HC withdraws order dismissing Patiala jail supdt, others

Use of ‘may’ in impugned order led to its quashing

HC withdraws order dismissing Patiala jail supdt, others

Patiala Central Jail

Saurabh Malik

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, October 7

Over a year after the Patiala Central Jail Superintendent and other jail staff were dismissed from service, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has quashed the order after holding that the competent authority didn’t apply its independent mind to the facts and circumstances of the case. Among other things, the use of word “may” by the competent authority in the impugned order led to its quashing.

Superintendent Rajan Kapur and other employees were dismissed from service by dispensing with a regular inquiry on April 25, 2019. The inquiry officer had submitted that Kapur was patronising a well-organised extortion racket in the jail with the help of other officials and gangsters lodged inside.

The competent authority had then observed that holding of an inquiry was not reasonably practicable “as it may cause loss of time, which may be prejudiced to public interest and security of the nation”.

Referring to the order, petitioner’s counsel Pankaj Jain contended the competent authority was itself not sure regarding the reasonability and practicability of not holding an inquiry. First, the reasons assigned were untenable. Second, the word “may” used by the competent authority showed the doubt in its mind.

“When the competent authority is itself not sure, how could it come to a conclusion with regard to the satisfaction of not holding an inquiry,” Jain submitted.

Justice Augustine George Masih asserted that the use of “may” left a void in itself with regard to satisfaction of the competent authority as it was “itself not sure with regard to the reasons to be of such effect which would prejudice the public interest and the security of nation”.

Justice Masih added a perusal of the impugned order showed that the competent authority only reproduced the inquiry report. It did not apply its independent mind to the facts and circumstances of the case.

The order and the reasons recorded were merely toavoid inquiry. The competent authority was neither expected, nor required to dispense with the inquiry lightly or arbitrarily, but was required to take into consideration the facts and circumstances of the case and apply independent mind based upon any independent material to justify the dispensing with the inquiry.

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