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Courts should not be guided by misplaced sympathy: SC

Statesman News Service |

New Delhi, 13 October
The Supreme Court has said courts should not be guided by “misplaced sympathy” while examining quantum of punishment of an offender. It made this observation while ordering removal of a clerk from service for going to work in a drunken state.
A Bench of Justice S J Mukhopadhaya and Justice A K Sikri set aside a Meghalaya High Court decision ordering reinstatement of the man, who was working as an upper division clerk (UDC) in Kendriya Vidayala Sangthan. He was removed from job for going to work under the influence of alcohol during duty hours.
“Repeatedly this court has emphasised that the courts should not be guided by misplaced sympathy or continuity ground, as a factor in judicial review while examining the quantum of punishment,” the Bench said.
The HC had ordered reinstatement of the clerk on the ground that the penalty of removal from service was disproportionate to the nature and gravity of his misconduct.
The school authorities had approached the apex court questioning the reasoning and rationale of the direction given by the HC.
The apex court, however, held that the reasoning of the HC was “unacceptable” and restored the decision of the Central Administrative Tribunal upholding the punishment of removal of the man from service.
“We find that the high court has totally downplayed the seriousness of misconduct. It was a case where the respondent employee (clerk) had gone to the place of work in a fully drunken state. Going to the place of work under the influence of alcohol during working hours (it was 11.30 a.m.) would itself be a serious act of misconduct.
“What compounds the gravity of delinquency is that the place of work is not any commercial establishment but a school i.e. temple of learning. The high court has glossed over and trivialised the aforesaid aspect by simply stating that the respondent was not a habitual drunkard and it is not the case of the management that he used to come to the school in a drunken state regularly or quite often. Even a singular act of this nature would have serious implications,” the Bench said.
The allegation against the UDC was that on 24 May 2000, during his duty hours, he had forcibly entered the office of the principal of the school in Tura in Meghalaya, in a totally drunken state.
The authorities had ordered his removal from service which he had challenged in several forums.
The man had accepted that he had come to the school drunk but added that he had gone to the market and his friends offered him drinks. As it was a new experience for him, he felt drowsy and while returning home, remembered that he had left something behind in the school and therefore had gone to pick them up, he said.
The Bench said entering in the school in a drunken state itself was a serious misconduct. “Thus, in our view, entering the school premises in working hours i.e. 11.30 a.m. in an inebriated condition and thereafter forcibly entering into the principal’s room would constitute a serious misconduct. Penalty of removal for such a misconduct cannot be treated as disproportionate.".