Employer can’t act against employee if offence not committed on office premises, rules Bombay HC

Mumbai: No employer can act against an employee for an incident unconnected with the establishment or its premises, claiming that the said employee has brought disrepute to him, ruled the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court. The HC further ruled that unless an employee isn’t proved guilty of a charge of moral turpitude, s/he cannot be deprived of their employment.

A bench of Justice Ravindra Ghuge delivered the ruling while dealing with a plea filed by an employee of the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC), who was removed by the authority accusing him of bringing disrepute to the corporation.  The employee was arrested and was in jail for 10 days on allegations of theft, which took place outside his office. His arrest was reported by a local newspaper. He was however, acquitted from the offence alleged by a court.

The MSRTC, however, initiated disciplinary proceedings against the employee on the ground that he has brought disrepute to the corporation as his arrest was reported in a newspaper and this has tarnished its image.  Trashing the contention of the MSRTC, Justice Ghuge said, “The petitioner employee was kept in police custody for ten days, which is not disputed. The charge leveled upon him was that he has brought the employer to disrepute. I find that no employer can proceed against an employee for an incident unconnected with the establishment or its premises, alleging that that the employer was brought to disrepute, unless the employer can prove that the employee had committed an offense that brought the employer to disrepute.”

Justice Ghuge further noted that the corporation was not dealing with the charge of theft, but intended to prove that the conduct of the petitioner, which was publicised in the newspaper, led to the tarnishing of its image and reputation. “I am unable to accept the said contention for the reason that, unless the offence was proved against the petitioner, it cannot be concluded that, he was guilty of an act which amounted to moral turpitude. Unless a charge of moral turpitude is proved, an employee cannot be deprived of his employment,” Justice Ghuge held. The bench further noted that no offence has yet been proved against the employee. “The corporation cannot take a stand that, the petitioner has committed an act which amounted to moral turpitude,” the court said.

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