years and the same could not be expanded to mean that the person who suffered punishment should not be given any promotion at all during the entire check period even though the punishment was not ongoing at the relevant point of time.
Thus, considering the broader meaning and object of the Regulation and the nature and gravity of the lapse by Selvamoorthy, the court opined that his request for notional promotion could be considered for the purpose of enhancing retirement benefits. The court thus directed the authorities to consider his request for enhancing the retirement benefits.
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mrs.Radhika
Counsel for the Respondents: Mr.K.Rajkumar Standing Counsel for TANGEDCO
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (Mad) 375
Case Title: G.Selvamoorthy v The Chief Engineer (Personnel)
Case No: W.P.No.6294 of 2021