The Supreme Court has granted a reprieve to a software developer ‘hounded’ by her employer who sued for money spent on her ‘deputy abroad’ after she resigned from the company.
The bench of Judges DY Chandrachud and AS Bopanna was hearing an appeal arising from a Judgment and Order dated August 1, 2018 of a Single Judge of the High Court of Punjab and Haryana. The Appellant was a software developer who joined the services of the Respondent on November 15, 2012. The Respondent was a Gurgaon-based company engaged in software development. As a software developer, the appellant was employed on an annual package of Rs 13,50,400. The terms of employment were contained in a letter of offer dated November 15, 2012. The terms of employment included the following stipulation:
“II (5) You may be assigned to one of the various divisions of SHREE INFOSOFT PRIVATE LIMITED (the Company)/branches/
During your stay and/or return to India from overseas assignment, it is essential that you serve SHREE INFOSOFT PRIVATE LIMITED for a period as stated below, as applicable: In case of aberration in the service of society as mentioned above, you are required to reimburse the amount spent by the Society for your deputation covering travel expenses, insurance premium, per diem, visa fees and other related expenses”
The applicant was first sent for a meeting in the United States on August 22, 2013 for a period of one week. The Appellant received a ticket to facilitate her trip. Other expenses incidental to the visit were borne by the employer. The duration of the visit was later extended to 20 September 2013. The Applicant returned to India and reported for work on 21 September 2013. Upon her return, the Applicant was appointed Senior Project Manager on 27 September 2013 with a revised remuneration of Rs 16 lakhs per annum. Upon her return from the United States, the Applicant worked with the Respondent from September 21, 2013 to December 12, 2013, for a period of eighty-two days. Following a change in management, the Appellant faced several issues regarding her treatment. By letter of 12 December 2013, the applicant resigned from his duties. On 14 December 2013, the Applicant was informed that her resignation had been accepted and that the Human Resources department would facilitate the departure process. On December 18, 2013, the applicant sent an e-mail setting out her complaints and asking whether any other formalities needed to be completed. The applicant was informed on 18 December 2013 by e-mail that her request for immediate relief had been accepted by the Management. On May 22, 2014, a solicitor’s opinion was issued to the Appellant requesting him to pay an amount of Rs 5,70,753 plus interest at the rate of 24% per annum from December 12, 2013, which included the amount expended by the respondent on her “overseas deputation and salary for the notice period”. The Appellant responded with a lawyer’s reply on June 3, 2014.
During the hearing, the bench exclaimed that the appellant had been “hunted”.
He further discussed that deputation has a definite connotation in law – “A two-judge bench of this Court in State of Punjab v. Inder Singh clarified the concept of deputation and highlighted the particular rights and responsibilities associated with a deputation, which takes place only with the consent of the employee”
Further, the bench recorded that a two-judge bench of this Court in Union of India v. SN Maity interpreted the terms of the delegation strictly and disavowed acts of whim on the part of the employer.
For the above reasons, it allowed the appeal and quashed the impugned judgment of the High Court of 1 August 2018, adding that accordingly the action for recovery brought by the respondent will be dismissed.
Case title: Ms Sarita Singh v M/s Shree Infosoft Private Limited
Click here to read/download the order