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Delhi High Court upholds CAT order overturning Rajasthan govt dismissal of IPS officer over bigamy charges

The punishment order was released in furtherance of the accusation against him that after his marriage he started living with another woman and also had a son with her.

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The Delhi High Court has upheld a Central Administrative Tribunal order wherein the tribunal observed that the Rajasthan Government wrongly dismissed an IPS officer from the service by considering the then ongoing divorce case wherein the officer was alleged to be involved with another woman outside marriage and also having an illegitimate child.

The divisional bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Amit Bansal observed,

“If CAT were to find that the misconduct was in the realm of private life of government servant and such misconduct in private life though breaching the ethical standards did not affect the public at large or did not become an issue so as to disturb the peace and harmony in the living quarters of its servants, and did not disturb the image of the service and the government servant concerned had ultimately settled the issue to the satisfaction of the aggrieved private party, this Court would not ordinarily interfere.”

The petition has been filed by the Rajasthan Government challenging the CAT order setting aside the order of punishment of the IPS officer. The punishment order was released in furtherance of the accusation against him that after his marriage he started living with another woman and also had a son with the said other woman.

Senior Advocate Manish Singhvi, appearing for the Rajasthan Government, submitted, “The sentence meted out to the respondent no.1 in the present case, of dismissal from service, for contracting a second marriage during the subsistence of his earlier marriage, while in an elite service as the IPS, cannot be said to be so disproportionate so as to shock the conscience of this Court.”

However, the counsel for the officer submitted that the first wife was never interested in living with him and rather wanted to marry someone else and has also given an affidavit in this regard.

Whereas, the bench noted, “Ethical standards have been changing over the last half a century when the All India Services (Conduct) Rules were framed and the said Rules, like law, have to be considered as a living organism, the purport and meaning whereof changes with the changes in societal behaviour.”

It was the contention of the Court that what may have been unethical standard in 1968, is not necessarily unethical today or not necessarily unethical of such severity as in 1968, the society has changed with a lot of affairs of family, which earlier were a matter of public debate, being now confined to the private domain, the concept, definition and standards of morality also has been changing, with the changes in appearance, dressing, language etc., the behaviour which shocked 50 years ago is now considered as normal or at best an aberration.

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The bench while upholding the order of the CAT noted, “CAT is right to that extent, that the Disciplinary Authority did not consider the effect of the divorce having ultimately been granted between the respondent no.1 and his wife and which divorce was by way of a settlement; it is thus not as if the first wife of the respondent no.1 was left with any grievance whatsoever.”

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