The Supreme Court has held that dismissal is the only form of punishment for those involved in corruption and misappropriation of public money, even if the embezzled amount is meagre.
The apex court said that though punishment should be proportionate to the crime, in cases of corruption, dismissal is the only punishment that could be imposed on a government employee.
"We do not find any force in the submissions made by Dr J N Dubey, learned senior counsel for the employee, that for embezzlement of such a petty amount, punishment of dismissal could not be justified for the reason that it is not the amount embezzled by a delinquent employee but the mens rea (guilty intention) to misappropriate the public money," a
bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar said in their verdict.
The apex court gave the judgement while upholding the dismissal of a bus conductor Suresh Chandra Sharma of the UP State Road Transport Corporation. Sharma was dismissed from service by the Corporation after a departmental inquiry held him guilty of collecting fares from about 25 passengers but not remitting them to the official exchequer.
The Uttaranchal High Court, however, had quashed the dismissal on the ground that the inquiry was vitiated as the authorities did not examine the passengers and ordered Sharma's reinstatement, but without any back wages.
Aggrieved by the order, both the corporation and the employee filed appeals in the apex court.
Upholding the Corporation's appeal, the apex court citing its 1996 judgement in the Municipal Committee, Bahadurgarh Vs. Krishnan Bihari case said, "In cases involving corruption - there cannot be any other punishment than dismissal.
"Any sympathy shown in such cases is totally uncalled for and opposed to public interest. The amount misappropriated may be small or large; it is the act of misappropriation that is relevant."
The apex court further cited the Vinod Kumar Vs UPSRTC case (2008) that "the punishment should always be proportionate to the gravity of the misconduct. However, in a case of corruption/misappropriation, the only punishment is dismissal."
The bench said that in a domestic inquiry, complicated principles and procedures laid down in the Code of Civil Procedure and the Indian Evidence Act need not be strictly adhered to.
"The only right of a delinquent employee is that he must be informed as to what are the charges against him and he must be given full opportunity to defend himself on the said charges.
"More so, the High Court is under an obligation to give not only the reasons but cogent reasons while reversing the findings of fact recorded by a domestic tribunal. In case the judgment and order of the High Court is found not duly supported by reasons, the judgment itself stands vitiated," the apex court added.