Read Order: Rekha Singh v. State of Haryana and others
Chandigarh, May 11, 2022: While dealing with a petition filed by a medical officer in the Haryana Health Department who withdrew Rs 1,60,000 as Difficult Area Allowance under some erroneous belief, leading to her being charge-sheeted, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that in case the petitioner refunds the money, then shewould be entitled to parity along with her counter-parts against whom the charge-sheet was dropped.
The Bench of Justice Arun Monga held, “…it is directed that respondents shall expeditiously process the payment of Rs.3,30,000/- towards special incentive Scheme payable to the petitioner and shall also be at liberty to deduct the amount of Rs.1,60,000/- from the money payable to the petitioner. Alternatively, the amount of Rs.3,30,000/- shall be paid only when the petitioner furnishes a demand draft of Rs.1,60,000/- drawn in favour of the department. Respondents are directed to drop the charge-sheet qua the petitioner, after doing the needful…”
With this petition, the Court was approached for issuance of a writ in the nature of certiorari to quash the charge-sheet dated February 2, 2018. Further prayer was made for issuance of a writ in the nature of mandamus directing the respondents to release the salary for the period of suspension of the petitioner from December 8, 2017 to March 8, 2018 along with arrears and interest.
The petitioner joined as ‘Medical Officer’ in the year 1992 in Health Department, Haryana and her superannuation was due in a few months. By a letter dated May 25, 2009, Doctors and Specialists serving in District Mewat and Hathin Block of District Palwal were granted special incentive @ Rs. 10,000/- per month.
On receipt of a complaint, the petitioner was placed under suspension on the ground that she committed financial impropriety by claiming special incentive for doctors working in Mewat including Hathin Block of District Palwal, being herself the DDO. The petitioner remained under suspension for a period of three months. On February 02, 2018, the petitioner was issued a charge-sheet with regard to unauthorized withdrawal of Rs.1,60,000/- as a difficult area incentive. Hence, the instant petition.
The case, as advanced by the Counsel for the petitioner was that the petitioner was given additional charge at Hathin and acting as Drawing and Disbursement Officer (DDO) qua the said additional charge, she was entitled to the difficult area allowance as Hathin was notified as difficult area by the State.
In the return filed to the writ petition, an unambiguous stand was taken that a special incentive amounting to Rs. 3,30,000/- was though approved in the case of the petitioner but the same was kept pending with National Health Mission, which was stated to be the competent authority as per the applicable policy for release of funds to be paid under the Special Incentive Scheme.
From the above, the Court concluded that the position which emerged was that department and/ or National Health Mission owed an amount of Rs. 3,30,000/- to the petitioner, while on the other hand, charge-sheet was qua the recovery of much smaller amount of Rs.1,60,000/- which was stated to be overdrawn by the petitioner during her posting as Senior Medical Officer, at Palwal.
On Court query, the State Counsel did not dispute the fact that four other Senior Medical Officers, who also wrongly withdrawn incentive @ Rs.10,000/- per month as Difficult Area Allowance under some erroneous belief, had since returned the withdrawn amount and in view thereof, the department dropped the contemplated adverse action including the charge-sheet.
Against this backdrop, the Court was of the view that in case petitioner refunds the money, then she too would be entitled to parity along with her counter-parts against whom the charge-sheet was dropped. The counsel for the petitioner under instructions of the petitioner, submitted that she was willing to refund the aforesaid amount.
Accordingly, in the overall premise, it was directed that respondents shall expeditiously process the payment of Rs. 3,30,000/- towards special incentive Scheme payable to the petitioner and shall also be at liberty to deduct the amount of Rs. 1,60,000/- from the money payable to the petitioner.
Alternatively, the Court held that the amount of Rs. 3,30,000/- shall be paid only when the petitioner furnishes a demand draft of Rs.1,60,000/- drawn in favour of the department. Respondents were directed to drop the charge-sheet qua the petitioner, after doing the needful within a period of 30 days from the Order of the Court. Needless to say that the petitioner shall be entitled to all the benefits on parity with her other counter-parts against whom charge-sheet was dropped, the Court held.