Chennai: Holding that an employee cannot be kept under suspension for years together without any progress in departmental disciplinary proceedings, the Madras high court came to the rescue of an employee, who was under suspension for over 10 years. The court quashed an order of the Chennai Corporation dated April 24, 2008, suspending him from service for allegedly demanding and accepting bribe.
Allowing the petition filed by the employee R. Velmurugan, Justice S.M. Subramaniam directed the Chennai Corporation to reinstate him in service. The Chennai Corporation is directed to post the petitioner in any one of non-sensitive posts till the conclusion of the departmental disciplinary proceedings as well as the criminal case registered against the petitioner, the judge added.
Challenging the criminal case registered against the petitioner by the Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption, the counsel for the petitioner stated that the said criminal case was still pending and the trial was in progress. However, keeping the petitioner under suspension for an unspecified period was bad in law, he added.
Counsel for the Chennai Corporation submitted that the petitioner was trapped and arrested for the allegation of demand and acceptance of bribe. Therefore, no leniency can be shown and the petition was liable to be rejected, she added.
The judge said prolonged suspension was bad in law. On initiation of disciplinary proceedings undoubtedly an employee shall be placed under suspension by the competent authority. However, competent authorities must ensure that departmental disciplinary proceedings initiated against the employee were concluded within a reasonable period of time. In the event of an enormous delay in concluding the departmental disciplinary proceedings, then the competent authorities must review the order of suspension for its revocation.
If it was not possible for the authorities to conclude the departmental disciplinary proceedings, then the order of suspension can be revoked and the employees shall be reinstated into service and posted in any non-sensitive post till the conclusion of the departmental disciplinary proceedings as well as the criminal case registered against him, the judge added.
The judge said disposal of the criminal case may take long years by the competent court of law. However, there was no bar for the disciplinary authorities to continue the departmental disciplinary proceedings even during the pendency of the criminal case. If the files, materials and other records were available with the authorities, then they were at liberty to continue the departmental disciplinary proceedings, conclude the same and pass final orders pending disposal of the criminal case, the judge added.
The judge said if an employee, after departmental disciplinary proceedings, was convicted by the competent court of law, then further actions shall be taken or the earlier orders shall be reviewed for issuing appropriate orders based on the conviction. There was no impediment for the authorities on initiation of fresh proceedings, if a public servant was convicted in criminal case by the competent court of law. This being the legal principles settled by the Constitutional Courts, the authorities need not keep an employee under suspension for an unspecified period.
Keeping an employee under suspension for long years and paying subsistence allowance for an unspecified period was causing financial loss to the state exchequer. Payment of subsistence allowance without extracting work was a financial loss to the state exchequer. Thus, the authorities must be vigilant and review the order of suspension periodically and if there was no impediment, conclude the disciplinary proceedings and pass final orders, the judge added.
The judge said in the case on hand, the order of suspension was issued long back and the petitioner was under continuous suspension without any progress in the departmental disciplinary proceedings as well as the criminal case. “This being the factum of the case, this court is of an opinion that there is no useful purpose would be served in keeping the petitioner under suspension for further period”, the judge added.