SC: Can't show sympathy if public servant deposited defrauded amount with interest
New Delhi, April 19 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Tuesday said undue sympathy cannot be shown towards a delinquent public officer, by reducing punishment, since he deposited the defrauded amount with penal interest.
A bench comprising Justices M R Shah and B. V. Nagarathna said: "Being a public servant in the post office, the delinquent officer was holding the post of trust. Merely because subsequently the employee had deposited the defrauded amount and therefore there was no loss caused to the department cannot be a ground to take a lenient view and/or to show undue sympathy in favour of such an employee."
The top court allowed an appeal filed by the central government challenging a Madras High Court order, which affirmed a decision to convert punishment to a postal assistant from lay-off from service to compulsory retirement. It was alleged that the employee made a withdrawal of Rs 16.59 lakh from the accounts, however he deposited Rs 18.09 lakh, including penal interest, after the fraud was detected.
The bench said, "What about the loss caused to the department by way of goodwill, name and fame of the department and its reliability amongst the public? By such a misconduct/act on the part of the delinquent officer, the reputation of the department had been tarnished".
The top court said the order passed by the high court, as well as the order passed by the tribunal substituting the order of punishment from removal to that of compulsory retirement cannot be sustained and the same deserve to be quashed and set aside.
The bench said merely because the employee, M. Duraisamy, had worked for 39 years and voluntarily deposited the defrauded amount along with penal interest, cannot be a ground to interfere with the order of punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority and substitute the same from removal to compulsory retirement. "Neither the Tribunal (Central Administrative Tribunal) nor the High Court have, in fact, considered the nature and gravity of the misconduct committed by the delinquent officer", noted the bench.