Driving A Vehicle Carrying Military Personnel Under The Influence Of Alcohol Is A Serious Misconduct – SC In An Accident Case
A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice BV Nagarathna while holding the driver of the vehicle carrying Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel guilty of causing an accident has held –
"Driving a truck carrying the P.A.C. personnel under the influence of alcohol is a very serious misconduct and such an indiscipline cannot be tolerated and that too in the disciplined Military."
Counsel Ms. Pallavi Sharma appeared for the Appellant, while Counsel Mr. Sanjay Kumar Tyagi appeared for the Respondent before the Court.
Further, the Bench observed that driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol is not only misconduct but it is also an offence.
An appeal was preferred before the Supreme Court by the dismissed employee (Deceased, represented through heirs) assailing the judgment of the Allahabad High Court which had dismissed the Writ Petition of the Appellant refusing to set aside the order of dismissal passed by the Disciplinary Authority.
In this case, the Appellant who was a driver was posted at the 12th Battalion, PAC at Fatehpur. While he was driving with the PAC personnel from Fatehpur to Allahabad on Kumbh Mela duty, was involved in a moto accident with a jeep. It was alleged that while he was driving, he was under the influence of alcohol, which led to his dismissal from service.
The Appellant contended before the Supreme Court that it was a minor accident that resulted in some loss to the vehicle. It was argued considering his 25 years long service, the order of dismissal was disproportionate to the misconduct proved. It was prayed that the Court must take a lenient view and convert the dismissal to compulsory retirement.
While the Respondent argued that having considered the past record of the deceased-Appellant and having found that he was a habitual consumer of liquor the dismissal order cannot be said to be disproportionate. Hence, it was argued that the deceased employee was not entitled to any leniency.
The Apex Court noted that the fact that the Appellant was driving under the influence of alcohol was established and proved, even on the medical examination that was conducted on the same day of the incident.
"Merely because there was no major loss and it was a minor accident cannot be a ground to show leniency. It was sheer good luck that the accident was not a fatal accident. It could have been a fatal accident. When the employee was driving a truck carrying the P.A.C. personnel, the lives of those P.A.C. personnel who were travelling in the truck were in the hands of the driver. Therefore, it can be said that he played with the lives of those P.A.C. personnel, who were on duty and travelling from Fatehpur to Allahabad on Kumbh Mela duty," the Bench opined.
Further, the Court also observed that nobody can be permitted to drive the vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Such misconduct of driving a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and playing with the life of others was serious misconduct. Also, there were other misconducts earlier committed by the Appellant-employee.
However, the Bench noted the employee's statement that in order to suppress the fear of coming to battalion he consumed liquor and consumed wine might be plausible and considering that he had served for 25 years of long service, and it was a minor accident, the punishment of dismissal could be said to be too harsh and could be treated for compulsory retirement.
Accordingly, the Court partly allowed the appeal and covered the punishment of dismissal to compulsory retirement and directed for the payment of retirement benefits to the heirs of the Appellant-Deceased employee.