Madras High Court: N. Anand Venkatesh, J., moving further in a matter wherein Court took suo motu cognizance with respect to the sexual harassment of a Lady IPS Officer by the Special DGP, expressed that:
“…the period during which a government servant is kept under compulsory wait is construed to be a ‘period spent on duty’.”
In regard to the matter wherein the Lady IPS Officer alleged that she was sexually harassed by the Special DGP, the Investigation Officer presented the Status Report before the Court.
From the Status report, it was seen that Section 41-A CrPC, summon was issued to accused 1, 2 and Superintendent of Police. Statements of the said persons have been recorded by the Investigation Officer.
In Court’s Order on 12-03-2021, it was clearly expressed that A-2 was placed under suspension considering the seriousness of the allegations made in the case after which the Court specifically posed why A-1 was not suspended till date to which it was brought to the Court’s notice that A1 had been kept under compulsory wait.
Compulsory Wait – A punishment?
Placing an officer under compulsory wait does not attach any stigma to it and such compulsory wait is resorted to only in cases where a government servant is not able to be accommodated in a suitable post or vacancy for extracting his services.
Further, it was added that, till such a suitable post or vacancy is identified, the government servant is kept under compulsory wait.
Government Servant who will be under compulsory wait will be entitled to all the service benefits including allowances during this period.
Hence, keeping an officer under compulsory wait will never amount to punishment.
In the present matter, A-1 is the Special DGP-Law and Order and when such a superior officer is kept on a mere compulsory wait and further interrogated by an officer of a subordinate rank, the same will psychologically intimidate the officer from carrying on the investigation in a free and fair means, which is why the suspension of A-1 assumes significance.
Bench added that the seriousness of the case can be assessed only on the prima facie materials that have been collected by the Investigation Officer, till now.
In light of the prima facie materials available, is it had been applied to a subordinate rank police officer, the officer would have been suspended in contemplation of initiation of disciplinary proceedings.
Free and Fair manner of investigation
Since this Court has taken upon itself to monitor the investigation, in this case, shows that it involves public interest, and also the dignity of the police force in the state of Tamil Nadu. Therefore, taking a positive step by suspending A-1, pending the investigation will bring in more confidence in the perception of the general public that the issue has been taken up with all seriousness and the investigation will progress in a free and fair manner.
In view of the sentiments expressed by the Court, State should take the necessary steps and report before the Court.
Matter is to be posted on 23-03-2021. [Government of India, In Re., 2021 SCC OnLine Mad 1119, decided on 16-03-2021]
Advocates before the matter:
Mr N. Ramesh, Central Government Senior Counsel for R 1
Mr Jayaprakash Narayanan, State Government Pleader for R 2 & R 3
Mr M. Mohamed Muzammil, Government Advocate (Crl. Side) for R 4 & R 5