Employee can be removed only for wilful absence: SC

A government employee, who remained absent unauthorisedly from duty, can not be proceeded against until, the authorities proved that his absence was willful and was not result of some compelling circumstances, the Supreme Court has said.

A Bench of justices G S Singhvi and S J Mukhopadhaya passed the significant verdict while setting aside the order of dismissal made by the authorities against K B Parmar, an Intelligence Bureau officer.

“The question whether ‘unauthorised absence from duty’ amounts to failure of devotion to duty or behaviour unbecoming of a government servant cannot be decided without deciding the question whether absence is wilful or because of compelling circumstances.

“If the absence is the result of compelling circumstances under which it was not possible to report or perform duty, such absence cannot be held to be wilful. Absence from duty without any application or prior permission may amount to unauthorised absence, but it does not always mean wilful.

“There may be different eventualities due to which an employee may abstain from duty, including compelling circumstances beyond his control like illness, accident, hospitalisation, etc.

“But in such case the employee cannot be held guilty of failure of devotion to duty or behaviour unbecoming of a government servant,” Justice Mukhopadhaya said, writing the judgment.

The apex court also made it clear that the disciplinary authorities would not be able to take departmental proceedings against the employee for misconduct if they failed to prove that the absence was a wilful one.

The Bench ordered for reinstatement of Parmar, who worked as security assistant, allowing his appeal against the Gujarat High Court’s order of 2005.

The high court had affirmed the decision of the Central Administrative Tribunal which had rejected his plea against the removal order passed on December 2, 2003. He was charged with unauthorised absence from duty under Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964. In the present case, the apex court’s Bench concluded that the Inquiry Officer as well as disciplinary authority on appreciation of evidence though held that the Parmar was unauthorisedly absent from duty but failed to hold the absence was wilful, and therefore wrongly held him guilty.

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