A woman officer with the passport office in Bangalore went to Saudi Arabia on a year’s leave in 1998. Fourteen years later, she returned and demanded salary for all the years she was absent, as well as other arrears and benefits.
The CAT turned down her request. She then approached the Karnataka High Court which dismissed her petition as “the worst form of misconduct”.
According to the High Court order, Maher Unnissa Basheer (55) was appointed to government service on June 1978. She was working as a supervisor in the Passport Office at Bangalore. On August 3, 1998, she took a year’s leave to join her husband and children in Saudi Arabia.
At the end of her leave period, she sought another year’s extension, which was turned down. She was asked to report for duty immediately. But she continued to be on unauthorised leave. An inquiry was conducted and the disciplinary authority removed her from service for unauthorised absence from 2001.
In the High Court B G Sridharan, the senior counsel appearing for Maher, contended: “She has completed 20 years of service in the government. She was entitled to voluntary retirement and benefits such as pension.” Sridharan admitted that she went to Saudi Arabia to join her husband and children. “She could not immediately come back because of those commitments. She has not committed any misconduct. In fact, the inquiry report also shows she is innocent. But the disciplinary authority, over-ruling the said report, proceeded to pass an order of removal.”
Sridharan said just because her husband was employed in Saudi Arabia, compassionate allowance could not be denied to her. “Now after returning to India, she is in a very difficult situation and she is entitled to compassionate allowance. The authorities have not properly appreciated these aspects,” he contended.
A division bench comprising Justice N Kumar and Justice V Suri Appa Rao dismissed her petition and said that Maher, who has not worked from 1998 till today, is not entitled to any compassionate allowance.
The apex court has been consistently ruling that the worst form of misconduct is unauthorised absence. When a person does not work and remains an unauthorised absentee, the court’s sympathy should not be shown to such persons, it observed.