The administration of Union Territory of Chandigarh has come in for severe criticism from the Punjab and Haryana High Court for being vindictive towards one of its employee of the Department of Food & Supplies and Consumer Affairs who had sought information from under the RTI Act as it said that the staffer “has absolute right to get the information under the Right to Information Act” and “Seeking information under the RTI Act cannot put question mark on his integrity”.
A bench of Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Harinder Singh Sandhu said so while allowing the petition of the employee of the Department of Food & Supplies and Consumer Affairs.
The petitioner was promoted to the post of the Assistant Food & Supplies Officer vide order dated 21.12.2012 on the basis of the recommendations made by the Departmental Promotion Committee constituted by the Chandigarh Administration qua Class III employees of the Department of Food & Supplies and Consumer Affairs.
Though his one year probation period was over on 20.12.2013, the same was extended by another six months vide order dated 19.02.2014.
Thereafter the petitioner was issued show cause notice on 14.03.2014 to which he filed a detailed response. He was then reverted to the post of Inspector, Food & Supplies Grade-I, vide order dated 24.03.2014.
His appeal and original application were rejected by Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT).
The bench noted, “The gist of the show cause notice is that the petitioner has maintained association with Mr. Shambhu Benerjee, National President, Rashtriya Lok Kalyan Party. This party had staged various protests against the department. It was also stated in the show cause notice that he was seeking information from the department under the Right to Information Act. This was viewed as question mark on his integrity.”
“The petitioner was reverted on 24.03.2014. It is evident from the language used in the notice that it was punitive and stigmatic. In case the petitioner was found indulging in any misconduct, the regular inquiry could be instituted against him. The order reverting the petitioner though is simpliciter but the moment, veil is lifted it is based on misconduct attributed to the petitioner vide show cause notice dated 14.03.2014,” it said.
The court noted that CAT had made a reference to the judgments to the effect that the period of probation could be extended even if earlier period had come to end. However, no judgments were cited in the order.
“The order reverting the petitioner is vindictive. The petitioner has absolute right to get the information under the Right to Information Act. Seeking information under the Right to Information Act cannot put question mark on his integrity. The appellate order has also over looked this aspect. The learned Tribunal has overlooked the basic principles of service jurisprudence dealing with the probation period as well as stigmatic punitive order,” held the bench and set aside the reversion order with directions to the Chandigarh Administration to permit the petitioner to discharge the duties of the Assistant Food & Supplies Officer as per order dated 21.12.2012 with all consequential benefits.