Supreme Court: In a case where an employee had produced a fake certificate for seeking employment, the bench of MR Shah* and BV Nagarathna, JJ has held that producing the false/fake certificate is a grave misconduct and dismissal of service is a justified punishment in such cases.
The respondent in the present case was originally appointed as a casual employee with the Indian Oil Corporation. He was later regularized as a Helper after presenting a fake Secondary School Leaving Certificate. The disciplinary authority imposed a punishment of dismissal from service on him. However, the Bombay High Court directed reinstatement of the respondent without any back wages and other benefits.
The respondent had submitted before the Court that he pleaded guilty and admitted that he had submitted a forged and fake certificate on the assurance that lesser punishment will be imposed. However, the Supreme Court found that except the bald statement, there is no further evidence on the same. Nothing has been mentioned on record as to who gave him such an assurance.
The Court observed that,
“The question is one of a TRUST. How can an employee who has produced a fake and forged marksheet/certificate, that too, at the initial stage of appointment be trusted by the employer? Whether such a certificate was material or not and/or had any bearing on the employment or not is immaterial. The question is not of having an intention or mens rea. The question is producing the fake/forged certificate. Therefore, in our view, the Disciplinary Authority was justified in imposing the punishment of dismissal from service.”
The Court also observed that no specific reasoning was given by the High Court on how the punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority could be said to be shockingly disproportionate to the misconduct proved.
“As per the settled position of law, unless and until it is found that the punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority is shockingly disproportionate and/or there is procedural irregularity in conducting the inquiry, the High Court would not be justified in interfering with the order of punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority which as such is a prerogative of the Disciplinary Authority.”
Holding that the High Court exceeded in its jurisdiction in interfering with the order of punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority, the Court observed that in the facts and circumstances of the case and for the reasons stated above and considering the charge and misconduct of producing the fake and false SSLC Certificate proved, when a conscious decision was taken by the Disciplinary Authority to dismiss him from service, the same could not have been interfered with by the High Court in exercise of powers under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.
[Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. v. Rajendra D. Harmalkar, 2022 SCC OnLine SC 486, decided on 21.04.2022]
*Judgment by: Justice MR Shah
For appellant: Advocate Rajiv Shukla
For respondent: Advocate Suruchi Suri