Prolonged absence – a major misconduct not to be taken lightly!

As per Indian employment law, Schedule 1, Clause 14(3) of Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Central rules 1946, framed under Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act 1946 provides for certain acts and omissions as employee misconduct. These acts or omissions include, inter alia, ‘habitual absence without leave or absence without leave for more than ten consecutive days or overstaying sanctioned leave without sufficient ground or proper or satisfactory explanation etc.’

In Management, BMTC rep. by Chief Law Officer V/s E. Balakrishna, 2012 the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court held that, a workman who remained absent from work for a grand total of 16 years without submitting leave application or obtaining prior sanction, had committed a gross misconduct and the directed compulsory retirement to be given to the said workman. The Hon’ble Court held that all the principles of natural justice were followed by the Company as the Company sent call letters and Articles of Charge to the residence of the workman which returned unclaimed. The Company also brought out a publication in a newspaper notifying the workman to attend the enquiry the Company was to hold against him and yet there was no attendance or reply from the workman. On being dismissed from his services the workman raised a dispute before the Labour Court at Bangalore contending that the reason for his prolonged absence was ill health. The Labour Court held that the punishment meted out to him was disproportionate to the gravity of the employee misconduct.

Relying on the cases of Delhi Transport Corporation V/s Sardar Singh, 2004, State of Rajasthan and Anr. V/s Mohd. Ayub Naz, 2006 and other relevant provisions under Indian employment laws, the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court opined that prolonged absence without sanction of the Company was a major employee misconduct, the workman could not have taken for granted that he could rejoin duty as and when he deemed fit. The workman did not conduct himself in a disciplined manner and there was lack of interest and devotion to his duty. The Labour Court could not have treated his misconduct lightly and had therefore erred in its decision.

Therefore, quashing the Labour Court’s decision, the Hon’ble Karnataka High Court directed that the workman be given compulsory retirement, in accordance with relevant provisions under labour laws in Indian .