Bom HC | Amount misappropriated not to be considered while determining proportionality of punishment; labour court’s order reinstating employee quashed

Bombay High Court: Ravindra V. Ghuhe, J. allowed a petition filed by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation against the order of the Labour Court whereby it had directed reinstatement of the respondent in service.

The respondent, at the relevant time, was working as a bus conductor with the petitioner Corporation. In August 1991, he was apprehended of having collected ticket fare and having permitted two passengers to travel ticket-less. The amount of misappropriated was Rs 17. The respondent was found guilty of the charges against him in the departmental enquiry, and he was dismissed from service. The respondent approached the Labour Court which concluded that the enquiry held against him was fair, proper and not vitiated in any manner. The findings of the enquiry were also upheld. However, while considering the proportionality of the sentence, the Labour Court concluded that the punishment awarded to the respondent was shockingly disproportionate, and therefore directed his reinstatement in service.

The Corporation, represented by D.S. Baguk, Advocate, challenged the order of the Labour Court. It was submitted that this was the third time that the respondent was dismissed for such conduct.

Relying on Damoh Panna Sagar Rural Regional Bank v. Munna Lal Jain, (2005) 10 SCC 84Bieco Lawrie Ltd. v. State of W.B., (2009) 10 SCC 32; and Janatha Bazar v. Sahakari Noukarara Sangha, (2000) 7 SCC 517, the High Court noted that the quantum of amount misappropriated is not a decisive factor. The Court observed: “The impugned judgment of the Labour Court is an outcome of misplaced sympathy since the Labour Court concluded that a very meager amount has been misappropriated by the respondent. Showing misplaced sympathy in such matters or in matters wherein, a grave offence or misconduct has been committed, is an anathema.” In such view of the matter, the Court allowed the petition and quashed the order of the Labour Court.[Maharashtra SRTC v. Vanji Sitaram Bagul, 2019 SCC OnLine Bom 1013, decided on 13-06-2019]

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