At the outset, the top court has observed that driving a truck carrying the PAC personnel under the influence of alcohol is a very serious misconduct and such an indiscipline cannot be tolerated, particularly in military.
The employee-appellant argued that since it was a minor accident, which resulted in some loss to the vehicle and considering his 25-year-long service, the order of dismissal was disproportionate to the misconduct proved.
The respondent, however, argued that the punishment for dismissal was not disproportionate since the accused had also been a habitual consumer of alcohol.
The Bench clarified that merely because the accident that took place was a minor one, cannot be a ground to show leniency on the employee.
The Court was of the view that it was only sheer good luck of the PAC personnel that the accident was not a fatal one.
“When the employee was driving a truck carrying the P.A.C. personnel, the lives of those PAC personnel who were travelling in the truck were in the hands of the driver. Therefore, it can be said that he (referring to appellant) played with the lives of those PAC personnel, who were on duty and travelling from Fatehpur to Allahabad on Kumbh Mela duty,” the Bench noted.
However, the Court took into account the statement by the appellant that he had not consumed liquor before driving the vehicle but did so after the accident had taken place to suppress fear.
Though the statement has not been accepted, it could be plausible, the Court opined.
In view of the same and taking into account his long service, the Court said that the punishment of dismissal might be too harsh and converted the same to one of compulsory retirement.
“…the award of punishment of dismissal can be said to be too harsh, the punishment of dismissal is directed to be converted into compulsory retirement of the employee. As the employee has since died, and on converting the punishment of dismissal to that of compulsory retirement, death-cum-retirement benefits as also the benefit of family pension, if any, shall be paid to the legal heirs of the deceased employee in accordance with law and bearing in mind that punishment of dismissal has now been converted into one of compulsory retirement,” the judgment said.