Title: A. Rajinikanth Vs. Secretary to Government School Education Department.
Decided On: September 14, 2023.
Coram: Hon’ble Mr. Justice C.V. Karthikeyan.
The petitioner was working as Assistant in the Government Higher Secondary School, Olakkur in Tindivanam, Villupuram District, from 21.04.2014. He was earlier working in the office of the District Educational Officer, Tindivanam. At that time, a case was registered against him by the District Crime Branch, Villupuram in Crime No.74/2011 alleging that along with the other accused, the petitioner had helped the 1st accused therein to copy during the 10th standard public examination and complete his examination successfully. It was therefore alleged that the petitioner and the other accused committed offences under Sections 468, 471, 120[B], 201 read with 34 of IPC. The petitioner had been suspended from service on 08.10.2011. A charge memo was issued on 01.02.2012. An enquiry was conducted and during the enquiry, the charges were held to be established by an order dated 28.01.2015. The petitioner gave a subsequent explanation on 19.05.2015 to the Director and Joint Director of School Education. The criminal case which had been registered against the petitioner herein, ended in acquittal in Crl.A.No.18/2013 in a judgment dated 24.07.2013 by the II Additional District and Sessions Court, Tindivanam.
The order of suspension was revoked by an order of this Court in WP.No.29013/2013 dated 25.10.2013. The petitioner was then reappointed to service after he had filed a contempt petition. The petitioner had also filed WP.No.37079/2016 calling upon the respondents to expedite the enquiry. Orders in that regard were also passed. Thereafter, the petitioner had filed an appeal questioning the findings of the Enquiry Officer before the 2nd respondent. The 2nd respondent had rejected the appeal and had confirmed the order of the 3rd respondent / Disciplinary Authority of imposing the punishment of stoppage of increments for two years without cumulative effect. Questioning that particular order, the present writ petition has been filed.
Legal Analysis and Decision:
The Enquiry Officer had recorded the statements of two witnesses. As a matter of fact, it is stated that the witnesses were not examined in person, but their statements alone were taken on record. The petitioner was not given any opportunity to cross examine both the said witnesses. The petitioner had also given a request for examining a witness on his side. That was also not considered by the Enquiry Officer. Thereafter, when the petitioner filed an appeal before the Appellate Authority / 2nd respondent herein, he had again raised the same issues of procedural violations during the enquiry, namely, denial of opportunity to cross examine the witnesses summoned on behalf of the respondents and also denial of opportunity to examine the witness on his side.
The matter is remitted back to the 2nd respondent, Director of School Education, who may re-examine the entire issue, examine the records once again and specifically find out whether the petitioner had placed a request for opportunity to cross examine the two witnesses whose statements had been taken on record by the Enquiry Officer and if that opportunity had been denied, examine whether necessary reasons have been given by the Enquiry Officer for denial of such opportunity. The 2nd respondent may also examine whether the petitioner had placed a request for examining any witness on his side and also examine whether the Enquiry Officer had applied his mind to either accepting such request or rejecting such request and whether reasons had been given for rejection. The 2nd respondent may realise that he, as the Appellate Authority, has, not only the responsibility to look into the punishment aspect which has been imposed by the Disciplinary Authority, but more importantly, also has the responsibility to examine whether there had been procedural violations committed by the Enquiry Officer.
The Court held that the matter is remitted back to the Director of School Education, to re-examine the entire issue and pass necessary orders within a period of sixteen weeks from the date of receipt of a copy of this order. The punishment may be kept in abeyance and while reconsidering the entire issue, the Director of School Education may also pass an
order relating to the punishment imposed by the Disciplinary Authority.
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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY JANGAM SHASHIDHAR.