Delhi High Court refused to revoke the order passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal continuing the suspension of a senior government officer on the grounds of pending investigation against him for serious crimes. The court noted that by virtue of his position, if allowed reinstatement, he would be in a position to influence the witnesses.
The present petition was filed against the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal which rejected the Petitioner's Original Application wherein he challenged the continuance of his suspension. was initially placed under suspension on 16.07.2018 on the ground that he had been detained by the CBI on 01.07.2018. Subsequently, the suspension was extended twice, both times for 180 days.
The Petitioner's counsel had argued that in the present case, till date, no charge sheet has been issued to the petitioner. Meanwhile, the Respondent defended the continuation of the petitioner's suspension by submitting that there are serious allegations of corruption against the Petitioner pertaining to demand and acceptance of illegal bribe by the petitioner from private contractors. Further it was mentioned that the CBI has, in fact, sent a communication to the Petitioner on 12.03.2019 stating that the case is presently under investigation, and in case the petitioner is reinstated at this time, he may influence the witnesses to be examined further.
The Division Bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Rajnish Bhatnagar pulled up the Petitioner for holding back the particulars of the case registered against him by the CBI, and particulars of the case made out against him under the PMLA. 'His act of withholding the aforesaid material and relevant information raises an adverse inference that if the same were to be disclosed, it would go against his claim', the court opined.
The court observed that there can be no hard and fast rule that in all cases where charge sheet is not filed within three months of suspension, the same would mandatorily be revoked. The need for continuation of the same would have to be assessed on the facts of each case. Most relevant would be the nature and substance of allegations; the materials on which the same is founded; the position held by the concerned government officer i.e. whether he is holding a portion of authority and influence, or he is a lower ranked employee with little or no power to influence others concerned with the matter.
While rejecting the plea of the Petitioner, the court noted that he is a senior, highly ranked government officer and was occupying a high position at the time of his suspension. He was in a position to influence witnesses and tamper with the evidence. Moreover, the charges put against him for which investigation by CBI is underway are serious and valid considerations to justify the continued suspension of the petitioner.
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