In an important judgment, the Supreme Court has said a second marriage by a government servant in violation of service rules can be a valid ground for packing him or her to compulsory retirement.
The ruling came from a Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice L S Panta on an appeal by the Union of India against an order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, which held that the punishment of compulsory retirement from service was not commensurate with such misconduct.
The High Court had asked the Appellate Authority to reconsider the penalty imposed on one K G Soni, who was compulsorily retired as a Senior Attendant in the Bank Note Press, Dewas in 1997 after 22 years of service.
The punishment was awarded after the Disciplinary Authority held him guilty of misconduct for a second marriage in 1974, about which his first wife complained. He had also concealed his first marriage solemnized a year earlier from the authorities.
However, the apex court set aside the HC order and restored that of the Appellate Authority, observing, “the scope of judicial review is limited to the deficiency in decision-making process and not the decision.”
The SC also took note of the fact that the HC did not point out why it considered the misconduct to be not serious. “Unless the punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority or the Appellate Authority shocks the conscience of the Court, there is no scope for interference,” the Bench said.
“Further, to shorten litigation it (HC/Tribunal) may in exceptional and rare cases, impose appropriate punishment.” “In a normal course, if the punishment imposed is shockingly disproportionate, it would be appropriate to direct the Disciplinary Authority to reconsider the penalty imposed,” the SC said.