Tripura High Court: Akil Kureshi, CJ., disposed of a writ petition which was filed challenging a departmental inquiry and suspension pending such departmental inquiry against the petitioner.

Petitioner was a Junior Engineer in the Government of Tripura. A complaint was made against him holding assets disproportionate to his known source of income before the Lokayukta who upon completion of the investigation submitted his report in which he had concluded that the petitioner had received salary of Rs 22,13,279/- for the period between 1998 to March, 2012 as against which he had created assets worth Rs 74,26,472/- which was referable to the same period of 1998 to March, 2012. Lokayukta was of the opinion that the petitioner held assets disproportionate to his known source of income. He recommended initiation of departmental proceedings as well as criminal case against the petitioner and to place him under suspension. On 25th March, 2015 the disciplinary authority had issued a departmental charge sheet to the petitioner which contained two charges. Charge Article I was that as held by the Lokayukta in his report, the petitioner had amassed wealth far in excess of his known source of income. Charge Article II was that by such actions the petitioner had committed offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988. On 13th May 2015, the disciplinary authority appointed Inquiry Officer.

After hearing both the parties the Court decided that there were no reasons to quash the departmental inquiry. The Court observed that it was up to the Government to accept or to reject the recommendations of the Lokayukta. If the departmental inquiry or the criminal proceedings are not time barred, the State Government cannot be restrained from taking any action against the petitioner even if it is on the report of the Lokayukta. Once the material has come to the notice of the Government prima facie indicating that the petitioner has indulged in some corrupt practice, the Government is duty-bound to act on the same. It was, therefore, held that there was no merit in the petition; however, in any departmental or criminal proceeding which may be initiated against the petitioner he would have a full right to defend himself. Coming to the continued suspension, the Court held that firstly, the charges were extremely serious. Secondly, the petitioner was also facing a criminal case for offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act and thirdly, the competent authority has been reviewing the suspension order from time to time.[Bikash Bhowmik v. State of Tripura, 2021 SCC OnLine Tri 100, decided on 18-02-2021]

Suchita Shukla, Editorial Assistant has put this story together.

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