High Court scolds Bank of India for transferring staff against guidelines

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The Punjab and Haryana high court (HC) has admonished the role of officials of a nationalised bank, who refused to accept the resignation of a woman employee with a newborn child.

The woman had resigned in protest as she was transferred from Chandigarh to Rajkot and her plea for cancellation of the transfer was also rejected.

“It is a well-known fact that in our country, it is very difficult to get a government job. Thus, it cannot be accepted that anyone will resign at his/her own free will. The petitioner was transferred, ignoring the fact that she is a married woman, her husband works in Chandigarh and she had delivered a baby just a few months prior to the date of transfer,” the bench of justice Jagmohan Bansal observed.

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The woman had joined the Bank of India in July 2013 as a general banking officer and was sanctioned maternity leave from October 2016 to April 2017. She further sought sick leave till June 30, 2017. While she was on leave, the bank relieved her and directed her to join the Rajkot branch on June 1, 2017.

The woman, on account of her ill-health and having a young child, could not join Rajkot and repeatedly requested the bank to cancel the transfer order, stating that she was staying in Zirakpur with her spouse, who is working in Chandigarh and that it was not possible for her to move to Rajkot.

As the officials did not accede to her request, with no option left, she resigned on December 13, 2018. But even the resignation was not accepted and in August 2019, departmental proceedings were initiated against her on grounds of absence from duty.

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She had approached the High Court in September 2019, stating that the bank’s policy mentioned that a female employee was supposed to be placed where her husband is stationed or as near as possible.

The bank, on the other hand, maintained that the woman employee was supposed to submit her resignation letter at Rajkot, thus, her resignation could not be accepted. The head office has already rejected her resignation, thus, her resignation at this stage cannot be accepted, the court was informed.

The court recorded that the respondent was a nationalised bank and in violation of its policy, transferred her and then added to her woes by not accepting her resignation.

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“The approach adopted by the bank seems to be harsh, pedantic and highly technical. It appears that the authorities have acted in a very mechanical and ruthless manner. The conduct of the officials dealing with this matter needs to be deprecated,” the bench said.

It further said, “The respondent bank is not supposed to behave in the manner in which it did, and that too with a married woman having child of few months. The petitioner offered resignation because it was impossible for her to join the Rajkot branch.”

It also said the stand taken by the bank for not accepting resignation was “totally baseless” when it could be accepted by the head office. Merely joining at Rajkot had not changed the facts of the case.

The court further quashed departmental proceedings and asked the bank to consider her application of resignation within two weeks, ignoring her non-joining at Rajkot. The court has also given the woman liberty to initiate contempt of court proceedings, if the bank fails to comply with the order.

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