P&H HC | “Volume of work could not be the only basis to dispense with service”; HC directs reinstatement of probationary Additional District & Sessions Judge

Punjab and Haryana High Court

Punjab and Haryana High Court: Jitendra Chauhan and Girish Agnihotri, JJ., addressed the instant petition by one Parveen Bali, Ex-Additional District & Sessions Judge, seeking for quashing of the impugned order whereby her services as member of the Punjab Superior Judicial Service were dispensed with on the recommendation of the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Background

The petitioner was appointed on probation in Punjab Superior Judicial Service and the appointment was subject to the successful completion of probation period as per rules. She had joined the service on 10-12-2008. Later on, on the basis of review of work and conduct of probationer by the Judicial Officers Committee in its meeting held on 07-12-2010 after taking into consideration all the relevant material the petitioner was declared unsuitable to hold the post of Additional District & Sessions Judge.

The grievance of the petitioner was that she neither got appropriate time/circumstances to improve her work nor was given sufficient time to make any representation. The second ACR of the petitioner showed that she had improved her working. Also, government vide letter dated 14-03-2011 had requested the respondent to re-consider the order of dispensing the services of the petitioners and to give her personal hearing before finalizing the order. The Administrative Judge, after making personal inspection had in his speaking order considered the present case fit for reconsideration/review. However, neither appropriate opportunity was given to the petitioner nor her case was reconsidered. Further, the 3rd ACR i.e. for the year 2010-2011 was conveyed to the petitioner after one year from the date whereas the service of the petitioner was dispensed on 24-06-2011.

Observation and Analysis

 The Bench noticed that the impugned order suffered from discrimination as one Jatinder Kaur, who was similarly placed as that of the petitioner had received remarks in her ACR for the period from 10-12-2008 to 31-03-2009 as “not up to the mark” but her probation was extended, however, similar benefit was not extended to the petitioner in whose ACR the remarks were “Satisfactory”. “Average” and “Satisfactory”. The petitioner was meritorious in written examination also and had a better ACR. One of the ACRs was for three months alone from 10-12-2008 to 31-03-2009 when the Officer had just joined. The Bench remarked,

“The Sessions Division having been recently created and this was the initial period of the Officer’s career and the number of cases was also less. As per the record, for purpose long dates had already been assigned to the cases. So the Officers had the opportunity to take up less number of cases.”

Considering all these factors, the Officer ought to have been counselled, guided and deserved to have been given an opportunity to enhance her potential and performance. Since, in peculiar facts and circumstances, the volume of work could not be the only basis much less justified to dispense with her services. The Bench expressed,

“At the initial stage, young officers need to be encouraged so that he or she performs his/her best and the same is utilized for the general good of the Society.”

Noticing that primary deficiency alleged to be in the officer was her simple language which was treated as demerit and was a ground for her being dispensed with services, the Court expressed,

“Simplicity of the expression is an ornament of any language as the same is understood by the common man. In writing the complex sentences, sometimes essence of the subject is lost.” 

The subject should be guided by simple and constructive thought and not by complicated/complex language. That did not serve the purpose of anybody. Many of the officers in the cadre come from the country schools who did not have exposure to this foreign language.

Therefore, the Bench opined that the same should not be considered as a ground for drawing any adverse inference against the officer, rather that would be strength of any writer. Also, in none of the ACRs, the petitioner had been found to be given remarks as ‘not satisfactory’. Thus the order is liable to be quashed being violative of Rule 13(3) of Punjab Superior Junior Services Rules 2007 which was relied on by the respondent for discharging the petitioner.

Consequently, the impugned order and the procedure so adopted, both were quashed because in spite request by the petitioner, recommendations by the Inspecting Judge, matter being returned/referred by the Government for re-consideration, the petitioner was neither given an opportunity of hearing nor the above three facts were brought to the notice of the Full Court. Further, the petitioner was ordered to be reinstated in service within six weeks with all the consequential benefits, like continuity in service, seniority, further promotions, arrears of pay and all other service benefits.[Parveen Bali v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2534, 03-12-2020]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this story together

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