UPSC and Himachal Pradesh government had failed to track service records of a cop who died in 2015; his wife had challenged denial of post-retirement entitlements
By Sumit Saxena
The Supreme Court has imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh each on the Himachal Pradesh government and the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) for failing to reconstruct the nearly half a century old service record regarding the appraisal of a deceased police officer.
The failure of the state government and the UPSC to determine the service tenure, and seniority, of the officer had deprived his widow of the post-retirement benefits that she was entitled to as the spouse of a public servant.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi noted that both, the state government and the UPSC, had exhibited a complete lack of oversight in the resolution of the matter. Interestingly, it was the UPSC which had moved the Supreme Court in the case, citing destruction of annual confidential reports (ACRs) by the state government.
The deceased cop in question, Chunni Lal Sharma, had joined the police department of Himachal Pradesh in 1954. In January 1971, when the Union Territory of Himachal Pradesh was granted full statehood by an Act of Parliament, Sharma, along with other officers of the State, was reappointed under the HP Police Service. As Sharma had been promoted to the rank of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) in 1965, his ACRs for the period were included in the list prepared under Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Andaman & Nicobar Islands Police Service Rules, (DHANI).
DHANI was a common listing for police services of the constituent Union Territories. This listing was later changed to include the police services of the Union Territories of Delhi, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman & Diu and Dadra & Nagar Haveli in 1971 while the police officers from Himachal Pradesh were listed under the police services list of the States. With the exception of Sharma all other police officials enlisted with Himachal Pradesh before its statehood were granted seniority in the police services list on the basis of their original date of appointments to the service.
The Himachal Pradesh High Court had, in 2009, ruled in Sharma’s favour and directed the UPSC to re-fix his seniority by addressing the anomaly over his tenure, considering the date of his enlistment to DHANI as his regular appointment.
Sharma’s widow has been fighting a legal battle with the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) since his death in 2015.
“The entire exercise was unnecessary. Chunni Lal passed away in 2015… without being able to see the fruits of this battle” noted the bench. . We would like to see reconstruction of his entire service record, as he was entitled to promotion” noted the bench. The court noted that the deceased was decorated with police medals in 2015, but still, was denied his entitlements.
Last year, the CJI had directed the Chief Secretary of Himachal Pradesh to present a copy of Sharma’s ACR for the years between 1971 and 1976.
The bench rubbished the arguments presented by the UPSC that Sharma’s ACRs between 1971 and 1976 was untraceable. The court lashed out at the conduct of the UPSC and said that it is necessary for them to come out of their citadel. The court said that precise date of Sharma’s promotion should be determined, and consequential, implementation of pension and other retirement benefits should be restored to the widow of the deceased.
—India Legal Bureau