HC annuls dismissal of ex-Army man who assaulted superior

In a major relief to an ex-serviceman who was dismissed from service for assaulting a superior officer over 20 years ago, the High Court of Karnataka has not only set aside his dismissal but also directed the Union government to provide him all retirement benefits he is entitled to from the date of his expulsion.

Minter Marvel Jelly, a Nayak in 841 Light Regiment, 56 APO, Ajmer, was court-martialled in mid-May 1994 for assaulting a superior officer on March 17 that year.

As a punishment, he was demoted to Sepoy. Another memo was issued on December 26 that year to review the punishment.

The earlier order of demoting him was set aside and he was severely reprimanded. On April 4, 1995, the brigadier of his unit issued him a show-cause notice why he should not be dismissed for his misbehavior under the administrative power. His reply to the notice was rejected and he was dismissed from service on April 27, 1995.

Jelly, who hails from Bhadravathi in Shivamogga district, appealed to the High Court against the dismissal. A single bench, which heard the matter on September 5, 2001, allowed his petition and ruled that the dismissal order was in violation of the Army Act and Rules, and ordered his reinstatement along with back wages.

The Army challenged the single-bench order, contending that the departmental action was not prohibited even after the court martial.

Submitting that the petitioner was a habitual offender and had committed an act of insubordination and exhibited criminal tendency, the Army argued that continuing such an officer was detrimental to the interest of nation and that the dismissal was justified.

Jelly countered by saying he was dismissed by means of administrative action after the two court martial proceedings failed to achieve the required results.

Insisting that he had assaulted the officer due to instant provocation, Jelly stated that the punishment was imprisonment of three months or fine of Rs 500 or both and that the incident occurred at the waiting room of a railway station in the heat of the moment.

The division bench observed, “There is no history shown to the alleged incident. We are of the view that punishment order was harsh and severe and disproportionate and warrants our interference. The punishment of dismissal from service in the midst of his service without any retrial benefits available disturbs our judicial conscience.”

In its order dated October 31, 2014, the bench also observed that the since the punishment order was passed on admission of charges by the employee and the same should not go unpunished or else it will send wrong signals, it allowed the petition in parts by amending the single-judge order.

Accordingly, Jelly will not be entitled to any back wages from the date of his dismissal to the day he attained superannuation (retired).

The bench then ordered that Jelly be treated as on continuous duty from the day of his dismissal to the day he attained superannuation.

It also directed that the Army provide him pension benefits.

Comments (+)