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High Court Bench quashes VAO's termination order

Mohamed Imranullah S.

He was accused of taking bribe of Rs.50 some 21 years ago


“Petitioner has been indicted only in a second enquiry”

He was arrested by a DSP on August 29, 1989


MADURAI: The Madras High Court has quashed an order passed by the Sivaganga Revenue Divisional Officer some 10 years ago terminating the services of a Village Administrative Officer (VAO) who was accused of taking a bribe of Rs.50 for transfer of ‘patta' (land ownership document) about 21 years ago.

Allowing a writ petition filed by the VAO, Justice T. Raja held that the termination order could not be sustained because the petitioner had been indicted only in a second enquiry which was conducted after the limitation period of six months from the conclusion of first enquiry that too without issuing a show-cause notice to the petitioner.

M. Rajendran was trapped and arrested by a Deputy Superintendent of Police attached to the Anti Corruption Branch while serving as the VAO of Uthamanoor village in Ilayankudi Taluk of Sivaganga district on August 29, 1989.

A criminal case registered against him was tried for nearly six years until it ended up in acquittal on March 15, 1996.

Two years later, the Government initiated departmental proceedings against him and a charge memo was issued on May 10, 1995 under Rule 17 (b) of the Tamil Nadu Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules. But the complainant turned hostile during the enquiry and hence the petitioner was not found guilty of the charge.

Nevertheless, the disciplinary authority imposed a punishment of censure on March 15, 1996 and the petitioner too accepted it because it was a minor penalty.

Ten months thereafter, the Commissioner of Revenue Administration ordered a fresh enquiry into the matter by invoking his suo motu powers under the Civil Services Rules.

In the second enquiry, the complainant deposed against the VAO in the presence of vigilance department sleuths and a report was filed on June 11, 1998 founding the petitioner guilty of accepting bribe.

Thereafter, he was terminated from service in 2000 after giving just 7 days instead of 15 days to submit his reply to the enquiry report.

The VAO had originally challenged the termination order by filing an original application before the Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal in 2000 and obtained an interim stay.

Later, the case was transferred to the High Court and converted as a writ petition in 2005 after the abolition of the Tribunal.

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