Stop believing that government staff cannot be punished: Bombay High Court The services of the bus conductor were terminated for wrongly punching the tickets The Bombay High Court has said that the widespread notion that no action can be taken against government servants for their wrongdoings should be done away with. The division bench of Justice GS Patel and Justice Gauri Godse...
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Stop believing that government staff cannot be punished: Bombay High Court
The services of the bus conductor were terminated for wrongly punching the tickets
The Bombay High Court has said that the widespread notion that no action can be taken against government servants for their wrongdoings should be done away with.
The division bench of Justice GS Patel and Justice Gauri Godse was hearing an appeal in the Jaising Nivrutti Sonawane vs Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation case.
The appeal was filed by a former Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) bus conductor Jaising Sonawane against a single judge's order upholding a labor court award that confirmed the termination of his services.
The high court noted that the single judge rightly declined to interfere with the award of the labor court.
The bench remarked, "Justice A P Shah declined to interfere and, in our view, quite correctly so. There is such a thing as too much leniency. The approach in this country is believing that when one works for the government no action can ever be taken. No matter how persistently one is found to be doing wrong is an approach that needs to now stop as fast as possible."
The appellant is an MSRTC bus conductor. In December 1995, he was on duty on the Pune to Borivali route when an inspection squad checked the bus at Lonavala. It found that Sonawane had wrongly punched some tickets and had an excess of Rs.24.50 in his possession.
It further found that the wrongly punched tickets were not mentioned in the waybill, pursuant to which a charge sheet was filed. On inquiry, his services were terminated.
The conductor raised an industrial dispute, and a reference was made to the labor court, which passed an award in February 2005 dismissing his reference. He then filed the petition before the high court.
Noting that this was not the first instance of misconduct on the conductor's part, the single judge refused to interfere with the labor court's order.
The counsel for the petitioner submitted that related to the disproportionality of the punishment, a lenient view ought to have been taken and sought lesser punishment.
However, the bench stated, "As to the generality of the proposition that proportionality is crucial in any decision-making process, there cannot be any doubt. But this does not mean that every infraction has to be allowed to be got away with just a slap on the wrist. When one assesses the doctrine of proportionality, one looks not only at the immediate cause inviting punishment, but also at the entire context and, in this case, a pattern or a history of conduct, especially the past conduct."
Replying to the petitioner's contention that there was no actual defalcation or misappropriation on his part, the court underlined that the labour court had concluded that there was a mala fide intention on the conductor's part.
Thus, dismissing the appeal, the bench added, "The order of the Labour Court is abundantly clear. It found that there was a mala fide intention on Sonawane's part to use these six tickets for a return journey. In other words, this means there was some illicit intention for the journey in one direction. The argument that there was no actual defalcation or misappropriation is less than impressive. It means that unless somebody actually commits a theft, no action can be taken, even if the person is apprehended while in the process of attempting wrongdoing."
While advocates RV Govilkar, Mihir Govilkar and S Khan appeared for the appellant, MSRTC was represented by advocates GS Hegde and PM Bhansali.