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Staffer’s dismissal by unauthorised authority negation of rule of law: HC

Chandigarh: Directing the Punjab government to reinstate a part-time lecturer who was sacked by authorities without following proper procedure, the Punjab and Haryana high court held that dismissal of an employee by an authority lacking legitimate power for that is a violation of Article 16 of the Constitution and would be negation of the rule of law. The court also imposed a cost of Rs 50,000 on the state.
“An executive agency must be rigorously held to the standards by which it professes its action to be judged. Accordingly, if dismissal from employment is based on a defined procedure, even though generous beyond the requirements that bind such agency, that procedure must be scrupulously observed. This judicially evolved rule of administrative law is now firmly established…,” observed the HC while referring to a judgment by US Supreme court in Vitarelli versus Seaton case.

Justice Mahabir Singh Sindhu passed these orders while allowing a petition filed by Gurjinder Singh  for quashing the impugned order dated July 7, 2021, passed by the principal, MRPD Government College, Talwara, in Hoshiarpur district, whereby the petitioner, who was working as part-time lecturer in mathematics, was dismissed from service On January 14, 2020, at around 5 pm, when petitioner was returning to home, he received a phone call from a NCC cadet (ex-student of the college) that she had fallen down near Satnam Gas Agency and sought his help. The petitioner reached the spot and noticed that the student was not well, therefore, she was made to sit in the rear seat of his car. When the petitioner was taking the girl to hospital, the police arrived and after calling her parents ,she was handed over to them. The incident appeared in a local newspaper with the allegation that the college professor was found in an inebriated condition after consuming liquor with an ex-female NCC student.

On January 20, 2020, the principal issued a show-cause notice to the petitioner on the allegation that he received a phone call from the Director Public Instructions, Colleges Punjab, that the education minister was very much disturbed over the incident and an inquiry was to be conducted in the matter. Later, the principal issued his dismissal orders.

Challenging the dismissal, the petitioner argued that the order is stigmatic in nature and dismissal cannot be imposed without conducting regular departmental inquiry even against a part-time employee. He specifically contended that during the so-called inquiry, neither any witness was examined, nor was the petitioner granted opportunity of cross-examination; and the inquiry report is merely an eye-wash. Opposing his plea, the state government contended that petitioner was working on a part-time basis, thus, he was not entitled to any regular inquiry. It was also stated that work and conduct of the petitioner remained chaotic and as such, to restore the image of the college, he was rightly dismissed from service. However, state counsel acknowledged that a copy of the inquiry report was never supplied to him before passing the order.

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