Reinstating conductors, suspended for indulging in financial frauds and dishonesty is against constitutional values, Kutumb Suraksha Yojna quashed: Bombay High Court

The impugned scheme is unique and novel as it says a complete goodbye to laws and is against the interest of the public at large, especially the youth. The decision of the administrator must be within four corners of the law, and not one which no sensible person could have reasonably arrived at having regard to the principle of reasonableness. MSRTC fails to satisfy the test and standard of reasonableness since the object behind the scheme appears to be not bona fide and instead of a blatant abuse of powers.

This remarkable judgment was passed by the Bombay High Court in THE HIGH COURT OF BOMBAY, AURANGABAD BENCH V STATE OF MAHARASHTRA [SUO MOTO PUBLIC INTEREST LITIGATION NO. 01 OF 2017] by Honourable Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Honourable Justice Shrikant D. Kulkarni.

The scheme introduced by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation as “Kutumb Suraksha Yojna” through which, terminated or suspended conductors are sought to be re-appointed under the said scheme, is being challenged in this Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation.

Several writ petitions were filed before this Court seeking relaxation of the age restriction made under the notification of the MSRTC from 45 to higher age in order to get benefit of the said scheme “Kutumb Suraksha Yojna”. The said writ petition was placed before the Division Bench of this Court when this Court noticed that the scheme floated by the MSRTC is against the public interest since the employees who were charged or terminated or suspended on account of mis-appropriation of funds sought to be re-appointed under the guise of the scheme. This Court, converted the above said writ petition into Suo Moto Public Interest Litigation to consider the notification in question since it is against the interest of the public at large.

The facts leading to this Suo moto PIL are, MSRTC came up with a novel scheme of re-appointment of those conductors who are either suspended or terminated in order to extend financial benefits to the family members of such conductors under the scheme “Kutumb Suraksha Yojna”. In the official circular, it was mentioned that conductors who are dismissed on account of mis-appropriation or any charges of fraud or otherwise, will be re-appointed. The intention in launching such scheme was tried to be canvassed in such a fashion to show that due to the litigation between the MSRTC and the suspended conductors, heavy financial loss is being caused to the Corporation and also it was stated that due to the misdeeds of the conductor their family members are facing financial problems and in order to protect their families, such a scheme is launched in for their benefit.

MSRTC took a stand and submitted that the object of the scheme was that the family members should not be punished for the actions of their sole bread earner. Also, another aspect was based on Gandhian philosophy since this scheme provided an opportunity for such conductors to reform themselves by getting a fresh appointment and begin their employment fresh.

It was contended by the petitioners that the said scheme clearly amounts to giving price or reward to an employee who has been suspended or dismissed from services on account of mis-appropriation of funds. It is somewhat novel idea tried to be introduced by the MSRTC against the settled provisions of law since the scheme is against the Constitutional provisions.

The Division Bench strictly stated, “It is tried to be canvassed before us that for the welfare of the family members of suspended or dismissed conductors of the MSRTC, the impugned scheme is launched. It is by way of rehabilitation of suspended/dismissed conductors and their families. It is for their welfare and to protect their fundamental rights. We are not impressed by such argument.”

Labour Legislation is adapted to overcome economic and social challenges at the modern world of work and there are various State and Central Laws which take care of welfare of labors but such schemes could not be against constitutional values.

There cannot be a debate that welfare of the employees is to be protected by the employer. At the same time, whatever policy decision is to be taken, it must be in consonance with the rules and regulations and should be reasonable and not irrational. The decision or the policy should not be against the public interest, which may hamper the generation of employment.”

Provisions in the scheme are arbitrary since instead of taking action against the Conductors as per the procedure of discipline and appeals, the Conductors are allowed to be reappointed/reinstated in view of the scheme by recovering the misappropriated amount from them. “Where the MSRTC is dealing with the public, it cannot act arbitrarily at its sweet will. Its action must be in conformity with the standards or norms, which is rational. Justice and fairness and State action are essences of Article 14 of the Constitution of India and State instrumentality like MSRTC should satisfy that requirement.”

Bombay HC, thus, quashed and set aside the arbitrary scheme ‘Kutumb Suraksha Yojana’.

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