Delhi High Court| Introduction of Voluntary Retirement Scheme by a Department does not automatically qualify an employee to the benefits of the scheme as a matter of right

Delhi High Court

Delhi High Court: In a petition filed by the petitioner to set aside and quash the impugned order dated 5-11-2009, dismissing the petitioner from services, chargesheet dated 17-6-2008 and findings dated 12-6-2009 and to further direct the respondent-State to accept the VRS of the petitioner w.e.f. 6.01.2007 in terms of the Voluntary Retirement Scheme of the respondents, Chandra Dhari Singh, J. held that no illegality is found in the impugned order as no procedural infirmity is pointed out in the conduct of the disciplinary inquiry and the Petitioner has also not been able to prove violation of any statutory provisions or principles of natural justice.

The Petitioner joined Kendriya Bhandar (Respondent 3) as Accounts Officer w.e.f. 28-06-1996 as Chief Accounts Officer on an ad-hoc basis w.e.f. 01-02-1999 followed by his regularization as Chief Accounts Officer (CAO) w.e.f. 12-01-2001. Kendriya Bhandar introduced a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) vide circular dated 7-08-2006 inviting applications for voluntary retirement from the employees up to 06-11-2006. As per the terms and conditions of the VRS, the management of Kendriya Bhandar will have the right to grant or refuse the voluntary retirement of an employee subject to, reasons being recorded in writing.

The Petitioner applied for VRS seeking voluntary retirement from 6-01-2007 before the Board for their consideration. The Board decided that the request of the existing CAO may be considered by the Board after the appointment of DGM (F&A) and till then compensated him by way of fixed special allowance. In the meantime, a disciplinary proceeding was contemplated against the petitioner and a memorandum was issued requesting the petitioner to explain the allegation that he failed to safeguard the financial interest of the organization and a penalty of “Censure” was imposed on him on finding him guilty.

Thereafter, he suddenly absented himself from duty without information or without getting his leave sanctioned and a memo was issued to him directing him to join duties immediately and to explain why disciplinary action should not be taken against him for unauthorized absence. The Petitioner informed that he was ill and stated that the period of absence from duty may be treated as Medical Leave though he had already joined some other organization w.e.f. 3-01-2008.

A complaint was received in Kendriya Bhandar against him that he is working in the Okhla Industrial Area without resigning in Kendriya Bhandar or without acceptance of his request for VRS and a memo was issued asking for an explanation. A Vigilance Officer was appointed who confirmed the said allegations in the complaint. A further memo was issued to him stating that merely submission of an application for VRS did not bestow upon him any right that he can leave the organization without acceptance of the VRS or without him being relieved by the Competent Authority and was therefore, directed to show cause as to why disciplinary action should not be initiated against him.

Thus, a charge sheet for major penalty was issued against him. The petitioner filed an original application before the Tribunal and a petition before the instant court which was both dismissed as withdrawn. Thereafter, the petitioner filed seeking settlement of dues which led to his making representations before the Competent Authority wherein the inquiry was concluded ex parte as the petitioner failed to particpate in the inquiry inspite of being given several opportunities. Thus, the Board ordered dismissal of petitioner from the services, assailing which, the present petition was filed.

The Court noted that whether an employee should be permitted to retire in accordance with the Scheme if the Scheme itself provides for retirement to become effective upon completion of the notice period. The VRS that was implemented by the Department is, in essence, an expression of the Department’s aim to prune the overstaffed positions.

The Court recorded that the petitioner has not even bothered to inform the Respondent organization regarding his absence from duty and joining another organization. The said fact is crystal clear upon perusal of the record and the averments of the present petition.

Thus, the Court held that no procedural infirmity is pointed out in the conduct of the disciplinary inquiry and the Petitioner has also not been able to prove violation of any statutory provisions or principles of natural justice.

[Sanjay Gupta v. Union of India, 2022 SCC OnLine Del 4609, decided on 23-12-2022]

Judgment by: Justice Chandra Dhari Singh

Advocates who appeared in this case :

Mr. Sudeep Singh, Mr. Akul Mehandru and Mr. Amit Malik, Advocates for the Petitioner;

Mr. Ruchin Mishra, Mr. Mukesh Tiwari and Ms. Mansi Verma, Advocates for UOI Mr. D.K. Garg, Advocate for the R-2.

*Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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