The Kerala High Court has held that contractual employees being terminated from service for 'unsatisfactory performance' have to be first given notice regarding the same.
The ruling by the High Court came while setting aside the termination from service of two persons who worked as attendees and part-time sweepers in the Ayush NHM Homeo Dispensary at Mananthavady in the Wayanad district of the State.
Their contracts were closed on the ground that their work was "unsatisfactory" and the two contractual employees challenged their removal in the High Court.
Allowing their plea, Justice Anu Sivaraman said that when the primary reason for termination was unsatisfactory performance, even though the petitioners were contractual employees, they were entitled to notice regarding it.
Their services could have been terminated only after rendering a finding that their work was not up to the mark, said the court.
"In the instant case, such findings are conspicuous by their absence," the court said.
It further said that even if the petitioners were not appointed after a proper selection process, it was not in dispute that they worked at the dispensary from 2010 and 2016 respectively.
Therefore, the State government's contention that they can be sent out of service on the specific ground of unsatisfactory performance, without any notice or finding to that effect, was "perversive", the court said in its December 2, 2022 order.
"Even in case the respondents contend that the petitioners were not appointed after the full process of selection was carried out, it is not in dispute that they have been continuing in service on a contract basis from 2010 and 2016 onwards, and the contention that they can be sent out of service on the specific ground of unsatisfactory performance without any notice or finding to that effect, according to me, is perversive," it said.
With this view, the court set aside the July 2022 order of the Department of Urban Affairs of the State government, terminating the services of the two petitioners.
"There will be a direction to the respondents to permit the petitioners to continue in service as contractual employees in the 5th respondent (Mananthavady) municipality.
"However, this will not stand in the way of the municipality to take appropriate action against them under law after issuing due notice," the court said.