Read Judgment: Sukhdarshan Singh V. The State of Punjab & Ors. 

Pankaj Bajpai

New Delhi, March 4, 2022: While answering a question pertaining to the period when the employee was under suspension or kept out of service as a result of the disciplinary proceedings against him, the Supreme Court has opined that upon an order being passed by the appellate authority finding the termination of employee to be illegal and leaves it there, it would not ipso facto inevitably follow that the employee will become entitled to claim the salary for the entire period consequent upon his being found to be entitled to reinstatement.This is a matter for the authority to decide, added the Court. 

A Division Bench of Justice K.M. Joseph and Justice Hrishikesh Roy observed that when an employee who has been proceeded against, succeeds before the higher forum, the question as to what is to be done for the period when he was kept out of service would have to be determined in the manner provided therein. 

Going by the background of the case, Sukhdarshan Singh (Appellant) was appointed as a Clerk by the State Transport Department. In the year 1986, an FIR came to be registered against him on alleged acts of embezzlement. Accordingly, the appellant was suspended. While he was undergoing suspension, yet another occurrence took place which led to an FIR being registered u/s 307 & 506 of IPC. The Trial Court convicted the appellant u/s 324 r/w/s 506 of IPC. 

After a period of six years, the appellant came to be served with show cause notice under the Punjab Civil Services (Punishment and Appeal) Rules, 1970. However, by order dated March 13, 2003, it was decided to remove the appellant. As regards the first FIR relating to embezzlement, the Judicial Magistrate acquitted the appellant. The High Court sustained the conviction of the appellant u/s 324 and 506 of IPC. However, it reduced the sentence u/s 324 to the period undergone and ordered a sentence of one month for offence u/s 506. 

Being aggrieved by the order of the appellate authority noting that the appellant will not be given anything for the period of suspension and this period will be declared as dies-non, a civil suit came to be instituted and the appellant sought a declaration to the effect that the order to the extent that the pay of the appellant was denied was illegal and arbitrary and against the Rules and that he was entitled to full pay for the period that he had been denied, the salary and benefits. He sought a mandatory injunction to release the pay denied to him with 12 percent interest. Upon contest, the suit came to be decreed. Relying on Rule 7.3 of Punjab Civil Service Rules, the Court found that the trial court and the appellate court erred in not appreciating that the appellant was not acquitted in the criminal case and also that Rule 7.3 empowered the competent authority to pass appropriate order. 

After considering the submissions, the Top Court noted that Rule 15(v)(f) of the Rules, 1970 indeed contemplates that when there is a dismissal, removal, compulsory retirement or reduction to a lower service inter alia and there is an order of reinstatement, the authority is to pass an order as to whether the period from the date of suspension or from the date of his dismissal, removal or compulsory retirement till the date of his reinstatement, is to be treated as a period spent on duty for any purpose. 

Thus, the first appellate authority in proceeding to impose the condition that the appellant will not be entitled to any salary for the period and that it will be treated as dies non could not be sustained, added the Court.

Speaking for the Bench, Justice Joseph observed that the further direction by the decree passed by the trial Court and confirmed by the first appellate authority that the appellant will be entitled to the salary for the period he was kept out of service also cannot be sustained.

Accordingly, the Apex Court modified the judgment passed by the first appellate Court and set aside the decree passed by the trial Court directing payment of salary to the appellant for the period that he was kept out of service.

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