Imagine remaining absent from duty for 15 years and still retaining the job. And to top it, securing a court order for payment of half the salary for the period.
This is the case of West Bengal resident SN Das, who was able to retain his job as assistant engineer with the Airports Authority of India (AAI) without attending office for 15 years. Besides, the Calcutta High Court also ordered the AAI to pay him salary for half the time.
Though the state-run AAI agreed to re-instate Das, it approached the Supreme Court against having to pay him half the salary. The apex court struck down the high court ruling ordering the AAI to pay Das the salary.
The apex court ruling was pronounced May 16, but released late last week.
Das, an assistant engineer with the AAI at Kolkata airport, was transferred to Delhi in March 1985. He reported for duty at Delhi airport on March 19, 1985, but proceeded on 18-day leave from March 26 on account of his grandmother's illness.
Das failed to join duty on expiry of his leave. Instead, he kept getting his leave extended on medical grounds till the AAI on Aug 12 that year asked him to appear before its Kolkata medical board to get himself examined.
The board found him medically fit and Das was asked to join duty immediately, failing which he was threatened with termination of his services.
Das simply ignored the AAI's directives to join back. On Oct 17, 1985, the AAI asked him to either join duty by Oct 31 or consider his services terminated from Nov 1.
Das decided to approach the court. He moved the Calcutta High Court against the AAI dismissal order in early 1986.
The high court took a decade in deciding the case.
On Nov 10, 1995, the court ordered the AAI to reinstate Das without paying him the salary for the period of his absence.
Das was not satisfied. Instead of joining duty, he challenged the high court's single bench order before a division bench of two judges, demanding his pay and perks for the period of absence.
This round of litigation ended in 1999, when the court ordered the AAI to "sympathetically consider" Das' demand for at least half his pay.
Das eventually joined the AAI, which in May 2002 declined to give him half the pay based on the principle of "no work no pay".
Another long round of litigation followed, ending in March 2007 when the AAI was ordered to pay Das half the salary.
The AAI challenged the high court order in the apex court, which struck it down on May 16.