Termination without fair hearing Invalid: Raj HC

Termination without fair hearing Invalid: Raj HC

The Rajasthan High Court recently invalidated the dismissal of a Physical Education Teacher (PET) by the State Government, emphasizing that the teacher had not been provided with a notice of a charge-sheet, nor was any inquiry conducted.

The court’s ruling highlights that employers cannot terminate employees accused of misconduct without affording them a proper opportunity for a defense and conducting a thorough inquiry.

In a single-judge bench, Justice Anoop Kumar Dhand noted: “The order was manifestly stigmatic action taken to terminate the petitioner’s service. Such action could not have been taken against the petitioner without giving him a full-fledged opportunity of hearing to defend and after holding a regular departmental inquiry.

The employer is not allowed to hire and fire, even if allegations are there against the employee with regard to any misconduct. The services cannot be given a go-by by one stroke of the pen on the ground of misconduct by casting stigma, without holding a regular inquiry in accordance with the principles of natural justice.”

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The case revolved around the petitioner’s selection for the position of Physical Education Teacher Grade-II in 1998. The petitioner’s degree had initially not been considered valid for the appointment, but a court order in 2005 directed a re-assessment of the petitioner’s merit, taking into account bonus marks for a State-level certificate. Subsequently, the petitioner received an appointment in 2006 after the verification of the documents and sports certificate.

However, in 2007, the petitioner’s service was dismissed, alleging that the documents and sports certificate were forged and fabricated. This dismissal was later withdrawn, subject to a separate inquiry. Simultaneously, the petitioner faced a criminal case but was acquitted of all charges in 2021.

The petitioner argued that the dismissal order was motivated by malice and that no notice or charge sheet was served upon him. Furthermore, he was not given an opportunity to rebut the allegations. The court highlighted that orders affecting a person’s employment must be issued following a fair and impartial process, which includes giving the individual a real and adequate opportunity to be heard.

The court cited various judgments, including those from the Supreme Court, to support the principle that a dismissal order without providing a reasonable opportunity for defense is null and void. The court underlined that the petitioner, being a permanent government employee, had the constitutional safeguard and protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India. Thus, the respondents were obliged to provide him with an opportunity to defend against his proposed dismissal, which was not granted.

Consequently, the court set aside the dismissal order and granted the respondents the liberty to conduct a fresh inquiry against the petitioner in accordance with the law, to be completed within six months.

Source: lawinsider

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