Section 4(6) of Payment of Gratuity Act does not contemplate conviction as a condition precedent for forfeiting gratuity

Bombay High Court: A Single Judge Bench comprising of S.C. Gupte, J. dismissed a writ petition which was filed challenging the forfeiture of payment of gratuity due to the petitioner.

The petitioner worked as a Branch Manager with the respondent Bank. He was charge-sheeted for misconduct alleging misappropriation of funds. It was alleged that a total sum of Rs. 30,000 was misappropriated by the petitioner. Accordingly, the services of the petitioner were terminated. Subsequently, the petitioner filed an application for payment of gratuity under Section 4 of Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972. Meanwhile, the respondent Bank forfeited the gratuity payable to the petitioner under Section 4(6)(b)(ii) of the Act. Petitioner’s application for payment of gratuity, mentioned hereinabove was allowed by the Controlling Authority, which order was reversed by the Appellate Authority on an appeal by the respondent Bank. Petitioner challenged the order of the Appellate Authority in the instant petition. His main contention was that for invoking Section 4(6)(b)(ii) for forfeiting gratuity, conviction of the concerned employee for any offence for the time being in force is a condition precedent.

On perusal of the said section, the High Court was of the view that contention of the petitioner was liable to be rejected. The Court opined that Section 4, read as a whole, does not lend itself any such construction as put forth by the petitioner. There was no basis for claiming that the act referred to clause (b)(ii) of the section, namely, “act which constitutes an offence involving moral turpitude”, must be proved in a criminal court of competent jurisdiction. Referring to a few decisions of the Supreme Court and other High Courts, the Hon’ble Judge held that conviction for an offence involving moral turpitude was not a condition precedent to forfeit the amount of gratuity under Section 4(6)(b)(ii). Holding thus, the Court held that the impugned order passed by the Appellate Authority does not suffer from any illegality, and thus no interference with the impugned order was called for. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed. [Laxman Balu Deualkar v. Kolhapur District Central Coop. Bank Ltd.,2018 SCC OnLine Bom 1284, decided on 14-6-2018]

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