The Supreme Court while rejecting an appeal has held that when there is misconduct from a scientist working in a sensitive and strategic organisation like ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation), the decision to impose dismissal from service cannot be said to be illegal.

The two-Judge Bench comprising Justice M.R. Shah and Justice C.T. Ravikumar observed, “… the organization is perfectly justified in casting suspicion on the honesty, integrity, reliability, dependability and trustworthiness in view of the factual situation obtained in this case, as explained in the counter affidavit, besides entertaining the stand that his unauthorized association with foreign institution, especially in the area of propulsion, which is a strategic research and development subject in the organization and based on which the nation’s rocketry and ambitious launch vehicle programs are/were advancing, was a matter of concern for the security of the State. When such acts/conduct occur/occurs from a scientist in a sensitive and strategic organization, the decision to impose dismissal from service cannot be said to be illegal or absolutely unwarranted.”

The Bench relied upon the decision in the case of Union of India and Anr. v. Tulsiram Patel and Ors. (1985) 3 SCC 398 wherein it was held that when the power of order of dismissal is invoked to dispense with inquiry, the consideration as to what penalty should be imposed upon a delinquent employee must be ex-parte i.e., no opportunity of being heard is given on that question.

Senior Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan appeared on behalf of the appellant while ASG K.M. Nataraj and Advocate Shailesh Madiyal appeared on behalf of the respondents.

Brief Facts -

The appellant who was working as a scientist in ISRO had challenged the judgment passed by the Kerala High Court whereby it dismissed his plea against the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal. The appellant was appointed in Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), Thiruvananthapuram of ISRO, and thereafter got promoted.

The appellant was invited by the Head of School of Mechanical Engineering, Andong National University, South Korea to join as a post-doctoral trainee and assist for one year as a result of which he applied for a sabbatical leave for one year but the competent authority decided not to recommend the leave in the exigency of service and in public interest. The appellant hence applied for 9 days Earned Leave on personal grounds and soon went to South Korea and published a technical paper without approval due to which disciplinary action was initiated against him and he was dismissed from service without any inquiry.

The Supreme Court in view of the facts and circumstances of the case noted, “We have already taken note of the indisputable and undisputed facts obtained in this case which are relevant for the purpose of consideration of the question with respect to the expediency or inexpediency of holding an inquiry “in the interest of the security of the State.” In view of the situations deducible from the materials on record, we find absolutely no reason to hold that the satisfaction that it is not expedient to hold an inquiry “in the interest of security of the State” was arrived at without any material.”

The Court further noted that when once it is obvious that circumstances based on materials capable of arriving at a satisfaction that it is not expedient to hold an inquiry “in the interest of the security of the State” are available, the decision in holding that it is inexpedient “in the interest of the security of the State” to hold an inquiry warrants no further scrutiny, rather, it is not fit to be subjected to further judicial review.

“… the Court cannot, in such circumstances, judge on the expediency or inexpediency to dispense with the inquiry as it was arrived at based on the subjective satisfaction of the President based on materials. In the above circumstances, we do not find any reason to interfere with the disinclination on the part of the Tribunal and then the High Court, on the aforesaid issue”, said the Court.

The Court did not find any reason to hold that the judgment of the High Court, dismissing the challenge against the order of the Tribunal warranted any kind of interference in the exercise of the power under Article 136 of the Constitution of India.

Accordingly, the Apex Court dismissed the appeal.

Cause Title- Dr. V.R. Sanal Kumar v. Union of India & Ors.

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