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Recoveries from VRS payments from rice mill workers were illegal
November, 27th 2007

An order making recoveries from boiler operators in Modern Rice Mills of TN Civil Supplies Corporation at Kadachanendal, Madurai, for alleged short out-turns, was set aside by the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court.

When a penalty was imposed, it resulted in civil consequences, and there must be proper enquiry in respect of each individual, and there could not be any collective misconduct, the Bench ruled.

According to petitioners, who were all boiler operators, they were allowed by Corporation to go under a VRS. After they were relieved from service, the Corporation demanded from them for making good the short out-turn.

In its circular, the Corporation has instructed officials to recover from boiler operators for short out-turn noticed in the Modern Rice Mills from persons responsible.

Petitioners contended that they were in no way connected with any short out-turns, and whatever work was assigned to them, that had been fully carried out.

According to them, so-called short out-turns were spread over from year 1985-86 to 2001-02, and on basis of total shortage, proportionate recoveries could not be made.

Mr Justice K. Chandru said that there was no proper enquiry held, and, hence, the contention that responsibility was not fixed in a scientific manner and that principles of natural justice were violated deserved to be accepted.

There could not be any collective misconduct, and misconduct must be individual and it must be personalised.

Therefore, impugned orders dated June 23, 2004 insofar as making recoveries under head short out-turn in respect of each of petitioners were being set aside.

Respondents were directed to hold a fresh enquiry and fix individual responsibility of petitioners after giving opportunity to them.

If the ultimate result was found in favour of petitioners, moneys which were recovered from VRS dues paid to petitioners must be refunded forthwith.

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