The Hyderabad High Court has refused to accept the contention that a government employee cannot be placed under suspension for his/her alleged involvement in a crime outside the zone of employment.
“Every person, who is in public employment, is required to bear a decent and appropriate conduct not only while he/she performs duty but even beyond the office hours. Government servants are required to bear the same conduct through their retired life as well since that will secure them a monthly pension support from the state”, the Court observed.
Justice Nooty Ramamohana Rao made these observations while dealing with a writ petition filed by an employee working in the Telangana State Power General Corporation Limited.
The counsel, appearing for the petitioner, argued that his client had been unnecessarily implicated in a criminal case inspite of the police knowing that he was in no way concerned with it. He further contended that the petitioner had not exhibited any conduct, which is even slightly blameworthy, while performing his official duties.
The crime took place in a neighbouring area. Even the First Information Report (FIR) did not name the petitioner, but showed him as accused number 12 amongst the 13 named by the police. “Placing the petitioner under suspension, for no fault of his and only on the grounds that the police have registered a case against him, is wholly unjust,” he argued.
After hearing the case and perusing the material on record, the Judge said as a matter of rule of thumb, it cannot be said that an employee in public employment cannot be placed under suspension for alleged involvement in a crime, which had taken place outside the arena of employment.
“All employees of the public employment are regulated by an approved code of conduct. Concept of public employment stipulates that such an employee is employed round-the-clock and on all the days throughout the year. Therefore, every person, who is in public employment, is required to bear a decent and appropriate conduct not only while he performs duty but even outside and beyond the office hours. Exhibiting indecent conduct or involvement in offences, which carry moral turpitude, is incompatible with the spirit and status of public employment,” the judge observed.
Justice Ramamohana Rao made it clear he was not in agreement with the point of view of the petitioner’s counsel. The judge, however, said no employee shall be confined to prolonged periods of suspension and such suspension without adequate justification for doing so is likely to cause loss of productivity to the organisation.
Besides, it will harden the individual and the joints would later on become rickety should he get an opportunity to get reinstated, the judge opined.
The judge further said reinstating an employee may sometimes be counter-productive and project the employer in a poor light. Therefore, an appropriate balance has to be struck between the two ends of the rainbow.
Stating that the persons who are involved in criminal cases have very little control over the progress achieved in a criminal court, the judge directed the authority concerned (employer) to secure appropriate information from the investigating agency and if there was any delay, in any manner, in completion of the investigation or filing of the chargesheet or proceeding with the prosecution in the criminal court, reinstatement back to service, perhaps, will be an appropriate course to be adopted.
That would save the employer from further obligation of making substitute arrangements in place of the employee confined to suspension and would also obviate the necessity to pay additionally for the wages of the substitute. While disposing of the petition, the Judge directed the authority to take an appropriate decision expeditiously.