Rashid Paul

Appointing authority or those empowered by govt can place govt employee under suspension: HC

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Srinagar: “The appointing authority and those empowered by the government only have the powers to place an employee under suspension,” the J&K High said today in a case where a Deputy Commissioner had put an erstwhile Kashmir Administrative Service (KAS) officer under suspension.

Justices Ali Mohammad Magrey and Puneet Gupta held “it is the appointing authority or any authority to which it is subordinate or any other authority empowered by the Government, in this behalf, that has got the powers to place an employee under suspension”.

The suspension is subject to an inquiry into his/her conduct if contemplated or is pending or a complaint against him/her of any criminal offence is under investigation or trial, the judges said.

The petitioner, Qaiser Mehmood, 2011 batch KAS officer, submitted before the court that during his posting as Tehsildar, Bari Brahmana, a civil dispute was going on with respect to a patch of land in Birpur, Samba, in the court of Munsiff (JMIC), Samba.

On 6th of February, 2020, he was appointed as local commissioner by the court for demarcation of the land of the litigating parties as per revenue record and submit a report.

He according to the petition, submitted the report on 20th of August, 2020.

Thereafter the Deputy Commissioner issued an order on 16th of January, 2021, putting him under suspension pending enquiry.

The petitioner pleaded that since the suspension order was without any jurisdiction and he accordingly challenged it before Central Administrative Tribunal, Jammu.

The Tribunal, however, rejected the prayer of the petitioner for grant of interim relief qua staying the order of suspension.

He then approached the High Court where his counsel submitted that the petitioner is a member of the J&K Administrative Service (erstwhile KAS) having qualified the Combined Services Competition Examination conducted by the J&K Public Service Commission in 2011.

He was subsequently appointed as Junior Scale KAS Officer in 2012 by the General Administration Department, the lawyer said.

He pleaded that the Deputy Commissioner was not the appointing authority of his client and was not vested with the power to place him under suspension.

Hearing the parties, the division bench held that at the very outset, what requires to be stated is that Rule 31 of the Jammu and Kashmir Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1956, specifically provides the mechanism for placing government servants under suspension.

The mandate of this Rule is required to be followed by all and sundry in order to ensure that rule of law prevails in every set of circumstances, it said.

The unwavering object of framing this rule according to the court is to prevent frequent resort to suspensions that may otherwise be unwarranted or counter-productive, besides putting avoidable strain on the public exchequer by way of subsistence allowance for no work done.

It said Clause (1) of Rule 31 of the Rules of 1956 (supra) makes it explicitly clear that a government servant can be placed under suspension by the appointing authority or any authority to which it is subordinate or any other authority empowered by the government, in this behalf.

Any disciplinary proceeding was to be initiated against the petitioner only within the domain of the appointing authority of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and not the Deputy Commissioner.

The learned Tribunal has clearly erred in holding that the Deputy Commissioner, Samba, had the requisite jurisdiction to place the petitioner, a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Administrative Service, under suspension, that too without approval of the competent authority in the government.

Holding the view that the Deputy Commissioner had explicitly erred in placing the petitioner under suspension, it quashed the suspension order passed by him against the civil service officer.

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