The Allahabad High Court observed that even in case of temporary or ad-hoc appointment, opportunity of hearing must be granted to an employee if the termination is punitive in nature.

The Lucknow Bench of the Court noted thus in a writ petition challenging an order by which the employee’s services on a contract basis were dispensed with.

A Single Bench of Justice Manish Mathur said, “Once, the findings of learned Single Judge that the order dated 25th January, 2023 was punitive in nature stood substantiated even by Division Bench, it is clear that earlier termination of petitioner's contract was punitive in nature. In such circumstances, the only option available to opposite parties was to have held an inquiry and afforded an opportunity of hearing to petitioner with regard to allegations levelled against him as has been held in the judgement rendered by Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Palak Modi (supra) and K.C. Joshi Vs. Union of India (supra). … even in the case of temporary or ad-hoc appointment, an opportunity of hearing is required to be granted to employee in case the termination is punitive in nature.”

Advocate Amit Kumar Singh Bhadauriya appeared for the petitioner while Advocates Mohit Chandra and Puneet Chandra appeared for the respondents.

In this case, earlier, the petitioner was engaged with opposite parties on a contract basis in the year 2013. Although, initial period of contract was for one year, but the same was renewed subsequently and was enforced till March 30, 2023. It was submitted that even prior to expiry of contract period, petitioner's contract was cancelled vide an order, which was challenged a plea and the same was allowed finding the order stigmatic and directing opposite parties to pass fresh order for terminating the engagement of petitioner simpliciter under Clause-7 of the contract.

The aforesaid order was thereafter challenged by the petitioner in a Special Appeal which was disposed of vide an order modifying the judgement passed by the Single Judge by providing that it would be open to authorities concerned to pass a fresh order strictly in accordance with law. It was further submitted that since a specific finding was recorded by the Single Judge that the said order was stigmatic in nature, the petitioner was required to be granted an opportunity of hearing prior to passing of order impugned in the writ petition before the High Court.

The High Court after hearing the submissions of the counsel observed, “… it is quite evident from material on record that earlier order terminating services of petitioner vide order dated 25th January, 2023 was passed after holding of preliminary inquiry. In the earlier round of litigation, this Court has allowed petitioner's writ petition, primarily on the findings that the order dated 25th January, 2023 was stigmatic in nature. Aforesaid finding has not been upset by Division Bench in Special Appeal and only the liberty was granted to opposite parties to pass fresh orders strictly in accordance with law.”

The Court said that a course of action with respect to hearing opportunity was not followed by the opposite parties while passing the order, which was sought to be worded in terms of termination simpliciter. It further said that, however, since the impugned order referred to the earlier termination order, it was incumbent upon opposite parties to have held an inquiry and afforded an opportunity of hearing to petitioner prior to passing of fresh orders in terms of directions issued by the Division Bench in Special Appeal.

Accordingly, the High Court allowed the petition and quashed the order.

Cause Title- Shekhar Gupta v. State of U.P. and 4 Others (Neutral Citation: 2023:AHC-LKO:74365)

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