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Compulsory Retirement Order Can Be Quashed If It Was Punitive In Nature: Supreme Court

Megha Nautiyal ,
  21 March 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Hon’ble Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
CIVIL APPEAL NO. 6161 OF 2022

CAUSE TITLE:

Captain Pramod Kumar Bajaj v. Union of India & Anr.

DATE OF ORDER:

3 March 2023

JUDGE(S):

Hon’ble Justice Hima Kohli and Hon’ble Justice A.S. Bopanna

PARTIES:

Appellant: Captain Pramod Kumar Bajaj

Respondent: Union of India & Anr.

SUBJECT:

The Hon’ble Supreme Court (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Court’), held that an order for compulsory retirement of an employee can be quashed if the same has been passed as a punitive measure to prevent him from getting a job opportunity. 

The Ld. Court allowed the appeal in the present case and quashed the impugned order dated 27th September, 2019 passed by the respondents.

BRIEF FACTS:

  • The appellant was recruited as a Permanent Commissioned Officer in the Indian Army in  1980. However, due to some physical disability he was released from service. Later in 1989, the appellant appeared for the Civil Services Examination was appointed for the post of an Indian Revenue Service Officer. Thereafter, on 12.01.2012, he was promoted to the rank of Commissioner in the Department of Income Tax and was empanelled for the post of Member of the Income Tax Appellate Tribunal (ITAT) in 2014. Again in 2016, the appellant was empanelled by the ACC to be appointed for the post of Joint Secretary to the Government of India. 
  • The appellant challenged his adverse Intelligence Bureau report before the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), wherein the Union Government was directed to resubmit the adverse IB Report to the Selection Committee for reconsideration. 
  • Going against the order of CAT, the Union Government filed a writ petition before the Allahabad High Court which was dismissed and directions for reconsideration within a stipulated time period was given. The Apex Court also rejected the petition.
  • Later on, the appellant filed a contempt petition against the Union Government for not complying with the orders of the High Court and the Supreme Court.
  • This led the Union Government to issue disciplinary proceedings against the appellant and he was compulsorily retired in 2019. 

QUESTIONS RAISED:

  • Whether the order for compulsory retirement of the appellant was justified?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  • The Counsel for the appellant contended that serious prejudice was caused to him because of the active participation of the Additional Director General (Vigilance) and the Chairman of CBDT in the appointment process when they had a bias against him.
  • It was also contended that in 2019, the appellant was selected by the Selection Committee which was headed by a sitting Judge of the Apex Court and his name appeared at Serial No.1 in the All India Ranking (AIR). Furthermore, the impugned order for his premature retirement is purely punitive in nature and a tool to prevent the appellant from getting the opportunity to be appointed as a member of ITAT. 

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENTS:

  • The Counsel for the Respondent contended that that the impugned order is well-reasoned and does not need to be interfered with. Further, the order for the compulsory retirement of the appellant was passed after due consideration of his entire service record.
  • The Central Administrative Tribunal carefully examined the order for compulsory retirement before finally dismissing the Original Application filed by the appellant. It was dismissed on the ground of it being meritless and that the allegations raised by the appellant of institutional bias and malice are ill-founded. 

ANALYSIS BY THE COURT:

  • The Ld. Court observed that as per Rule 56(j) (Order for compulsory early retirement) of the Fundamental Rules, the Government is authorised to retire an employee, if it is in public interest. This provision can only be invoked when the concerned Government officer has attained 50 years of age. The scope of judicial review in such orders is quite limited.
  • The Court also observed that the appellant had an excellent service record without any blemishes. However, the Union Government contended that there were about 9 pending complaints against the appellant which were not shown in the service record. The Court noted that there is nothing in the service record that would indicate a ground for his early retirement. 

CONCLUSION 

It was held by the Ld. Court that an order for compulsory retirement of an employee can be quashed if the same has been passed as a punitive measure to prevent him from getting a job opportunity. On the same ground, the Court quashed the impugned order dated 27th September, 2019 passed by the respondents ordering for the compulsory retirement of the appellant.

 
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