7 Dec 2022 4:33 AM GMT
Observing that dismissal is proportionate punishment for his attempt to defraud the bank, the Bombay High Court upheld a peon's dismissal from Central Bank of India for claiming and receiving over 6 lakhs as reimbursement for medical bills from a non-operational medical shop. Justice Sandeep V. Marne of the Aurangabad bench in a writ petition challenging the dismissal...
Observing that dismissal is proportionate punishment for his attempt to defraud the bank, the Bombay High Court upheld a peon's dismissal from Central Bank of India for claiming and receiving over 6 lakhs as reimbursement for medical bills from a non-operational medical shop.
Justice Sandeep V. Marne of the Aurangabad bench in a writ petition challenging the dismissal observed, "the misconduct alleged against the petitioner was of serious nature. He has caused financial loss to the respondent-bank by claiming and receiving reimbursement of Rs. 6,12,870/- which was not due to him. He had submitted further bills amounting to Rs. 3,24,729/- in further attempt to defraud the bank. The punishment of dismissal from service imposed on petitioner for such proved misconduct, in my view is proportionate and does not shock my conscious."
Petitioner was diagnosed with Hepatitis B in 2008. In 2014, he was dismissed from service for submitting fake bills from a medical shop which had gotten closed. He approached the appellate authority but was not reinstated. After failure of reconciliation, Central Government referred the case to the labour court.
The labour court passed Award I upholding the dismissal. The petitioner challenged the award before the High Court and the case was remitted back to the labour court for fresh hearing. The labour court granted Award II denying any relief to the petitioner. Hence the petitioner approached the High Court.
Advocate Uday V. Khonde for the petitioner submitted that he was denied an opportunity to engage an advocate to defend himself in the inquiry. Respondent produced additional documents directly before the labour court denying fair opportunity to the petitioner. He further submitted that the penalty is disproportionate to the misconduct and the gratuity amount and pension of petitioner is illegally being withheld.
Advocate S. S. Vidwans for the respondent-bank submitted that the misconduct committed by the petitioner is of serious nature involving misappropriation and financial irregularities and warrants the punishment of dismissal of service. Further, the documents submitted to the labour court were merely records of domestic enquiry which had already been supplied to the petitioner.
The court stated that the petitioner's conduct of procuring bills from an in-operational medical shop casts doubt on actual consumption of the tablets by the petitioner.
The court reiterated that if the presenting officer or enquiry officer are not law graduates, the employee cannot be assisted by an advocate during domestic enquiry.
The court noted that the petitioner fully participated in the inquiry proceedings and was given full opportunity to defend himself. "It is trite that if the Presenting Officer or Enquiry Officer are not law graduates, delinquent-employee cannot be provided assistance of an advocate during domestic enquiry."
The court further found that the documents submitted before the labour court via application dated August 29, 2018 were merely proceedings of enquiry which were already supplied to the petitioner. Therefore, no prejudice was caused to the petitioner, the court observed.
The court noted that the petitioner did not dispute labour court's finding that the licence of the concerned medical shop was surrendered in 2010 but he kept on producing bills from that shop up to August 2013. The court did not accept the petitioner's defence that the shop was home delivering medicine to him as there was no evidence to that effect.
Regarding the issue of non-payment of gratuity and pension, the court said that it was not a subject matter before the labour court and the petitioner has the liberty to adopt any remedy in that regard as may be available to him.
Therefore, the court did not find any perversity in Award I and Award II and dismissed the petition.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 6269 of 2022
Case title – Ajitkumar S/o Motilal Kasliwal v. Central Bank of India
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 477
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