Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Allahabad High Court quashes UP Medical Department order against woman professor

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Observing that despite the best efforts of all still, how a working woman can be harassed even in this era is reflected in the case, the Allahabad High Court quashed an order of the State Medical Department initiating an inquiry against an associate professor of a state medical college after keeping her resignation file pending for 7 months.

A single-judge bench of Justice Vivek Chaudhary passed this order on a petition of Dr Priyanka Garg.

In this matter, the petitioner, a doctor by qualification, after getting selected by UP Public Service Commission, in furtherance of appointment letter dated 01.09.2010, joined as a lecturer at the Lala Lajpat Rai Memorial Medical College, Meerut & was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor.

On 19.09.2018, the petitioner was transferred from Meerut Medical College to Saharanpur Medical College. Though the petitioner has challenged the aforesaid transfer order, it could not succeed. Meanwhile, the State Government made an arrangement vide Office Memorandum dated 19.07.2019 whereby the petitioner along with some other doctors were directed to render their services at Saharanpur Medical College along with the previous place of posting of petitioner i.e, Meerut Medical College.

The petitioner by means of several applications expressed her difficulty in rendering the services & sought child-care leave on account of her daughter’s bronchial asthma, which required tonsillectomy plus immune therapy as well as constant care and attention.

The petitioner contended that neither was her leave was sanctioned nor was she paid her salary.

The petitioner submitted that she preferred a representation before respondent No1 on 01.01.2020 & 08.01.2020 apprising therein that five applications had been preferred by her seeking childcare leave & medical leave, however, none of them were considered.

It was also apprised that the petitioner has not even been paid her salary for the period July 2019 to September 2019 & January 2020 to 24.02.2020. The petitioner by means of representation dated 01.01.2020 & 08.01.2020 requested respondent No.1 to consider her bonafide and genuine claim else she will be left with no other choice than to resign from the service.

It had been further stated that when no action on the aforesaid representation was taken by respondent No1, the petitioner ultimately tendered her resignation on 24.02.2020. Shockingly, neither the resignation tendered by the petitioner was accepted nor rejected by respondent No1 till 23.05.2020 i.e, till 3 months notice period for accepting her resignation expired.

It was after a lapse of more than 7 months from the date when the petitioner tendered her resignation that the impugned order dated 25.09.2020 was issued by respondent No1 whereby an inquiry on account of being absent from duty was initiated against the petitioner. Further by means of another impugned order dated 26.09.2020 issued by respondent No1, the resignation tendered by the petitioner was rejected on the ground of public interest.

By means of the order dated 02.12.2020 passed by the Court, the opposite parties were given an opportunity to justify their impugned action. Alternatively, this Court had also indicated to the opposite parties to re-visit their orders by expressing that such a trivial matter should be given quietus by accepting leave of the petitioner without pay w.e.f. 21.03.2020 and allowing her to resign. However, in the Counter Affidavit, there is no mention of the impugned orders having been revisited by the opposite parties, as required by the Court.

The Court observed the facts of the case clearly indicates that petitioner, a mother, was facing difficulty in handling both, a child in need of care as well as her job with the State Government. In the given circumstances, initially, she applied for leave as may be granted to her under the service rules and finding that the same is not possible, she even resigned on 24.02.2020. The resignation was kept pending for as good as seven months and the impugned orders dated 25.09.2020 & 26.09.2020 were passed. Any working woman, more particularly, a mother is required to be accommodated as far as possible. Presuming the worst, it was not possible for the department to grant any further leave to the petitioner, including leave without pay suffice would have been in the given circumstances to accept the resignation of the petitioner. The Court fails to understand what purpose is achieved by the respondents by keeping the petitioner in service from 24.02.2020 i.e from the date of resignation onwards. During the said period, they could not appoint any other person in place of the petitioner, therefore, the work of the college continued to suffer and the public at large in no manner benefited. The entire issue could have been best served by accepting her resignation. The petitioner had a right to resign on 24.02.2020 and her resignation had to be accepted as till that date neither any departmental inquiry was initiated against her nor there was any other reason available to the respondents for not accepting the resignation. Even her immediate superior administrative authority, i.e, the principal of the college, had recommended accepting her resignation from the service.

Standing Counsel also could not place any reason for not accepting the resignation of the petitioner.

The Court found that the case of the petitioner is squarely covered by the judgment of Dr Sonal Sachdeva (Supra). The petitioner in the given facts and circumstances is treated arbitrarily by the respondents. The respondents were bound to accept the resignation of the petitioner and there was no necessity to conduct any inquiry against the petitioner, the Court further observed while allowing the petition.

“In view of the aforesaid, the impugned orders dated 25.09.2020 & 26.09.2020 are hereby quashed. The respondents shall treat the petitioner as having resigned from her post w.e.f 24.02.2020 and shall grant her benefit which she is entitled to by treating her to be in service till 24.02.2020. Such an exercise shall be conducted expeditiously, say in not more than two months from the date a copy of this order is placed before respondent no 2, Director, Medical Education & Training, Jawahar Bhawan, Lucknow,” the Court ordered.

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