The Delhi High Court in a writ petition has recently held that the introduction of the VRS (Voluntary Retirement Scheme) does not automatically qualify an employee for the benefits of the scheme as a matter of right.

The Court was dealing with a matter in which the petitioner prayed for the VRS benefits along with an interest at 12% per annum in order to meet the ends of justice.

The Bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh held –

"It is well established that the introduction of the VRS by the Department, does not automatically qualify an employee to the benefits of the Scheme as a matter of right. Whether or not an employee should be permitted to retire in accordance with the Scheme in the event that the Scheme itself provides for retirement to become effective upon completion of the notice period. The VRS that was implemented by the Department is, in essence, an expression of the Department's aim to prune the overstaffed positions."

The Bench also stated that the petitioner did not even bother to inform the respondent organization regarding his absence from duty and joining another organization and the said fact is crystal clear upon perusal of the record and the averments of the petition.

Advocate Sudeep Singh appeared for the petitioner.

Advocate Ruchin Mishra represented the respondents.

Facts –

The Petitioner joined Kendriya Bhandar i.e., the respondent as Accounts Officer and was appointed as Chief Accounts Officer (CAO) on an ad-hoc basis followed by his regularization as CAO. The respondent introduced a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) vide circular inviting applications for voluntary retirement from the employees. As per the terms and conditions of the VRS, the management of the respondent was having the right to grant or refuse the voluntary retirement to an employee subject to, reasons being recorded in writing. The petitioner also applied for VRS seeking voluntary retirement. The matter of the petitioner with respect to VRS was placed before the Board of Directors for their consideration in its meeting. While considering his application for VRS, the Board decided that the request of the existing CAO may be considered by the Board after the appointment of DGM (F&A) and till then he may be compensated by way of fixed special allowance to the extent of 10% of the total monthly emoluments. Accordingly, he was granted Rs. 1956/- per month and continued to draw the special allowance as approved by the Board.

In the meantime, a disciplinary proceeding was contemplated against the petitioner and that led to a penalty of 'Censure' being imposed on the petitioner. Thereafter, he suddenly absented himself from duty without information or without getting his leave sanctioned. The respondent deputed a Vigilance Officer to verify the fact of his working in another organization. The Vigilance Officer submitted his report stating that he had visited the abovementioned organization and had met the petitioner who revealed that he had joined that firm and is holding the key position in the Finance and Accounts Department of the said organization. The charge sheet for a major penalty was issued to the petitioner and therefore, he approached the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). The Tribunal dismissed his applications due to which he filed a writ petition in the High Court but the same also got dismissed. Thereafter, the order of dismissal from services was issued by the respondent to the petitioner. Being aggrieved by this, the petitioner approached the High Court.

The High Court in the above regard noted, "… the Petitioner remained silent throughout the whole exchange. The Petitioner was found to be guilty of the charges of having been absent from duty without prior permission of the Competent Authority and without information of proceeding on leave, which amounts to disobedience of order and dereliction of duty, after the careful perusal of the report of the Inquiry Officer, the disciplinary authority arrived at a conclusion that proceedings have been concluded as per the applicable rules."

The Court further observed that the contention of the petitioner that his application for voluntary retirement became effective upon the expiration of the period of notice given by him is not acceptable because there was no such stipulation in the respondent's scheme.

The Court also said, "… respondent requested a medical report or certificate from the Petitioner. At that point in time, he did not disclose the fact that he had already left the Department and had joined other organization without giving the formal resignation from the Department. No procedural infirmity is pointed out in the conduct of the disciplinary inquiry. Learned counsel for the Petitioner has also not been able to prove violation of any statutory provisions or principles of natural justice."

The Court, therefore, did not find any illegality in the order and regarded the petition as devoid of any merit.

Accordingly, the Court dismissed the petition.

Cause Title – Sanjay Gupta v. Union of India & Ors. (Neutral Citation: 2022/DHC/005856)

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