Punjab & Haryana High Court: While allowing the instant petition filed against the order, whereby the services of the petitioners were terminated in 2017, Anupinder Singh Grewal, J., reinstated the petitioners in service holding that their dismissal was in violation of Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee Rules.
The petitioners were two regular employees in SGPC working as Sewadars for several years. They were terminated from their services without holding an enquiry or following the procedure laid down in service rules governing SGPC employees. The petitioners are charged with misconduct as they were found in an ahata (‘Tavern’) consuming alcohol which is strictly prohibited amongst the SGPC employees.
Rule 4 of SGPC Regulations says that the dismissal charges have to be framed and the employee has to be given adequate opportunity to respond. If the charges are denied, then a regular enquiry has to be conducted. Action will be taken against the employees only when the charge is established. Further, if an employee is reinstated on exoneration after the suspension, then he is entitled to the arrears of salary of suspension period.
The counsel for the petitioner submits that the punishment of dismissal is disproportionate to the alleged misconduct. Further, it was contended that though the petitioners were present in the tavern, they did not consume alcohol. It was also brought to the notice of the Court that no medical examination for the same was conducted before passing the orders to terminate their services.
The counsel for the respondents submits that consumption of alcohol is strictly prohibited amongst SGPC employees. Further, it was contended that the petitioners were found in the tavern with glass half-filled and with a bottle on the table. The Counsel relied on Mahavir Singh v. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, LPA No. 640 of 2014 wherein termination of the employees without conduct of a detailed enquiry was upheld.
Observation and Analysis:
The Court stated that as the petitioners, who are regular employees, having rendered several years of service have been dismissed without holding a regular enquiry, the dismissal is in violation of service rules.
The Court said that in the case of Mahavir Singh v. Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, the employees consumed liquor while on duty and misbehaved with the devotees, and a due diligence report was also registered.
The Court held that the petitioners must be reinstated in service and are also entitled to the notional benefits with continuity in service. The SGPC with the freedom to conduct a regular inquiry.
[Bhai Dilbag Singh v. SGPC, 2022 SCC OnLine P&H 2049, decided on 25-08-2022]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the Petitioners: Ms. Vanita Sapra Kataria
For the Respondents: Mr. P.S.Thiara, Advocate
Mr. APS Virk, Advocate
Mr. Gurvinder Singh Sidhu, Advocate