The Madras High Court recently observed that one cannot automatically presume that a man and a woman are engaging in sexual, immoral or illicit activities, merely because they were in the same room for some time.
The Court made the observation while quashing the termination of a Armed Reserve Police constable, against whom adverse disciplinary orders were passed after he and a woman constable was found behind locked doors in his quarters in 1998.
The petitioner was appointed as a Police Constable in the Armed Reserve Police during 1997 and when he had been working as such with the respondents, he was placed under suspension, by order dated 12.10.1998 by the second respondent and subsequently, the second respondent issued a charge memo, against the petitioner, dated 18.11.1998 framing charges under Rule 3(b) of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rule, 1955.
The sum and substance of the charge is that, on 10.10.1998, at about 7.30 a.m., a woman constable attached to the Tamil Nadu Special Police, VI Battalion, ‘D’ Company, entered into the quarters allotted to the petitioner with the intention to have illicit intimacy, that the door of the quarters was made to be closed from inside and that the petitioner had been in the quarters along with the woman constable till the authorities came and made open the door by knocking the door and by thus committed such, condemnable act.
Madras High Court
Justice Suresh Kumar remarked,
Assuming that, the petitioner had allowed the co-employee being a woman-folk at his residing place, it cannot be automatically presumed that, such an entertainment of an opposite sex co-employee is only for an immoral or illicit activities.
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Nearly 12 people were cross examined where some witnesses stated that the door was locked from the inside, whereas others said that the door was also locked from the outside. Pertinently, none of the witnesses in the case said that the two constables had been found in any compromising position.
Observing that the constable had been meted out punishment by the disciplinary authority on mere supposition and conjectures, Justice Kumar said,
Unless they have a strong and concrete evidence to suggest that the illicit or immoral activities had taken place, merely on the basis of presumption or surmises, one cannot come to a conclusion that, since they were in one roof for some time, it is only for illegal activities.
This kind of presumption alone in the society cannot be a basis for arriving at a conclusion as arrived at by the Disciplinary Authority, that too for inflicting the punishment against the employee, working under him.
Holding that such presumptions cannot form the basis for inflicting the maximum punishment of dismissal of service upon an employee, the High Court ultimately set aside the adverse orders passed against the petitioner.
Increments for Accused Were Cut
The petitioner had initially been punished with a cut in increments payable for three years with cumulative effect. After he challenged this penalty, however, the disciplinary authority enhanced the penalty and ordered his dismissal from service.
Both these adverse orders have now been set aside by the Madras High Court, which held,
… this is the case, which can be brought under the category of suspicion and conjectures… based on such suspicion and conjectures, one cannot come to a conclusion that, some unlawful or immoral activities taken place and by virtue of that, the employee/delinquent is liable to be punished with a maximum punishment of dismissal of service.
These aspects have not been considered in proper perspective both by the Disciplinary Authority as well as the Appellate Authority, as they have simply presumed that illicit or immoral activity was taken place and accordingly, they decided to impose the punishment as has been inflicted in the impugned order.
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