4 Nov 2022 7:38 AM GMT
Directing the authorities to reinstate a Constable of Railway Protection Special Force who was compulsorily retired in 2014, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said people with Paranoid Schizophrenia by and large are neither harmful to people nor a threat to the society.The division bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Saurabh Banerjee said each individual suffering from the illness...
Directing the authorities to reinstate a Constable of Railway Protection Special Force who was compulsorily retired in 2014, the Delhi High Court on Thursday said people with Paranoid Schizophrenia by and large are neither harmful to people nor a threat to the society.
The division bench of Justice Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Saurabh Banerjee said each individual suffering from the illness has to be dealt with differently "just like each doctor prescribes different medicines to different patients suffering from similar disease(s)".
"But, yes, they may, in a fit of rage, be a danger for some time. Those again depend upon the conditions, situations and surroundings prevalent then and most of all the gravity of the illness involved and may not, by and large, be present in all cases," said the court.
The court made the observations in its decision on a petition challenging the Constable's compulsory retirement from service and seeking reinstatement with full back wages and consequential benefits. The petitioner Babu Khan was appointed in the RPSF in September 1996. He was later diagnosed with mental disorder called Paranoid Schizophrenia.
In 2009, Khan was issued a chargesheet for threatening to open fire in the battalion campus at Rail Bhavan or kill himself if he was not immediately posted in headquarter. It was also alleged that he is habitual of absenting from the duty without any information and neglecting orders of superiors. In 2010, he was awarded the punishment of Compulsory Retirement.
In 2013, the high court directed reinstatement of the constable with a direction that disciplinary authority may take a fresh view in the matter while taking into consideration his medical condition. Though Khan was reinstated without any medical examination, a fresh enquiry was conducted against him and he was again compulsorily retired in 2014. The appellate authority and revisional authority confirmed the decision.
In the fresh petition seeking quashing of the punishment, the counsel representing the Constable argued that the directions issued by the high court in March 2013 were not complied with as no proper medical examination of the petitioner was conducted. It was also submitted that during the de-novo enquiry, the petitioner was not provided 'friend' and the so-called 'friend' provided by the respondents later was the "driver‟ of the Enquiry Officer, who never represented him properly.
The counsel representing petitioner also submitted that the petitioner has been declared "asymptomatic and fit to work without arms". "The respondents kept posting the petitioner deliberately to different hard stations without adhering to his request of being posted at the Headquarters and without adhering to para 574 of the Indian Railway Medical Manual, wherein a list of posts where a staff suffering/ having recovered from mental illness can be posted," it was argued.
The counsel representing the respondents argued that "habitual absenteeism and absconding from duty without information and authority did not appear to be as a result of the petitioner suffering from paranoid schizophrenia."
The court said it has never been the case of the respondents that the petitioner is suffering from an extreme form of the illness which is or can be degenerative or that he cannot perform his duties by taking due care and precaution.
"In our view, if a chance is given, he would be able to discharge his duties, albeit of course with some assistance and guidance from the respondents. In any event, since the respondents have not called for any fresh medical examination from their side to ascertain the exact status of his suffering, it does not belie for the respondents to take a contrary stand and deny the same," said the court.
Observing that Paranoid Schizophrenia is a mental disease relating to a particular pattern of behaviour resulting in hallucinations, delusions and fears, the court said the patients require guidance, assistance, medication and treatment as they may act erratically and their behaviour may be fluctuating.
The court noted that apart from the incidents detailed in the chargesheet of 2009, there is no mention of of any other instances attributable to the said mental condition of the petitioner. "The petitioner is neither harmful nor is a threat. If there was ever a danger from him, he would/ could have acted more gravely then and after that till now. That is not so," it added.
Ruling that the de-novo enquiry was done by authorities in a very rudimentary manner especially when they were aware of his medical condition, the court said the law also recognises such cases like that of the petitioner. The court in this regard referred to Rule 153.8 of RPFR.
"It is but strange that the petitioner was not provided a "friend‟ for most of the time and the so-called "friend" provided by respondents was the "driver‟ of the new Enquiry Officer before whom the enquiry proceeding was going on. This raises serious concerns as to the impartiality of the respondents and thus, there was no occasion to proceed in the said manner," said the court further.
The court also said the respondents have halfheartedly complied with the directions of March 2013 as they failed to take the most relevant factor - the medical condition, into consideration.
"We hold that the proceeding before the Enquiry Officer was vitiated and there was indeed gross negligence and violation of principles of natural justice by the respondents," it said.
The court further said that the authorities could have given the benefit of doubt to him and imposed a punishment of minor penalty upon him instead of sticking to the same position.
"At the end of the day, the petitioner had not caused any harm or injury or any irreparable damage or loss or caused any such wrong which cannot be undone or pardoned or condoned, however, was merely absenting from duty. The respondents ought to have ascertained the reasons for his absenting, more so, whence they were aware that he is suffering with "Paranoid Schizophrenia‟. There was no proper application of mind while passing the impugned orders," it added.
The court also said the respondents, for reasons unknown, in complete non-adherence to para 574 of the Indian Railway Medical Manual, wherein a list of posts where a staff suffering or having recovered from mental illness can be posted, instead repeatedly transferred the petitioner from one hard station to another, again, without considering his mental condition.
The court further said:
Each individual suffering with the mental disorder "Paranoid Schizophrenia‟ has to be dealt differently just like each Doctor prescribes different medicines to different patients suffering from similar disease(s). The respondents could not have applied a straight jacket formula as the situations of those suffering from this mental disorder "Paranoid Schizophrenia‟ differ from person to person and from stage to stage.
Quashing the decision to compulsory retirement, the court directed the respondents to reinstate the petition with 50 percent back wages with effect from September 02, 2014.
"...albeit, without any consequential benefits, within four weeks from passing of this order. However, it is made clear that the past service of the petitioner for the said period with effect from 02.09.2014, shall be reckoned for the purpose of pensionary benefits only," it added.
The court also directed the respondents to post the petitioner in adherence with para 574 of the Indian Railway Medical Manual, keeping in mind that the petitioner, admittedly, has a mental disorder.
However, the court made it clear if at any stage in future his medical examination proves otherwise, the respondents "shall be free to proceed and act accordingly after passing appropriate reasoned direction(s)/order(s) in furtherance thereof."
Title: Babu Khan vs Union Of India & Anr
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 1041
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