Refusal to accept alternative job on same pay scale is “abandonment of service”: SC

Supreme Court: A Bench comprising of A.M. Sapre and Indu Malhotra, JJ. disposed of an appeal seeking enhanced severance package wherein the order passed by Delhi High Court was modified.

The appellant worked as Senior Confidential Secretary to Senior Manager (North India) of HSBC Bank. In May 2005, the post became redundant as the said officer left the services of the Bank. Pursuant thereto, the appellant was offered four alternative jobs in the same pay scale. The appellant admitted that she declined to accept any of these jobs. Consequently, the Bank issued a letter terminating her services. In lieu thereof, a compensation amount of Rs 8,17,071 was paid to her. The appellant raised an industrial dispute under the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947 seeking enhancement of severance package. This was opposed by the Bank. The litigation continued and it was an admitted fact that the appellant had received a total amount of Rs 1,07,73,736 under various heads. During the course of litigation, the Delhi High Court had held that she had abandoned her job and therefore the amount she had received was 13 times her legal entitlement. She was directed to return the amount received in excess of Rs 8,17,071 minus litigation expenses and amount received under Section 17-B of ID Act. Aggrieved thereby, the appellant preferred the instant appeal.

The Supreme Court perused the record and was of the view that the Bank was justified in terminating services of the appellant. Referring to Vijay S. Sathaye v. Indian Airlines Ltd., (2013) 10 SCC 253, the Court held that intention of the appellant could be inferred from her refusal to accept any of the four alternative positions offered to her. Also, the claims raised by her were only for enhancement of compensation and not for re-instatement in service. The Court held that this conduct constituted a voluntary abandonment of service, therefore she could not have been in “continuous service” as defined under Section 2(oo) of ID Act and hence, Section 25 of ID Act cease to apply on her. On facts of the case, it was held that the amount already received by the appellant may be treated as the final settlement of all her claims. The appeal was accordingly disposed of. [Manju Saxena v. Union of India,2018 SCC OnLine SC 2659, decided on 03-12-2018]

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