Reinstated Govt Employee’s Absence Can’t Be Treated As Leave: J&K HC

Representational Photo

By M Ahmad

Srinagar- In a significant ruling, the High Court of J&K and Ladakh has held that when a Government servant is fully exonerated, he shall be given full pay and allowances and his absence be treated as a period spent on duty.

“….When the Government servant has been fully exonerated, the Government servant shall be given full pay and allowances to which he would have been entitled had he not been dismissed, removed, compulsorily retired before attaining the age of superannuation or suspended, as the case may be, and this period of absence from duty shall be treated as period spent on duty,” said a bench of Justice M. A. Chowdhary.

The court’s direction followed while allowing a petition by Dr Wajid Ali who had been suspended after a “sting operation” against him by a TV news channel but was later exonerated due to lack of “scientific evidence” by the enquiry committee constituted for the purpose.

The court’s observations followed contention by Dr Wajid Ali’s counsel that once an officer or official is discharged of the charges levelled against him; he cannot be treated on leave which amounts to inflicting punishment.

Pertinently, while the government ordered reinstating of Dr Wajid Ali, it had directed for treating the period of his suspension w.e.f. 6th of January, 2018 till his reinstatement as “leave whatever kind due to him.”

“In the considered opinion of this Court, the Petitioner(Dr Wajid Ali) has been fully exonerated as the charge has not been conclusively established by the Enquiry Officer. The competent authority, who reinstated (him), was, itself, under an obligation to treat him on duty for the period of suspension and not on leave whatever kind due and also without a warning to be careful in future.”

Dr Wajid Ali, along with two other Doctors of the SKIMS Institute, had been placed under suspension on 6th of January, 2018 and an enquiry was ordered into the matter. During the suspension, they were directed to remain attached with the office of the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir. Thereafter, a full-fledged enquiry was conducted which took more than a year and, during the enquiry, the video footage was sent for forensic assessment as well. Charge sheet was served upon Dr Wajid Ali, who denied all the charges leveled against him. The Enquiry Officer submitted his report before the competent authority on 5 October, 2018, wherein it was submitted that the charge against Dr Wajid Ali could not be conclusively established, due to lack of scientific evidence.

The competent authority, accordingly, accepted the report of the Enquiry Officer and decided to reinstate Dr Wajid Ali with immediate effect.

“This Court also takes judicial notice of the submissions of the learned Counsel for both the parties that the Petitioner (Dr Wajid Ali) has, now, superannuated from service, as such, the direction to him to be careful in future also pales into insignificance.”

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