New Delhi: A journalist sacked on disciplinary grounds can be deprived of gratuity even if he or she has not caused any damage/loss to the company`s property, the Supreme Court has ruled.
The apex court said that unlike the Payment of Gratuity Act of 1972, under which it is essential to prove that the employee has caused destruction/damage of property, there is
no such requirement under the Working Journalists Act in order to deny the journalist of such benefit.
"All that is required under the Working Journalists Act is that the termination should be as a punishment inflicted by way of disciplinary action, which is the position in the case
"Thus, if the service of an employee has been terminated by way of disciplinary action under the Working Journalists Act, he or she is not entitled to gratuity," a Bench of
Justices Markandeya Katju and T S Thakur said in an order.
The apex court passed the order while dismissing the appeal filed by P Rajan Sandhi, an Assistant Editor in Mathrubhumani Printing and Publishing Company Ltd, for making
false allegations against the MD and using discourteous language and other misconduct. He was dismissed on June 20, 1988.
The management refused to give him gratuity. He then moved the Kerala High Court which dismissed his plea, following which he appealed in the apex court. Sandhi, through his counsel, submitted that under Section 4(6) of the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, gratuity can be denied to an employmee only on two grounds when he/she causes damage, loss, or destruction of the company property or was engaged in riotous or disorderly conduct.
He pointed out that the employee was not involved in any such destruction of property, much less any riotous behaviour. Rejecting his argument, the apex court said there is a
difference between the provisions for denial of gratuity under the Payment of Gratuity Act and in the Working Journalists Act and the latter being a Special Act will prevail over the former which is a General Act.
"Under the Working Journalists Act, gratutity can be denied if the service is terminated as a punishment inflicted by way of disciplinary act, as has been done in the instant case. "We are of the opinion that section 5 of the Working Journalists Act being a speical law will prevail over section 4(6) of the Payment of Gratuity Act which is a general law.
"Section 5 of the Working Journalists Act is only for working journalists whereas Payment of Gratuity Act is available to all employees who are covered by that Act and is
not limited to working journalists," the Bench said.