The Jammu & Kashmir High Court on Thursday ruled that mere registration of a FIR against a public servant shall not be a ground for compulsorily retiring the official concerned.
The bench also directed the reinstatement of the petitioner, who held the post of Assistant Manager in the Public Works Department, and against whom the Vigilance Organisation Kashmir (VOK) had registered FIRs under sections 420, 467 and 468 of the Ranbir Penal Code as well as for allegedly possessing assets illicit to his known sources of income.
Noting the petitioner’s averment that the investigation into the baseless allegations against him is not being completed, the bench quashed the order of compulsory retirement under Article 226(2) of the J&K Civil Service Regulations (CSR).
The bench laid emphasis on the 'Annual Performance Reports' (APR) of the petitioner wherein his achievements have been judged from time to time by his superiors as excellent/good/satisfactory. The bench also stressed on the importance to consider an official’s entire service record, including his service book, personal file and Integrity Certificate.
In view of the said Article, the instructions issued by the state government in June, 1999 and the Office Memo of the General Administration Department of October, 2010, the high court ruled that the screening committee, in determining the compulsory retirement of a public servant, shall be guided by the following factors- the number and nature of complaints received, if any, against the government servant pertaining to his doubtful integrity or corruption; the number and nature of various audit reports pending, if any, against such government servant; the number and nature of vigilance cases pending enquiry, if any; adverse entries in APRs concerning doubtful integrity, if any; the number and nature of departmental enquiries, preliminary enquiries etc.; the number and nature of administrative censures/warnings/punishments pertaining to corruption or doubtful integrity and, lastly, the general reputation of employees.
The bench also observed, “The law is that the order of compulsory retirement, taken under the safety valve of public interest, could not be treated as a major punishment and that Article 311(2) of the Constitution could not be invoked, as the employee concerned was no longer fit in the public interest to continue in service and, therefore, he can be compulsorily retired.”
Finally, the bench envisaged the power of judicial review of an order of compulsory retirement if the court is satisfied that any such order is (a) mala fide; (b) that it is based on no evidence; or (c) that it is arbitrary.