The Bombay High Court has held that only because a woman was found to be sleeping in an employee's room, it cannot be a ground for dismissing him for misconduct.
However, the court could not direct the employer -- Yashvantrao Chavan Academy of Development Administration (YASHADA) -- to take the person back in service, as the decision came 14 years after the man was dismissed.
The aggrieved employee in question was Shridhar Sakharam Omle. Omle was appointed as Garden Supervisor at YASAHDA in 1986. He was provided with a room on the institute's premises.
On the night of October 14, 1992, a watchman entered Omle's room as the room's door was not bolted from the inside. He saw that besides Omle, a woman was sleeping in the room.
Watchman reported this to his seniors. Upon inquiry it was found that her name was Hirabai and she worked in institute's mess. Authorities at Yashda -- which is a government institue -- held that this amounted to "misconduct" within the definition provided by institute's service rules.
Omle tried to defend himself by stating that the woman stayed overnight in his room as she had to catch an early morning train. He also stated that "the woman was like his sister".
But the authorities dismissed him nevertheless, against which he filed an appeal in the court.
The division bench of Justices RM Lodha and SF Vazifdar, which delivered the verdict last week, held that authorities were wrong in reaching the conclusion that Omle's behaviour amounted to misconduct.
Moreover, the judges disagreed with the authorities' claim that Omle, by his conduct, "brought bad name to the institute."
Justice Lodha held in the verdict that there was "no evidence worth the name to prove that lady sleeping in his room was an embarassment to Yashada."
"At the most it could be called impropriety," he added.
However, since Omle had already reached the age of retirement, the court ordered Yashada to pay him Rs 1 lakh as a compensation, instead of reinstating him in service.