Poor Line Mazdoor Dismissed From Service For Prolonged Absence, Supreme Court Invokes Article 142 To Impose A Lesser Penalty
The Supreme Court has invoked Article 142 of the Constitution to protect the interest of a poor line mazdoor, who was dismissed from service due to prolonged absence.
The Bench comprising of Justice V. Ramasubramanian and Justice Pankaj Mithal, while adjudicating an appeal filed in The Eastern Coalfields Limited and Others v Ajit Mondal & Others, has substituted the penalty of dismissal of service by a lesser penalty, in the form of penalty of compulsory retirement from service. As a consequence, whatever benefits are applicable to a compulsory retired employee, shall be calculated and paid to the line mazdoor.
Mr. Ajit Mondal (“Employee/Respondent No. 1”) was employed as a line mazdoor in the Eastern Coalfield Limited (“Employer”) from the year 1975. The Employee absented himself for quite a few days in 1999, 2000 and 2001; and for 106 days in the year 2002. In view of the same, the Employer initiated disciplinary action for unauthorized absence and passed an order for penalty of dismissal from service, but only pertaining to absence in 2002.
The Employee preferred a writ petition before the High Court, which was dismissed by Single Judge. However, the Division Bench in an intra-Court appeal, entertained the writ petition on the ground of proportionality of penalty. The High Court remanded the matter to the disciplinary authority for substituting the penalty of dismissal with a lessor penalty.
The Employer challenged the decision of Division Bench of High Court before the Supreme Court.
SUPREME COURT VERDICT
The Bench observed that the charge imposed by the Employer was confined to the year 2002. Though the Employer is entitled to consider the antecedents of the Employee, however, such antecedents cannot relate to the same misconduct upon which action has been taken.
It was opined that the test of proportionality has to be seen in a larger context, which includes the Employee’s unblemished service from 1975 onwards. The Bench upheld the High Court’s application of test of proportionality.
“The respondent was a poor line mazdoor and superannuated more than a decade ago. Therefore, we would like to exercise our power conferred under Article 142 of the Constitution and substitute the penalty of dismissal of service by a lesser penalty.”
Considering the plight of a poor line mazdoor, the Bench invoked its powers under Article 142 of the Constitution and substituted the penalty of dismissal by a lesser penalty. The High Court’s Order has been modified to the extent that the penalty of dismissal from service dated 17.10.2002, is directed to be substituted with a penalty of compulsory retirement from service. As a consequence, whatever benefits are applicable to a compulsory retired employee, shall be calculated and paid to the Employee within eight weeks.
Case Title: The Eastern Coalfields Limited And Others v Ajit Mondal & Others.
Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 209
Labour Law - the Court can always test the extreme penalty of dismissal from service on the test of proportionality- Poor Line Mazdoor dismissed from service reinstated by Supreme Court invoking Article 142 of the Constituton.