Madhya Pradesh High Court: In a case related to reinstatement of service with all consequential benefits where appointment was initially for a period of one-year, a single-judge bench comprising of Maninder S. Bhatti, J. observed that contracts for personal service are not specifically enforceable when they are purely contractual and lack statutory governance and held that the petitioner’s termination was justifiable under the terms of the contract and applicable law.
In the instant matter, the petitioner was initially appointed as Samooh Prerak on 01-09-2015, for a one-year period. The petitioner’s work locations included Bhind and Rewa, with a transfer from Rewa to Bhind on 07-03-2020.
The petitioner challenged the transfer order, and an interim order stayed the transfer on 26-05-2020. The interim order remained in force until a decision on the petitioner’s representation on 30-09-2020, which was rejected. The petitioner filed a writ petition challenging the rejection, but it was dismissed on 27-02-2021. After the rejection of the representation, the petitioner attempted to rejoin the service but was not allowed. The petitioner filed another writ petition, leading to an order dated 30-11-2021, directing acceptance of the petitioner’s joining. However, the respondents issued orders dated 30-11-2021, and 08-12-2021, informing the petitioner of the termination of the contract based on unauthorized absence for more than one month.
The petitioner preferred present writ petition challenging the impugned orders dated 30-11-2021, and 08-12-2021 and sought writ order of direction in the nature of certiorari thereby quashing the impugned orders and direction to the respondents to reinstate the petitioner in service with all consequential benefits such as arrears of salary, continuity in service, future career growth etc.
Whether the petitioner’s termination from service was justified based on unauthorized absence?
The petitioner’s contended that the termination order is unsustainable because the petitioner had an interim order in place from 26-05-2020, until the decision on the representation. The petitioner placed reliance on Clause 17 of the contract for unauthorized absence is misconceived since the petitioner was actively pursuing his grievance regarding the transfer order.
The respondents contended that the petitioner has no right to claim joining based on Clause 8.2 of the Madhya Pradesh Rural Livelihood Mission (MPRLM) policy. It was further contended that the petition is not maintainable due to the existence of an alternative remedy with the Appellate Authority and the applicability of Clause 17.
The Court reviewed the facts and found that the petitioner had been absent for an extended period between the rejection of the representation on 30-09-2020, and the dismissal of writ petition on 27-02-2021.
The Court cited SBI v. S.N. Goyal, (2008) 8 SCC 92, where the Supreme Court held that “when the relationship of master and servant is purely contractual, the contract of service is not enforceable, and the employment is governed purely by contract and if there is no element of statutory governance, the contract of personal service will not be specifically enforceable” and emphasised that contractual appointments have limited rights, and specific enforcement is not guaranteed. The Court upheld the termination order as per Clause 17, which automatically terminated the contract for unauthorized absence.
Key Legal Principles
- Contracts for personal service are not specifically enforceable when they are purely contractual and lack statutory governance.
- Clause 17 of the contract provides for automatic termination if the employee remains unauthorizedly absent for more than one month.
Alternative remedies should be pursued in accordance with the applicable policies and regulations.
The Court held that the respondents did not commit any error in terminating the petitioner’s contract, and the petition was devoid of merit. The Court dismissed the petition and denied the petitioner’s request for relief.
[Sudheer Kumar Sharma v. State of M.P., 2023 SCC OnLine MP 3035, order dated 25-08-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Shri K.C. Ghildiyal, Senior Advocate with Shri H.C. Singh, Counsel for the Petitioner
Shri Manan Agrawal, Counsel for the Respondent No. 2, 4 and 5
Shri B.K. Kushwaha, Counsel for the Respondent No. 1 and 3