Top court supports 2012 firing of HDFC whistleblower

Screen grab from video of Supreme Court's virtual hearing on June 2, 2020.

The Supreme Court, on Tuesday, ruled in support of the decision by Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) to fire its then-IT manager, who had lodged a case with the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) over allegations of corruption within the corporation.

Ismail Masood from M. Thulhaagiri was terminated from his position as HDFC’s IT manager on February 28, 2012, following 14 days of suspension.

Prior to getting fired, he had lodged a case with the ACC accusing two HDFC employees of being involved in the illegal exchange of foreign currency.

After he was fired, Masood lodged a case with the Employment Tribunal alleging breach of contract, stating that he was fired without notice. The case dragged on for close to a year before the Employment Tribunal ruled that Masood had been fired in violation of regulations and ordered HDFC to reinstate him.

The decision was appealed by HDFC at the High Court, which ruled in favor of the corporation and annulled the Tribunal’s ruling.

Following his defeat at the High Court, Masood filed a petition with the Supreme Court, which held a virtual sitting to issue its ruling this Tuesday morning.

The bench which oversaw the case was composed of Justice Husnu Al Suood, Justice Aisha Shujoon Mohamed and Justice Mahaz Ali Zahir.

The bench ruled to uphold the High Court’s verdict.

HDFC said that Masood was fired based on nine incidents where he was found to have breached his contract with the corporation. HDFC said that he had poor work ethic, and that his continued employment at the corporation exposed it to damages.

Masood was accused of secretly recording his meetings with the senior management, and abusing the trust in him as the IT manager of the corporation by going through the email accounts and computer systems of the senior management as well as the personal email accounts employees to leak privileged information.

He was accused of calling HDFC’s then-managing director Dr. Priyanka Baddevitha, an Indian national, and threatening to deport him.

He was also accused of meeting with several of the corporation’s directors in attempts to get people hired to the corporation to serve his personal interests, behaving inappropriately with new recruits called in for interviews, sharing false information regarding the corporation with politicians, attempting to damage the corporation’s reputation and business interests by using said politicians to spread false information regarding the corporation to the press, starting an anti-campaign against the corporation after he was served his suspension notice, providing false information to investigative authorities, and secretly proving HDFC’s copyright material to another party.

HDFC argued the actions violated Article 23 of Employment Act.