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MADURAI: Government employees who are not let to retire from service pending enquiries into allegations of grave irregularities cannot seek to quash charge memos on the ground of long delay in initiating enquiries if they are accused of destroying files related to the irregularities or if the files have gone missing from the office concerned, the Madras High Court Bench here has ruled.
Dismissing two writ petitions filed by a suspended Deputy Tahsildar of Devokottai in Sivaganga district and an Assistant in his office, Justice K. Chandru said: “When a person is in charge of a particular seat in a government office and if charges are levelled against him that he had removed the basic file or that it was found missing, he cannot turn back and state that there was a delay in initiating action.”
In the present case, the writ petitioners are accused of causing a loss of Rs.59, 869 to the government while determining the value of house sites in their jurisdiction. They are charged with fixing the value of a property at Rs. 7.53 per square foot as against the guideline value of Rs.9.02 per square foot fixed in 1995. They were not allowed to retire from service in 2006 and the charge memos were issued in 2009.
Explaining the delay in issuing the charge memos, the Deputy Secretary of Revenue Department said that the Vigilance Department had conducted a preliminary enquiry as soon as the conduct of the petitioners came to light. A total of 58 witnesses had been examined and 58 documents perused during the enquiry and a report had been submitted to the government recommending suitable action.
Thereafter, the government asked the Sivaganga Collector to frame the charge memo and it was forwarded to the Vigilance Department for vetting.
The latter recommended certain changes and hence revised charge memos had to be prepared and served on the petitioners in 2009. The process of framing the memos and getting them scrutinised by the Vigilance Department took time, the Deputy Secretary stated.
Satisfied with the explanation, the judge said that the Supreme Court in M.V. Bijlani's case (2006) had taken a view that unexplained delay in issuing charge memo could be a ground for quashing it. But the same court took a different view when a similar question arose in Government of Andhra Pradesh vs. V. Appala Swamy (2007).
In the latest case, “The Supreme Court held that Bijlani's case is not amounting to laying down any law and confined to the facts of that case. It was further held that very many times, irregularities committed by a government servant come to light only later and he himself may be the person who was sitting over such files,” Mr. Justice Chandru said.
He also directed the Sivanganga Collector to complete the departmental enquiry within three months if the petitioners filed their explanations within two weeks.
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