Chandigarh, February 14, 2022: While looking into a second appeal filed by a Police Constable, who was discharged from his service, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has held that the law does vest immense power to the Superintendent of Police to act against a Subordinate Police Officer but that does not bestow upon him unbridled powers which are against the canons of justice more pregnated with the egoistic and fraudulent approach.
The Bench of Justice Fateh Deep Singh was called upon by the appellant who was serving as Constable in Punjab Police. In 1990, after three years of service, he proceeded on sanctioned leave of four months but owing to his illness he applied for an extension of his leave till 1991. However, upon returning, he was informed of his discharge from service.
Aggrieved, the plaintiff filed a representation before the DIG, Jalandhar which was rejected. Thereafter he filed a suit seeking relief against this order, terming it to be illegal, malafide and against the Punjab Police Rules. The defendant denied the petitioner’s allegations by claiming that since the plaintiff served for three years and he was unlikely to become an efficient police official, thus based upon his overall assessment and close supervision, the order of the DIG was passed considering the provisions of Punjab Police Rules 12.21.
The Trial Court decreed the suit of the plaintiff. Upon appeal, the first appellate Court, through impugned findings, set aside the judgment/ decree of the Trial Court. Hence, the regular second Appeal came about.
The Court perused the provisions of Punjab Police Rules to observe that the Punjab Police Rules 12.21 envisaged that a Constable with less than three years of service has to be kept under close supervision in terms of Punjab Police Rules 19.5(1) and the form under the supervision has to be filled by his immediate superior Sub-Inspector/ Inspector under which, he was working to ensure that in spite of close supervision and representation, his conduct was not becoming of a good police officer.
Coming to the fact sheet of the case, the Court was of the considered view that the defendants miserably failed to prove any material to support their stand. The Court further observed that the Punjab Police Rules 19.5 ensured that a Constable under three years of service was to be kept under close supervision and reports of his conduct were to be submitted at intervals of six months.
Applying this provision to the case, the Court asserted that though the appellant was posted at various places from 1988 till 1990, the lone incriminating document brought on the record by the defendant was a departmental inquiry file containing vague and stale allegations of his having consumed liquor in 1988. Additionally, it was noted by the Court that these allegations were not at all supported by any medical evidence in form of either blood or urine tests and that none of the ACRs was suggestive of any undesirable conduct on the part of the plaintiff/ appellant.
Further, after perusing the entries made in relevant documents on the misconduct of the petitioner while in service, the Court while deprecating the conduct of the police officials concerned who tempered with a document to strengthen their case, observed that a strong suspicion of deceptive intent was reflected in Court’s mind.
Justice Singh also added, “The entries not only appears to be false and fabricated by cooking up the records to advance the case of the Department but are also malafide to achieve a motivated cause. Being penal in nature renders the orders of discharge without holding inquiry or there being substantial evidence based on these entries and total absence of any element of subjective satisfaction impugned orders needs to be set aside.”
On the vires of the Trial Court order, the Court adjudged that the lower court rightly considered the fact that the allegation of misconduct by the plaintiff was on the basis of his alleged absence from duty and that when it amounted to stigmatic order then resort could not be held to provisions of Punjab Police Rules 12.21.
Taking a similar line of reasoning, the Court opined that the Punjab Police Rules 16.24 provides a procedure in departmental inquiry and being a stigmatic order based on injurious comments which are unsubstantiated on the basis of it necessitates holding of proper inquiry against the plaintiff/appellant.
In light of the above, the Court stated that there was neither any element proved on the record of earlier instructions and warnings given to the plaintiff before his discharge or anything to substantiate the case of the State.
Coming to the impugned order, the Court stated that the finding recorded in the impugned order was not substantiated by any legally permissible reasoning.
Thus, the appeal was allowed.