High Court rules dismissal of employee in jail without fair hearing as illegal

The Punjab and Haryana high court deems dismissal of employee in jail without fair hearing illegal, stresses importance of due process


The Punjab and Haryana High Court has stated that it is illegal to dismiss an employee who is unable to defend themselves in departmental proceedings due to being confined in jail for a criminal case. The court emphasised that the opportunity given to a delinquent should not be a mere formality, but reasonable and adequate.

The court made these orders while overturning the termination of a female employee from the Punjab police intelligence wing. She was dismissed from her position while in judicial custody for a criminal case against her.

The court noted that the petitioner was in judicial custody throughout the departmental proceedings against her. It emphasised that the state, as the petitioner’s employer, should have waited until she was released on bail before taking any action. Justice Pankaj Jain stated that the petitioner’s inability to respond to the show cause notice and inquiry proceedings due to her custody could not be denied.

The petitioner, identified as Sheetal Sharma alias Kanwaljeet Kaur, worked as a junior assistant with the intelligence wing of the Punjab police. She was arrested in connection with a murder case on March 16, 2020, and remained in jail until her bail was granted by the Supreme Court on November 30, 2022.

During her time in custody, she received a memo for absence from duty and later underwent an inquiry. She requested that the inquiry be put on hold until her release. However, without considering her response, an order was passed on October 19, 2022, resulting in her dismissal.

The petitioner’s counsel argued that the authorities had acted unfairly, while the state counsel claimed that being in judicial custody did not hinder her ability to defend herself.

After hearing both parties, the High Court set aside the dismissal order. It observed that the state failed to explain how evidence was gathered against the petitioner during the inquiry while she was in judicial custody.

This ruling emphasises the importance of providing a fair opportunity for employees facing departmental proceedings, even if they are in custody, and serves as a reminder that legal rights should be respected in such cases.

Comment on the Article

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

ten + 16 =