Supreme Court sets bar on suspension of govt employees

A government employee can’t be kept suspended for more than three
months if not formally informed about the charges, the Supreme Court
said Monday.
Based on the principle of human dignity and the right to speedy
trial, the landmark verdict is expected to affect lakhs of government
employees across India, many of whom are under suspension for years
pending departmental proceedings.
“Suspension, specially preceding the formulation of charges, is
essentially transitory or temporary in nature, and must perforce be of
short duration,” a bench headed by justice Vikramjit Sen said.
If the charge sheet or memorandum of charges was served within three month, the suspension could be extended, it ruled.
“If it (suspension) is for an indeterminate period or if its renewal
is not based on sound reasoning…, this would render it punitive in
nature,” the court said.
It agreed with petitioner’s senior counsel Nidhesh Gupta that a suspension order can’t continue for an unreasonably long period.

Protracted periods of suspension had become the norm and not the
exception that they ought to be, the court said. It drew a parallel with
criminal investigation wherein a person accused of heinous crime is
released from jail after the expiry of 90 days if police fail to file
the charge sheet.
The suspended persons suffers even before being charged and “his
torment is his knowledge that if and when charged, it will inexorably
take an inordinate time for the inquisition or inquiry to come to its
culmination”. “Much too often this has now become an accompaniment to
retirement,” the court said, setting aside a direction of the central
vigilance commission that required departmental proceedings to be kept
in abeyance pending a criminal investigation.
The government, however, was free to transfer the officer concerned
to any department in any of its offices to ensure the employee did not
misuse contacts for obstructing the probe, the court said.
The order came on a petition filed by defence estate officer Ajay
Kumar Choudhary, who was suspended in September 2011 for allegedly
issuing wrong no-objection certificates for the use of a four-acre land
parcel in Kashmir. After failing to get relief from the Delhi high
court, Choudhary had moved the top court in 2013.

Since a charge sheet had already been served on Choudhary, these directions would not apply to his case, the court said.

Read at Hindustan Times

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