Top
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.
News Updates

'Cannot Find Favour When Free Speech Is Celebrated' - Kerala High Court Quashes 'Censure' against KSEB Cashier For WhatsApp Text Against CM

Lydia Suzanne Thomas
9 May 2021 2:07 PM GMT
Cannot Find Favour When Free Speech Is Celebrated - Kerala High Court Quashes Censure against KSEB Cashier For WhatsApp Text Against CM
x

In a judgment from March 26, the Kerala High Court quashed an order of censure against a cashier working with the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd. (KSEB), who had allegedly disseminated 'defamatory' content against the Government of Kerala and its Chief Minister in a private WhatsApp group. Setting-aside the order of censure, a Single Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran...

Your free access to Live Law has expired
To read the article, get a premium account.
    Your Subscription Supports Independent Journalism
Subscription starts from
599+GST
(For 6 Months)
Premium account gives you:
  • Unlimited access to Live Law Archives, Weekly/Monthly Digest, Exclusive Notifications, Comments.
  • Reading experience of Ad Free Version, Petition Copies, Judgement/Order Copies.
Already a subscriber?

In a judgment from March 26, the Kerala High Court quashed an order of censure against a cashier working with the Kerala State Electricity Board Ltd. (KSEB), who had allegedly disseminated 'defamatory' content against the Government of Kerala and its Chief Minister in a private WhatsApp group.

Setting-aside the order of censure, a Single Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran stated,

"This certainly cannot be found favour with this Court in these times, when the right of free speech – with only the well recognised restrictions circumscribing it – being affirmatively declared and celebrated as an imperative component of the right to meaningful life."

The KSEB initiated action against him citing these reasons –

a) He had posted messages denigrating the Government of Kerala and defaming the Chief Minister personally.

b) The actions were contrary to the disciplinary standards of employees of the KSEB and

c) That his action caused the good name of the KSEB to be dented.

During disciplinary proceedings and in court, the cashier maintained that his messages reposted material that was already circulating in the group. Additionally, since the messages were sent to a private WhatsApp group, no one could access these messages.

After a 'virtual farce' of an inquiry, where a person who had no information about allegations and a member of the WhatsApp group testified, he had been awarded a punishment of "censure, he averred. Apart from this, his period of suspension was regularised only as eligible leave, he argued. Seeking that the orders against him be set-aside, he, through his counsel Advocate Thulasi K Raj prayed that the KSEB regularise his period of suspension, treating it as duty as to allow him all service benefits.

In its Order, the Court expresses its incomprehension at how the copies of WhatsApp snapshots of messages in the private "WhatsApp" group were obtained.

"And even if these had been posted there, how this would amount to be an infraction of discipline, merely because it has references against the Government of Kerala or the Chief Minister in his personal capacity, especially when it is conceded by Sri.M.K. Thankappan that the KSEB is not a department of the Government but a Corporate entity, governed by its own Regulations", the Court asks in its order.

This apart, the Court noted the order of suspension refers to a news report in Deshabhimani, the same had, never been produced before the Enquiry Officer. The only documents that were produced and marked were copies of the screenshots of the alleged messages sent by the petitioner and the disciplinary Regulations applicable to the KSEB, it was said.

With these findings, the Court proceeded to quash the orders in challenge and allowed the cashier's petition.

The KSEB was therefore required to regularise the period during which the cashier was suspended for the messages.

CASE: .. v. KSEB and Ors.

COUNSEL: Advocates Kaleeswaram Raj, Varun C.Vijay, Thulasi K. Raj and Maitreyi Sachidananda Hegde

Click here to download the judgment


Next Story
Share it