Jharkhand High Court Reinstates Dismissed CRPF Officer, Citing Disproportionate Punishment

Jharkhand High Court reinstates CRPF officer, Samlendra Kumar, citing disproportionate punishment. Case: Samlendra Kumar v. Union of India.

In a recent case, the Jharkhand High Court has underscored the significance of considering various factors before imposing punishment in disciplinary proceedings. The court's emphasis on balancing accountability with compassion highlights the complexities involved in adjudicating cases of alleged misconduct. The case in question revolves around Samlendra Kumar, a Hawaldar in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), whose dismissal from service was deemed disproportionate by the court.

Justice S.N. Pathak, presiding over the case, emphasized the need for a nuanced approach in assessing disciplinary matters. He noted, "the overstay of leave by the petitioner was under compelling circumstances," suggesting that while Kumar had exceeded his leave period, the circumstances surrounding his absence warranted consideration. The court acknowledged that while employees, especially in disciplined forces, have a duty to promptly return to duty after leave, it also stressed the obligation of authorities to consider all relevant factors before imposing punishment.

Justice Pathak further remarked, "the punishment of dismissal from service is certainly disproportionate to the nature of misconduct," indicating the court's concern regarding the severity of the penalty vis-à-vis the circumstances of the case. The court's observations underscore the principle of proportionality in disciplinary actions, highlighting the need for punishments to align with the gravity of the offense.

The factual background of the case reveals that Kumar took leave due to his mother's illness, duly obtaining approval from the appropriate authority. However, he failed to report for duty on the scheduled day, leading to disciplinary action against him. Kumar claimed to have applied for an extension of his leave period, citing his mother's deteriorating health and his own illness with jaundice. However, his request was allegedly disregarded by the respondents.

Contrary to Kumar's claims, the respondents contended that they had sent several letters to his residential address, but received no response. Consequently, a warrant for his arrest was issued, and an ex-parte inquiry was conducted, resulting in his dismissal from service.

The court's deliberations focused on two key aspects: the justification for the termination order and the nature of Kumar's absence. In assessing the former, the court scrutinized whether the dismissal was justified given the circumstances surrounding Kumar's absence and the procedural irregularities in the inquiry process.

The court noted that while the charge of unauthorized absence was substantiated by the inquiry officer, there was evidence to suggest that Kumar had formally requested an extension of leave due to his mother's hospitalization, supported by medical documentation. Despite his pleas for an extension, the competent authority allegedly instructed him to return to work without addressing his requests.

Drawing upon legal precedents such as Union of India & Ors. vs. Giriraj Sharma and other relevant judgments, the court emphasized the principle that dismissal as a punishment should be reserved for cases where there is clear evidence of deliberate disobedience or misconduct. In Kumar's case, the court found that the dismissal order lacked sufficient evidence and disproportionately outweighed the charges against him.

In light of these considerations, the court ruled in favor of Kumar, quashing the penalty order and remitting the matter back to the disciplinary authority for reconsideration.