Sunday, September 25, 2022

Allahabad High Court stays suspension of Prayagrag social welfare officer

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The Allahabad High Court has stayed the suspension of Prayagraj Social Welfare Officer Praveen Kumar Singh and sought a reply from the Uttar Pradesh government in the matter.

A single bench of Justice Mahesh Chandra Tripathi passed this order while hearing a petition filed by Praveen Kumar Singh.

By means of the writ petition, the petitioner has challenged the order dated 23.05.2022 passed by the first respondent/Principal Secretary, Social Welfare, Government of Uttar Pradesh, Lucknow, whereby the petitioner has been placed under suspension on the ground that he has not followed relevant rules and orders while providing charge of principal to the incumbents in the institution, namely Jai Prakash Narayan Sarvodaya Balika Vidyalaya, Kaurihar and Surval Sahni, Prayagraj.

Senior Advocate Anil Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner is working as District Social Welfare Officer, Prayagraj since 2018 and he has done all the works in accordance with the Rules and Government orders. The State Government has established 94 Government Ashram Pattern Schools in Rural and Urban Areas with a view to provide excellent education to talented and poor students. Now the State Government has changed the name of aforesaid Schools as “Jay Prakash Narayan, Sarvodaya Vidyalaya” and formulated regulations known as “Ashram Padhiti Vidyalaya Ki Niyamavali”, which is applicable to all the Ashram Pattern Schools.

In the aforesaid Niyamavali, the District Social Welfare Officer has been made “Drawing and Disbursing Officer”. He has also been given the supervisory powers over all the Ashram Pattern Schools under his jurisdiction. In District Prayagraj, there are four Government Ashram Pattern Schools running and the petitioner is Drawing and Disbursing Officer of all the four Ashram Pattern Schools. In these schools, the seniormost teachers/lecturers have been given the charge of Principal as regular Principals are not yet appointed. One Renu Singh, Hostel Superintendent, was transferred by the Directorate vide order dated 28.6.2018 to the Government Scheduled Caste Hostel University Premises and thereafter, she was posted as Hostel Superintendent Girls IERT Premises, Prayagraj vide order dated 05.9.2018.

It is alleged that Renu Singh is an influential person and finally, on the instruction/direction of the Social Welfare Minister, the petitioner posted Renu Singh as in-charge Superintendent in Rajkiya Ashram Paddhati Balika Vidyalaya, Kaurihar vide his order dated 05.8.2019.

Since there was no regular Principal in the aforesaid school, the petitioner posted the senior-most lecturer, namely Deepika Dubey, as in-charge Principal on 16.8.2019 and since then she is working as in-charge Principal in the aforesaid school. By the order dated 23.5.2022, the respondent no1 has placed the petitioner under suspension for not following the Government orders.

Senior Counsel Anil Bhushan further submitted that vague and irrelevant charges have been levelled against the petitioner. The petitioner has been charged that he has not given the charge of Principal to the senior-most lecturer Deepika Dubey and the charge has been given to Renu Singh, Hostel Superintendent. The aforesaid charge is baseless and incorrect as the petitioner has posted Deepika Dubey as in-charge Principal in July 2019 itself and since then she is continuously working as in-charge Principal in the aforesaid school.

The petitioner has been further charged that he has not taken signature of in-charge Principal on bill/voucher and the same has been signed by the concerned Clerk and the petitioner and thereafter the payment has been made. The petitioner being DDO is accountable for the payment and he has duly verified the bills/vouchers received from the concerned Clerk and thereafter made payment to the concerned persons. The petitioner has made payments after due verification from the concerned Clerk and he has not violated any provision of Government order, as has been alleged in the impugned suspension order.

The petitioner has been also charged that he has posted / attached Amit Shukla as Superintendent of Rajkiya Ashram Paddhati Vidyalaya, Surwal Sahani. Looking to the urgency, the petitioner attached Shukla as Superintendent in the said institution as there was no regular Superintendent in the institution.

The petitioner has not given any administrative work to any Hostel Superintendent and the charges levelled against the petitioners are absolutely baseless and incorrect. Even though the impugned suspension order is passed in contemplation of an enquiry but till date in most arbitrary manner neither the enquiry officer is appointed nor the charge sheet is served upon the petitioner and without appointment of the enquiry officer, disciplinary proceedings cannot be contemplated. The disciplinary/appointing officer of the petitioner is the State Government and it has not passed the order of suspension by applying its mind.

The Court noted,

The order has been passed on the basis of recommendation / report of the Director and Additional Director, Social Welfare, Lucknow dated 10.5.2022 and 25.4.2022. Further even on the charges, which are levelled against the petitioner, no major penalty can be inflicted upon him.

He submits that despite 40% disability the petitioner’s work since inception in service has always been up to mark and excellent and no adverse comment has ever been given by any superior officer. In case no reprieve is extended by this Court, the petitioner would suffer irreparable loss and injury.

In support of his submission, he has placed reliance on the judgement of Apex Court in State of Orissa vs Bimal Kumar Mohanti reported in AIR 1994 SC 2296 wherein it has been held that the disciplinary authority should apply its mind on the gravity of alleged misconduct and suspension order should not be passed in an administrative routine or an automatic order.

He has also placed reliance on the judgement of this Court in Civil Misc Writ Petition No.35923 of 2007 (Dr. Arvind Kumar Ram vs. State of UP) decided on 6.9.2007 in which it was held that the suspension order cannot be passed on the basis of recommendation of Subordinate Authority to Appointing Authority.

Per contra, Devesh Vikram, Standing Counsel has vehemently opposed the writ petition and submitted that considering the facts and circumstances no interference is warranted and has placed detailed instruction dated 22.06.2022.

The Court has also occasion to peruse the instruction and finds that even though categorical averment is made that the charge sheet would be served upon the delinquent officer within a week but surprisingly no enquiry officer is appointed. The instruction is totally silent in this regard.

The Court observed that the matter requires consideration.

“All the respondents are accorded six weeks’ time to file a counter affidavit. The petitioner will have one week, thereafter, to file a rejoinder affidavit. List thereafter. Till the next date of listing, the impugned suspension order shall remain stayed subject to cooperation of the petitioner in the on-going inquiry,” the Court ordered.

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