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Misconduct if not grave, not a ground for pension cut: HC

Delhi high court

New Delhi:  Misconduct of an employee, unless grave, cannot be a ground for a state to slash post retirement pensionary benefits, the Delhi High Court has held.

“Suffice it to state that for a retired government servant a cut in pension can be ordered if the misconduct of which he is found guilty is grave. Mere misconduct, without a finding of it being grave, would not empower the competent authority to order a cut in pension,” a bench of justices Pradeep Nandrajog and Pratibha Rani said.

The bench while disposing of a petition filed by now retired CRPF commandant N Bhardwaja, quashed an order of pension cut and the action initiated to withdraw a gallantary medal awarded to him for using official vehicle while on casual leave observing that his misconduct was not grave.

The judges said “the penalty imposed upon the petitioner of 5 per cent cut in pension for six months is set aside and the action initiated to withdraw the gallantry medal awarded to the petitioner is also quashed.”

Bhardwaja has challenged the charges and penalties imposed for using service car and escort vehicle to return from his residence at Chandigarh to his base at 14 Battalion of CRPF at Amritsar in 1993, an act which was considered serious misconduct and unbecoming of government servant.

Under the provisions of conduct rules, officers on casual leave are not entitled for government vehicles.

The bench noted that the gallantry medal and the citation were issued conferring an honour upon the petitioner for an operation dated October 4, 2006, which has no connection with the incident dated December 21, 1993, for which the petitioner was named in a charge sheet.

“Further, the basis to initiate the action to withdraw the gallantry medal is founded on the penalty levied upon the petitioner of 5 per cent cut in pension for six months, which penalty we have quashed and thus for said additional reason the said action to initiate cancellation/withdrawal of the gallantry medal is required to be quashed. We do so,” the bench said.

It observed that the period in question in 1993, was when terrorism was not fully eradicated in Punjab and thus the petitioner having required a dispatch service car and Gypsy to be sent to Chandigarh to transport him back to Amritsar was justified.

“Under the circumstances we hold that the misconduct, if any committed by the petitioner, is not a grave misconduct and thus we quash the penalty levied of 5 per cent cut in pension for a period of six months,” the bench said.

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