SL SC | ‘There is a duty, both to the bank to preserve its fair name and customer whose money lies in deposits’; Termination upheld on grounds of misconduct

Supreme Court of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka: A Full Bench of Sisira De Abrew, Prasanna Jayawardena and S. Thurairaja, JJ. entertained the instant appeal filed against the order of  Provincial High Court, where the judgment passed by the Labor Tribunal was reversed.

The factual matrix of the case was that one workman-respondent was employed with People’s Bank-appellant, where he was a member of the Trade Union. Several allegations of misconduct were filed against the respondent and he was terminated from his services from the said ground. The Labor Tribunal held that the termination was just and equitable and also found that during the course of his employment at the appellant’s establishment, the respondent had misconducted himself on several occasions, some of which included disobeying the orders of his superiors, misbehaving in the presence of customers and abusing his superiors using foul and obscene language.

Hence, the respondent against the order of the Tribunal filed an appeal in the High Court, where it was held that, ‘Respondent was “mentally retarded” and that owing to his mental retardation, he could not be held responsible for the alleged misconduct.’ Accordingly, the order of the Tribunal was set aside and the appeal was allowed, payment of compensation was ordered, equivalent to the salary of five years.

Thus, the Appellant-Bank filed the instant appeal aggrieved by the order of the High Court for payment of compensation and not holding respondent liable for the alleged misconduct. The Court observed that the theory advanced by the High Court was applicable when determining the criminal responsibility of a person in a criminal case. However, in cases involving an employer-employee relationship, such standards set out in criminal law cannot be applied since; such a relationship was founded on the principles of trust and discipline. It was further noted that, as a result, any breach of these principles affected, not only the relationship between the employer and the employee but also the quality of the services provided by the employer along with the reputation of his establishment.

It was further observed by the Court that, the respondent had, not only refused to obey the legitimate instructions of his superiors at several instances but had also insulted and humiliated a superior officer in the presence of customers and it is a general rule that refusal to obey reasonable orders justifies the dismissal from service. Hence, the order of the Tribunal was upheld and the judgment of the High Court was set aside on the ground that, higher standards which were applicable in criminal cases cannot be applied to cases before the Labor Tribunal. Thus, the termination order was maintainable.[People’s Bank v. Lanka Banku Sevaka Sangamaya, SC. Appeal No. 107 of 2010, decided on 09-07-2019]

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