–Report by Ojas Bhatnagar
The Kerela High Court dismissed a writ appeal in the case of Dr. R. SURESH vs ATHURASRAMAM N.S.S.HOMEO MEDICAL COLLEGE, wherein it was pleaded by respondents that restoration of the lecturer’s seniority cannot be done and his demotion is permanent in nature. The judgment was passed by JJ P.B Suresh Kumar and C.S Sudha.
The petitioner contended that his seniority should be restored. The advocates on behalf of the petitioner stated that restoration of the seniority is the petitioner’s right and there is no such provision that states that his seniority cannot be restored. The provisions the respondents have used to refer to this are not applicable to the petitioner. The statutes mentioned by the respondents (under Chapter 4 Statute 35 B of the Mahatma Gandhi University Statutes, 1997) only apply to the non-teaching staff of the college and the petitioner does not fall under this category. If any action were to be taken, it should have been taken under Statute 73 of Chapter 45. And this does not even mention that the seniority list is permanent in nature. The petitioner, therefore demands that his seniority be restored to the original position that he was holding at the time he was punished as 6 months have passed.
The respondent contends that the arguments given by the petitioner are unarguable. The advocates on behalf of the defendant argued that the statute mentioned by the respondent (Statute 73 of Chapter 45) does not specify that
the punishment of reduction in seniority is temporary in nature or it is restored after the passing of 6 months. The first respondent (College Chairman) also says that if the reduction in rank is not permanent, it does not seem like a
punishment at all.
DECISION OF THE COURT
The issue found by the court was whether the reduction in rank is permanent or temporary in nature. The court found that none of the given provisions by both sides solves this question. The court then refers to Mahatma Gandhi University Act, 1985 (The Act) and the Statutes. The order under which the lecturer was demoted was passed under Statute 35 B(v) in Part III in Chapter 4 of the Statutes and in that there is no mention of a definite term for a reduction in seniority ranks. But a proviso to clause (v) says that the term of reduction is permanent in nature. However, this only applies to the non-teaching staff of the college. Chapter 45 Part D of the statutes deals with disciplinary action against teachers of private colleges but Statute 73 of this chapter does not specify whether the reduction in rank is permanent or for a fixed period. In Section 99, sub-sections (1) and (2) tell us that the Kerela University Act, 1974 ceases to apply where the jurisdiction of Mahatma Gandhi University extends. The provisions of the Kerela University Act apply to those areas where there are no provisions and it continues to apply until new provisions are not brought about.
Since the statutes do not mention the period of the penalty imposed, the Kerela University Act, 1974 is referred to. Chapter 3, Statute 16 deals with disciplinary procedures against teachers of universities. Chapter 4 deals with the terms and conditions of non-teaching staff and there it clearly mentions that the reduction in ranks should not be less than 6 months if the period is not specified. The esteemed judges convey that Statute 73 in Chapter 45 of the statutes which
applies to teachers does not specify the duration.
The court observed:
“…..Statute 73(iv) in Chapter 45 of the Statutes, applicable to teachers does not specify the period for which the penalty of reduction can be imposed. This makes it apparent that as per the scheme of the Act and the Statutes, the disciplinary authority has been given the discretion to limit the reduction to a particular term or to make it permanent. Here the disciplinary authority has exercised its discretion”
The writ appeal was found to be without merits and hence dismissed.