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State Government Should Wait For Case Outcome Before Dismissing Police Officers When Fir Is Registered Against Them: Punjab & Haryana High Court

Sanskriti Tiwari ,
  17 June 2024       Share Bookmark

Court :
Punjab and Haryana High Court
Brief :

Citation :
2024 : PHHC : 079514

CASE NAME:

Iqbal Singh and Ors vs. State of Punjab and Ors

CASE DATE:

29th May, 2024

PARTIES INVOLVED:-

  • Petitioner:-
  1. Iqbal Singh
  2. Prabhjot Singh
  3. Ranjit Singh
  4. Prabhjinder Singh
  5. Kuldeep Singh
  6. Ajit Singh
  7. Sukhdev Singh
  • Respondent:-
  1. State of Punjab and Others

BENCH/JUDGE:

Justice Jagmohan Bansal

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:-

1.    Rule 16.24 of 1934 Rules:- 

This rule outlines the procedure for conducting inquiries against police officers and the conditions under which inquiries can be dispensed with.

2.    Article 311 of the Constitution of India:- 

The second proviso to Article 311(2) which allows for dispensing with inquiry under specific circumstances such as when it is not reasonably practicable to conduct one.

3.    Fundamental Rules (FR) 53, 54 and 54A:- 

These rules govern the payment of subsistence allowances and full pay and allowances to government servants during suspension and after reinstatement, depending on the outcome of departmental proceedings or criminal acquittal.

4.    Rule 10.70 of Punjab Police Rules:- 

Specifically, sub-rule (2) which deals with payment of full pay in case of honorable acquittal of police officers.

5.    Rule 7.3, 7.3A of PCS Rules:- 

These rules mirror FR 54 and FR 54A respectively, providing for payment of full pay and allowances in case of exoneration or acquittal in departmental or judicial proceedings.

6.    Rule 16.3 of 1934 Rules:- 

This rule prevents departmental punishment if a police officer has been tried and acquitted by a criminal court, depending on the circumstances specified.

7.    Rule 16.20 of 1934 Rules:- 

Pertains to the entitlement of pay and allowances during the period from dismissal to reinstatement of police officers.

SUBJECT:-

The petitioners, Punjab Police officers, challenged their dismissals without inquiry upon FIR registration. The court, analyzing Article 311 and Punjab Police Rules, noted dismissals post-FIR lacked procedural fairness. 

OVERVIEW:-

  • The petitioners are police officers with the Punjab Police who were dismissed from their services based on FIRs without any inquiry, but were later reinstated. 
  • They were not compensated for the period between their dismissal and reinstatement, nor was this period treated as “period spent on duty”. 
  • The petitions challenge the decisions that treated the dismissal periods as various forms of leave instead of duty periods, seeking full compensation and proper recognition of their service time.

ISSUES RAISED BEFORE THE COURT:-

  1. Whether the dismissals of the petitioners complied with procedural requirements under Rule 16.24 of 1934 Rules and Article 311 of the Constitution of India?
  2. Whether the petitioners were entitled to full pay and allowances?
  3. Whether the petitioners’ dismissals violated their rights under Article 311 and related rules?

CONTENTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF THE PETITIONER:-

  • The learned counsels for the petitioners contended that the petitioners were dismissed from service without conducting the mandatory inquiry required under Rule 16.24 of the 1934 Rules and Article 311(2) of the Constitution of India. 
  • They asserted that the Trial Court did not even frame charges, indicating the petitioners’ discharge at the first available opportunity.
  • They contended that since the petitioner was acquitted in the criminal proceedings, the disciplinary authority was obligated to reconsider the quantum of punishment and pass a fresh order.
  • It was argued that the dismissal period should be recognized as ‘period spent on duty’ and they should be paid salaries for this period.

CONETNTIONS RAISED ON BEHALF OF RESPONDENT:-

  • The learned counsel for the State argued that the petitioners were not honorably acquitted and thus, they are not entitled to pay and allowances for the dismissal period. 
  • They contended that according to Rule 7.2 of the Punjab PCS Rules, the petitioners were paid subsistence allowance during their suspension period and they cannot claim subsistence allowance or full pay after being dismissed from service. 
  • The counsel further contended that the petitioners faced criminal proceedings and were acquitted either by extending the benefit of the doubt or because witnesses turned hostile. 
  •  It was asserted that some petitioners remained in custody and therefore, they cannot be paid a salary for the period they were in custody. 
  • The State further contends that a government employee implicated in a criminal case unrelated to their official duties cannot claim pay and allowances for the period spent in custody or for the dismissal period after their conviction. 
  • The state argued that since the petitioners are part of the Punjab Police and governed by the 1934 Rules, the specific rules applicable to their situation do not allow for benefits under Rules 7.3, 7.3A or 7.3B of the Punjab PCS Rules. Therefore, the petitioners cannot be granted full back wages.

ANALYSIS BY COURT:-

  • The court observed that the petitioners were dismissed from service without conducting the mandatory inquiry required under Rule 16.24 of the 1934 Rules and Article 311 of the Indian Constitution.
  • It noted that jurisdictional SSPs frequently dispensed with inquiries immediately upon FIR registration, often without providing valid reasons for doing so.
  • It was found that the reasons provided by SSPs for dispensing with inquiries, such as ‘not practicable to hold inquiry’ did not satisfy the requirements of Article 311 (2) and Rule 16.24.
  • The court stated that a mere assertion that an inquiry was not practicable or was in the public interest was insufficient; specific and detailed reasons had to be recorded.
  • It opined that officers should have been suspended and an inquiry conducted rather than being immediately dismissed. The dismissal order could then be reconsidered based on the inquiry or criminal proceedings’ outcomes.

JUDGMENT:-

The court disposed of all the petitions stating that the petitioners were not entitled to full back wages if they did not work during the period of dismissal, unless they were honorably acquitted. It ruled that petitioners would not be entitled to interest on back wages if payments were made within three months; delays would incur interest at 1% per month.

CONCLUSION:-

The respondent authorities are advised to avoid dismissing a police officer immediately upon FIR registration. Officers should be suspended in accordance with Rule 16.19 of the Punjab Police Rules, 1934 and departmental inquiries should not be mechanically dispensed with. Instead, the outcome of criminal cases should be awaited in appropriate circumstances to prevent unnecessary back wage payments without work.

 
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