Tuesday, 17 November 2015

SC; Honest public servants should be protected

 In such a scenario, until and unless we maintain a fine
balance between prosecuting a guilty officer and protecting an
innocent officer from vexatious, frivolous and mala fide
prosecution, it would be very difficult for the public servant to
discharge his duties in free and fair manner. The efficiency of a
public servant demands that he should be free to perform his
official duties fearlessly and without any favour. The dire necessity
is to fill in the existing gap by protecting the honest officers while

making the corrupt officers realize that they are not above law.
The protection to an honest public servant is required not only in
his interest but in the larger interest of society. This Court time and
again extended assurance to the honest and sincere officers to
perform their duty in a free and fair manner towards achieving a
better society.
REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION
WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No.933 OF 2014
Dr. RAM LAKHAN SINGH …. PETITIONER
VERSUS
STATE GOVERNMENT OF UTTAR PRADESH
THROUGH CHIEF SECRETARY …. RESPONDENT
Dated;NOVEMBER 17, 2015.
N.V. RAMANA, J.

This petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India is
filed by one Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh, an incumbent of Indian Forest
Service (1969 Batch, U.P. Cadre) who rendered services to the
respondent State and Government of India in various positions for
about 35 years till his retirement. The main contention of the
petitioner is that he was illegally detained by the respondent

authorities after implicating him in false vigilance cases and
dishonouring the High Court’s directions. Because of the
malicious, willful and contemptuous acts of the State and clear
abuse of legal process, he and his family members had to suffer a
great ordeal of mental agony and heavy financial loss besides
being defamed in the society. Hence, he prayed this Court to
express displeasure over the violation of his family members’
fundamental rights and to direct the respondent to pay
compensation for the loss of his professional career, reputation
and for causing mental agony.
2. The relevant facts as submitted by the petitioner, who argued
his case before us in person, are that he has rendered about 35
years service to the State of U.P. and the Government of India,
with an unblemished record. He became a Member of the
National Board for Wild Life (for short “NBWL”) on 22nd
September, 2003. The then Chief Minister of the respondent State
wanted the petitioner to take necessary steps so as to get the
Benti Bird Sanctuary located at Kunda of Pratapgarh District
denotified by the NBWL in its meeting held on 15th October, 2003.

As the petitioner did not comply with the directions, the then Chief
Minister of Uttar Pradesh, in the guise of a complaint by the MLA
of his own party against the petitioner, issued directions to the
Director General, Vigilance Establishment of the State to initiate a
vigilance enquiry against him. As per the procedure envisaged for
the purpose by D.O. Letter No.2020/39(2)-12(5)-74, dated
12-09-1997 (Annexure P-11), before a case is sent for State
Vigilance Establishment, the approval of the State Vigilance
Committee is a condition precedent, but the respondent State
without following the prescribed procedure, conducted vigilance
enquiry and removed him from his post. The petitioner moved the
High Court by Writ Petition No.126 of 2004 to declare that the
vigilance enquiry against him was done in clear violation of the
prescribed procedure. The High Court by orders dated 30th
January, 2004 and 14th September, 2007 directed the State
Vigilance Committee to carry out the enquiry proceedings, but the
respondent did not comply with the directions of the High Court.
3. While that being so, Writ Petition No.2985 of 2004 was filed
before the High Court by an advocate arraying the petitioner as

respondent No.4 therein. According to the petitioner, the writ
petition (PIL) was got purportedly filed by the advocate who was
working in the office of the then Advocate General, making false
averments stating that the vigilance committee had already
completed the enquiry in various issues against him. As a matter
of fact, on the date of institution of the said writ petition, the enquiry
against the petitioner was not even referred to the State Vigilance
Committee. In the said petition, the High Court, on 25th June,
2004, passed an order which, inter alia, reads thus:
 “List this case on 12.02.2004, Vigilance Committee shall
carry on with the proceeding, but no final order shall be
passed.
 It has been further averred that the vigilance
committee had already completed the enquiry in
various issues against the respondent No.4, namely
Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh and the matter is serious in
nature in mis-utilization of Government funds in its own
way. Nowhere the Division Bench vide its order dated
30.01.04 had stopped the State to lodge FIR, if prima
facie, the Vigilance Committee comes to the conclusion
that some cognizable offence is committed by
respondent No.4. It was always open for the State to
lodge FIR, if prima facie, the Vigilance Committee had
come to a conclusion that some cognizable offence has
been committed by respondent No.4, it is always open
for the State to lodge an FIR, if some cognizable offence
is found to have been committed by the Respondent
No.4, and if it comes out from the report of the Vigilance
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Committee, not only the State but also any person can
lodge an FIR under Section 154 Cr.P.C. with respect to
a cognizable offence said to have been committed by a
particular person. The Division Bench has never
stopped the State to lodge an FIR since the
Departmental proceeding can very well continue
simultaneously.

 With the aforesaid observation, this petition stands
finally disposed of.”
4. Taking advantage of the order dated 25th June, 2004 passed
by the High Court, FIR was registered against the petitioner and
his house was raided. The petitioner claims that in the case of
house raid and arrest of a Member of the All India Services like
that of the petitioner, the State Vigilance Establishment is required
to take prior permission and approval of the Chief Secretary of the
State, whereas in the case of the petitioner no such approval had
been obtained. Afterwards, the respondent obtained approval by a
pre-dated letter on 5th July, 2004, concealing the fact of raiding the
petitioner’s house on 25-06-2004 and the petitioner was finally
arrested. Subsequently, two more FIRs were registered against
5Page 6
the petitioner on the same day and the petitioner was suspended
from his official duties.
5. Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner approached this Court by
way of filing Writ Petition No.236 of 2004 and this Court permitted
the petitioner to approach the High Court afresh. Accordingly, the
proceedings were recommenced before the High Court in Writ
Petition No.126 of 2004 and finally on 30th August, 2011, the High
Court disposed of the matter, inter alia, observing thus:
“Heard Sri Prashant Chandra, learned Senior Advocate
in the presence of the petitioner Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh
and Sri J.N. Mathur, Additional Advocate General for
the State.

 The prayer of the counsel for the petitioner is that all
actions and orders passed, if any, in violation of the
Court’s order dated 30-01-2004 be declared to be null
and void and be quashed and that, in fact, the matter
was never referred to Vigilance Committee and
consequently, no vigilance enquiry was ever initiated
against the petitioner and, therefore, all actions
taken/complaints lodged with the assumption that
vigilance enquiry has been initiated against the
petitioner, shall stand void and non est.

 Sri J.N. Mathur does not dispute the aforesaid position
and has no objection if such a direction is issued.

 We have gone through the documents on record and
we find that it is a case where the petitioner has
undergone severe agony because of the incorrect
6Page 7
statement about the Vigilance Committee being
constituted and vigilance enquiry being initiated
against him.”
6. The petitioner finally submitted that he was prosecuted
without a plausible cause and only by malicious and willful
intention of the respondent, he had to suffer unlawful suspension
from the post of Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, loss of full
salary and retirement benefits which were withheld for a period of
more than ten years. For causing him the loss of professional
career including that of the Member of NBWL, reputation, great
mental agony and heavy financial loss besides defaming his
character, the petitioner prayed for compensation.
7. The State has filed a counter affidavit denying the allegations
made against the State and the learned senior counsel appearing
for the State submitted that the arrest and suspension of the
petitioner were done in accordance with proper procedure. The
prior approval of the State Vigilance Committee applies only in
those cases where the Administrative Department recommends
the cases for investigation and such prior approval of State
Vigilance Committee is not required in cases as that of the
7Page 8
petitioner where the Chief Minister directly orders for vigilance
enquiry. In the enquiry, it was found that the petitioner was
allegedly owning disproportionate assets beyond his income, as
being a public servant, such offence attracts punishment under
Sections 13(1)(e) and 13(2) of the Prevention of Corruption Act,
1988. Even the search operation by the team consisting of officers
from the Vigilance Department including lady officers was
conducted in consonance with the rules and regulations honoring
the human rights. Thus, the respondent had not committed any
illegality and there was no flouting of any orders of the Hon’ble
High Court or blatant violation of fundamental right to life
guaranteed to the petitioner.
8. Learned senior counsel finally submitted that even all the
retirement dues of the petitioner amounting to Rs.14.57 lakhs and
Rs.3,00,886/- as interest on gratuity for delay has been paid. In
addition, the petitioner who retired on 31-12-2004 was being paid
provisional pension w.e.f. 01-01-2005 till his final pension was
sanctioned on 28-08-2015. However, earned leave encashment of
Rs.4,03,106/- was sanctioned on 21-02-2014, but for the payment
8Page 9
of interest on late payment of leave encashment, there is no
provision in the rules and hence the interest could not be paid.
9. Having heard the parties on either side, we find that the
narration of the facts indicates a clear procedural lapse on the part
of the respondent which caused mental agony and financial loss to
the writ petitioner. Though there is no material before us
indicating the involvement of the Chief Minister in initiating the
proceedings against the petitioner for not fulfilling his request, as
alleged by the petitioner, however, the initiation of vigilance
proceedings and statements made before the High Court by
officers of the respondent State led to the arrest of the petitioner
causing great loss to him. At the end of the day, as per the
statement made by the respondent before the High Court and by
the order of the Special Judge, Anti Corruption Act, Lucknow
(Annexure P-31) on 15-02-2012, all the actions against the
applicant have been declared as null and void. But in the entire
process, the petitioner had to suffer mental agony and loss of
reputation in the society besides huge financial loss. Even the
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retrial benefits have been paid to the petitioner belatedly which is
attributable to the negligence and irresponsible act of the State.
10. A public servant in a democracy should be a guardian of
morals. He is entrusted with higher responsibilities of a public
office and they contribute their best for the just and humane
society. We feel that for effective functioning of a democracy, the
role of Executive is very important. Civil servants and public
officials are expected to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust
and confidence by demonstrating the high standards of
professional competence, efficiency and effectiveness by
upholding the Constitution and rule of law, keeping in mind the
advancement of public good at all times. Public employment being
a public trust, the improper use of the public position for personal
advantage is considered as a serious breach of trust. With the
changing times, the role of Executive and expectation of the
citizens in governance also underwent tremendous change.
11. Dishonesty and corruption are biggest challenges for any
developing country. If the public servant indulges in corruption, the
citizens who are vigilant in all aspects take note of this seriously
10Page 11
and develop a sense of distress towards the Government and its
mechanism, on a whole it sends a very alarming message to the
society at large and to the common man in particular. In any
civilized society, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the
society and corruption is the biggest hindrance in that process. If
the corrupt public servant is not punished, then it will have a
negative impact on the honest public servants who will be
discouraged and demoralized. Some upright officers resist
corruption but they cannot alone change the system which
victimizes them through frequent punitive transfers, threat to their
families and fabricating, foisting false cases.
12. In such a scenario, until and unless we maintain a fine
balance between prosecuting a guilty officer and protecting an
innocent officer from vexatious, frivolous and mala fide
prosecution, it would be very difficult for the public servant to
discharge his duties in free and fair manner. The efficiency of a
public servant demands that he should be free to perform his
official duties fearlessly and without any favour. The dire necessity
is to fill in the existing gap by protecting the honest officers while

making the corrupt officers realize that they are not above law.
The protection to an honest public servant is required not only in
his interest but in the larger interest of society. This Court time and
again extended assurance to the honest and sincere officers to
perform their duty in a free and fair manner towards achieving a
better society.
13. In the case on hand, the counter affidavit filed on behalf of
the State at the time of hearing specifically indicates that the FIRs
against the petitioner were lodged for the crimes relating to the
petitioner’s owning disproportionate assets beyond his income,
illegal mining and auction of Tendu patta leaves causing loss of
revenue to Government and undue gain to the purchasers.
However, except making such averments, no material in support of
allegations leveled against the petitioner has been made available
to this Court. On the other hand, the order of the High Court
passed on 30th August, 2011 in Writ Petition No.126 of 2004
(Annexure P-30), clearly indicates that the Additional Advocate
General for the State did not dispute the averments made by the
petitioner that his case was never referred to Vigilance Committee

and consequently no vigilance enquiry was ever initiated against
him. The High Court order further reveals that the Additional
Advocate General also expressed no objection to declare that all
actions taken and complaints lodged against the petitioner shall
stand void and non est in the eye of law. Thus, in the light of the
foregoing, it is clear that the defence taken by the State in the
counter affidavit is only to justify its illegal action against the
petitioner, without producing any material supporting the stand
taken by them.
14. It appears that after his discharge from the Court
proceedings, the petitioner had written a letter to the Chief Minister
on 12th May, 2011 seeking an amount of Rs.4½ crores towards
compensation and damages. Normally, this Court is reluctant in
determining or granting any compensation while exercising its
jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution, but advises the
parties to approach the competent Courts for adjudicating those
issues. However, keeping in view the peculiar facts and
circumstances of this case and taking into consideration the age
and trauma suffered by the petitioner who spent about 11 days in

jail and fought the legal battle for about a period of 10 years before
various forums and more particularly in the absence of any proved
charges of corruption against the petitioner, we deem it fit that a
lump sum amount of Rs.10 lakhs be awarded as compensation to
the petitioner on all forms.
15. Accordingly, we direct the State of Uttar Pradesh to pay a
lump sum of Rs.10 lakhs to the petitioner within a period of three
months towards compensation.
16. The writ petition stands disposed of accordingly.
…………………………………………………J.
(RANJAN GOGOI)

.……………………………………………J.
(N.V. RAMANA)
NEW DELHI,
NOVEMBER 17, 2015.

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