The Hon’ble High court of Punjab and Haryana in Hawa Singh Bhambhu v. State of Haryana and Ors [LPA No.593 of 2020] held that the State government has an absolute right to retire an employee in order to weed out ‘deadwood’ from the government services, but this has to be decided on subjective satisfaction about the employee’s performance during service.
The Hon’ble Court observed that “On perusal of abovesaid Rule 144 of the Rules, 2016, it is apparent that an employee can be retired prematurely on attaining the specified age on the ground of inefficiency and overall service record. The object of said rule is to weed out the dead wood in public interest.” The main object of said policy decision is to provide clean administration, improving efficiency and strengthening administrative machinery at all levels and to weed out dead wood whose integrity is doubtful.
It was further held that “While passing order of premature retirement, the competent authority is to ensure the application of mind to the record of the employee for making an objective analysis with a view to see whether such employee is fit to be continued in service or not. It is also to be seen whether his/her extension in service on attaining the age of 55 years or on completion of 25 years of qualifying service is in public interest. The border-line cases or the employees, who had shown consistent improvement in their work and performance may be considered for an extension of one year provided they have not earned adverse remarks reflecting their integrity.”
It has been a settled principle in various judgments of Hon’ble the Apex Court that compulsory/premature retirement is not a punishment as it does not leave any stain or stigma. The Punishing Authority has a right to review the work and conduct of the employee and total service record of the concerned employee is to be taken into consideration before taking a decision in the matter- of course attaching more importance to record and performance during the service period. The service record includes entries in the confidential records/character rolls, both favourable and adverse. The order, as such, is to be passed on the basis of subjective satisfaction by the Competent Authority on forming an opinion that it is not in public interest to keep the government employee in service or to retire him compulsorily. It is also not disputed that principles of natural justice have to be adopted and the order is not to be passed in an arbitrary manner without forming an opinion by considering the total service record. No doubt, judicial scrutiny is also permissible while granting premature compulsory retirement and in case the order is arbitrary or mala fide or is based on no evidence, then reasons are necessary to be recorded.