Compulsory Retirement cannot be considered as a Penal Measure: Punjab and Haryana High Court

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 held by Justice Daya Chaudhary and Justice Meenakashi I. Mehta in Hawa Singh Bhambhu v. State of Haryana and Ors [LPA No.593 of 2020].

Facts related to this case is: Appellant (Hawa Singh Bhambhu) was appointed on the post of Patwari in the year 1986 and was promoted as Kanungo on 28.11.2000. Thereafter, he was promoted as Naib Tehsildar w.e.f.28.10.2016 till dated 09.01.2017. He was prematurely retired vide order dated 01.04.2020 on attaining the age of 55 years w.e.f.22.07.2020 after giving three months ‘prior notice. As per the case of the appellant, his service record was excellent and he was given promotions on the basis of his work and conduct. He was issued a charge sheet on 21.02.2018 on account of filing an appeal with the delay before this Court but subsequently, he was exonerated vide order dated 18.04.2019. Thereafter, he was issued another charge sheet on 13.02.2018 on account of dereliction of duty for wrong registration of mutation in the year 2009 while he was working as Kanungo. Then, premature retirement was challenged in CWP No.7767 of 2020 and the same was dismissed by learned Single Judge on 28.07.2020, which has been challenged in the present appeal at Hon’ble High Court of Punjab and Haryana.

The Hon’ble Court observed that “On perusal of above said 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 deadwood in the public interest.” The main object of said policy decision is to provide clean administration, improving efficiency and strengthening administrative machinery at all levels and weed out deadwood 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 the 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 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 the total service record of the concerned employee is to be taken into consideration before making 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, was to be passed on the basis of subjective satisfaction by the Competent Authority on forming an opinion that it was not in the 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 was not to be passed in an arbitrary manner without forming an opinion by considering the total service record. No doubt, judicial scrutiny has also been permissible while granting premature compulsory retirement and in case the order was arbitrary or mala fide or was based on no evidence, then reasons were necessary to be recorded.

Accordingly, the Court allowed the present appeal and judgment dated 28.07.2020 passed by learned Single Judge is set aside. The respondents were directed to allow the appellant to be retained in service till the age of his superannuation in case, there was no other sufficient reason for not retaining him in service.

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Judgement reviewed by-Sarita Kumari

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