Madras High Court: In a writ petition filed to quash an order passed by the Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation (‘TNSTC’), wherein the corporation terminated petitioner’s services considering the earlier charges for which the petitioner was already punished; and to quash the same as illegal, arbitrary and capricious. Further, to direct TNSTC to reinstate the petitioner with continuance of service and backwages with attendant benefit and to provide employment as per the provisions of law, P.B. Balaji, J. while quashing the impugned order , directed TNSTC to reinstate the petitioner with continuance of service and back wages together with all attendant benefits within a period of six weeks from the date of receipt of this order.
In the case at hand, the petitioner has joined the services of the TNSTC as conductor in 2007 and ever since he has been working there. On 05-09-2015, TNSTC issued a show cause notice calling for an explanation for a charge said to have been committed by the petitioner. Though the petitioner gave a detailed explanation, the Enquiry Officer found the petitioner guilty of the charges. Thereafter, TNSTC issued another show cause notice calling upon the petitioner as to why he should not be removed from services.
The charges against the petitioner for the latest incident are that he has not issued a ticket to a lady passenger after receiving Rs. 5/- being the ticket amount; he had Rs. 7/- excess in his money bag; thus, he failed to act as a responsible employee of the Corporation.
As pe the petitioner’s explanation, he had issued tickets to all passengers on the alleged date and that the lady passenger who boarded the bus and purchased the ticket from him for Rs. 5/- had lost her ticket and to escape the fine , she conveniently shifted the blame on the petitioner, as if the petitioner never issued a ticket.
The Court said that none of the offences set out in the show cause notice appear to be of any serious or grave nature. The explanation offered by the petitioner is also very much plausible and acceptable. TNSTC must not have relied on the past concluded proceedings, that too in respect of a specific charge regarding non-issuance of ticket and having an excess of Rs. 7/- in his money bag.
The Court said that even if it accepts the petitioner’s version that he had issued a ticket after receiving the sum of Rs. 5/- from the lady passenger, then the excess money available with him would be only Rs. 2/-. This cannot be termed as an act causing loss to TNSTC. The Court was surprised that in respect of such a charge, TNSTC removed the petitioner from service by imposing maximum penalty. Further, it stated that the punishment given is grossly disproportionate to the offence and it has shaken the conscience of the Court. The Court also did not appreciate the procedure adopted by TNSTC by referring to earlier concluded proceedings for holding the latest charge against the petitioner.
[A. Ayyanar v. General Manager, 2023 SCC OnLine Mad 4365, Order dated 23-06-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For Petitioner: Advocate S. Elambharathi;
For Respondent: Standing Counsel M. Aswim.