The Delhi High Court has held that, “The law is well settled that equality before law is a positive concept and it cannot be enforced in a negative manner. If an illegality or irregularity has been committed in favour of any individual or a group of individuals, others cannot claim order on principle of equality before law.”

In the present case, the respondent had applied for and was granted leave for 35 days in order to visit Singapore. When the respondent failed to join back duties despite repeated written intimations a show cause notice-cum-charge sheet was issued to show cause as to why penalty of removal not be imposed. But after joining back, the respondent again proceeded on unauthorized leave and did not appear before the Enquiry Officer. the petitioner had challenged the award of the Industrial Tribunal where the Industrial Tribunal had set aside the penalty of removal from service of the respondent and imposed a penalty of reduction of three stages of basic pay of time scale as an alternate of penalty for removal from service. The Enquiry Officer conducted an enquiry which wasn’t against the principles of natural justice as stipulated by the respondent and submitted the report on 30th April 2009. The respective disciplinary authority imposed a penalty of removal on the respondent under Regulation 39(1) (f) of LIC of India Staff Regulation 1960 for unauthorized absence of 373 days. The appeal of the respondent was rejected.

Even though the Industrial Tribunal held the punishment imposed as discriminatory because lower punishment was awarded to similarly situated employees, the Judge stated, “Equality before law is a positive concept and it cannot be enforced in a negative manner. If an illegality or irregularity has been committed in favour of any individual or a group of individuals, others cannot claim order on principle of equality before law. A wrong decision does not give a right to a person to enforce the wrong order and claim parity or equality.”

The court held the respondent to be guilty of gross misconduct of unauthorized absence since and held the punishment inflicted by the petitioner to be proportionate.

 

Link to Judgment:

Senior Divisional Manager, LIC of India v. Renuka Sharma

 

Link to Image:

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