State Govt Should Avoid Immediately Dismissing Police Officers When FIR Is Registered Against Them, Outcome Of Case Should Be Awaited: Punjab & Haryana HC

Aiman J. Chishti

11 Jun 2024 1:59 PM GMT

  • State Govt Should Avoid Immediately Dismissing Police Officers When FIR Is Registered Against Them, Outcome Of Case Should Be Awaited: Punjab & Haryana HC

    The Punjab & Haryana High Court has said that upon the registration of an FIR against police officers, state authorities should refrain from dismissing them and may instead put them under suspension.Justice Jagmohan Bansal said, "respondent authorities should avoid to dismiss a police officer close on the heels of registration of FIR. He may be put on suspension in terms of Rule 16.19...

    The Punjab & Haryana High Court has said that upon the registration of an FIR against police officers, state authorities should refrain from dismissing them and may instead put them under suspension.

    Justice Jagmohan Bansal said, "respondent authorities should avoid to dismiss a police officer close on the heels of registration of FIR. He may be put on suspension in terms of Rule 16.19 of Punjab Police Rules, 1934. The departmental inquiry may be deferred but it should not be dispensed with in a mechanical manner."

    In an appropriate case, the outcome of a criminal case may be awaited. If an officer is straightway dismissed and reinstated on account of acquittal by a criminal Court, it leads to payment of back wages without work.

    The Court was hearing a batch of seven petitions involving common issues wherein Punjab Police officers were dismissed from service and later on reinstated, however, they were paid for the period from dismissal to reinstatement.

    After examining the submissions and material placed on record, the Court found that "it stresses beyond the pale of doubt" that petitioners were dismissed from service without conducting an inquiry as contemplated by 1934 Rules read with Article 311 of the constitution.

    The Court said it has found that as soon as an FIR is registered against a police official, the jurisdictional SSP opts to dispense with the inquiry. He does not think it necessary to conduct inquiry which is mandatory.

    As per second proviso to Article 311 (2) of the Constitution of India, inquiry may be dispensed with (i) where person is dismissed or removed or reduced in rank on the ground of conduct which has led to his conviction on a criminal charge or (ii) where the competent authority finds that it is not reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry or (iii) where President or the Governor is satisfied that in the interest of the security of the State it is not expedient to hold such inquiry, the Court added.

    Perusing Article 311 (2), the judge said, "...in case of conviction, inquiry may be dispensed with. Inquiry may also be dispensed with were it not reasonably practicable to hold such inquiry. In the case in hand, respondent has concluded that no witness on account of fear of petitioner would come forward, thus, it is not practicable to hold inquiry."

    The Court said, "mere writing one line in the impugned order 'it is not practicable to hold inquiry' or 'it is in the public interest' is not compliance of mandate of either Constitution of India or Rule 16.24 of Punjab Police Rules, 1934."

    The judge highlighted that dispensing with enquiry should be the exception and not the rule whereas the respondent in almost every case had adopted an easy way of dispensing with inquiry. "The respondent instead of straight away dismissing could put delinquent under suspension and thereafter conduct an inquiry," it added.

    Referring to the Fundamental Rules as well as Rules 7.3 & 7.3A of PCS Rules provide that competent authority in case of reinstatement of the employee who has not been 'fully exonerated' would determine the amount of salary payable for the period of dismissal.  

    The Court observed a fully exonerated government servant would receive full salary and allowances for the period of dismissal, which would be treated as 'period spent on duty'.

    It clarified if the government servant was not fully exonerated, the competent authority would determine the amount payable after notifying the person of the proposed quantum and considering his representation.

    Justice Bansal also observed that the government servant would be treated on a par with an employee who has not been fully exonerated, if the order of dismissal, removal, or compulsory retirement was overturned solely due to non-compliance with Article 311 provisions and no further inquiry was conducted. Besides, the amount of pay and allowances payable cannot be, in any case, less than the subsistence allowance and other admissible allowances.

    In one of the cases, the Court noted that the FIR was lodged under Sections 326, 324, 323, 148 and 149 of IPC was registered against a police officer. In the investigation, he was found innocent, however, he was summoned as an additional accused under Section 319 of Cr.P.C.

    Later, the officer was acquitted, therefore he claimed back wages from the date of acquittal to reinstatement.

    The judge noted that he was reinstated and in the departmental inquiry conducted he was exonerated.

    Consequently, the Court opined that "the petitioner is entitled to 100% of pay and allowances for the period from the date of acquittal to date of reinstatement."

    IQBAL SINGH V. STATE OF PUNJAB AND OTHERS [other connected cases]

    Click here to read/download the order

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