High Court sets aside dismissal order, directs payment of monetary benefits

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The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has quashed the dismissal order imposed on a government servant, now retired from service, and directed the State government to restore all monetary benefits to him. The court took into account the fact that the departmental inquiry was initiated against him based on a circular issued after the said incident.

The court was hearing the petition filed by M. Chelliah. A charge memo was issued to him in 2007 when he was working as Sub Registrar in Palayamkottai Sub-Registrar office. During a surprise inspection in the office in 2005, he was found with a bag containing ₹83,000. The second charge against him was that he was constructing a building without prior permission.

An inquiry was conducted by the Commissioner of Disciplinary Proceedings, Tirunelveli and the charges against the petitioner were proved. Based on the inquiry, the Inspector General of Registration imposed the punishment of removal from service. On appeal, the Registration Department confirmed the order.

The petitioner filed the petition before the High Court in 2014 challenging the order. He said that both he and his wife were government servants. He brought the money in a bag to the office to purchase jewels for his wife. He also said that he had obtained prior permission to construct the building.

Justice S. S. Sundar took note of a government circular issued in 2009 that said that officials should not bring such large amounts of cash to office and if they did so, they should hand over the money in a sealed cover to the officer concerned. It should be recorded in the register maintained for the purpose.

In the absence of a circular at the time of the incident, it was not known how the petition could be proceeded with. The inspection in the office was long before the circular came into force and the whole inquiry appeared to be based on the circular. There was no justification to presume that the money was ill-gotten, the judge said.

At the time of the incident there was no specific rule or instruction given to the petitioner not to bring money to the office. He had given an explanation that he had brought the money to purchase jewels and that his wife was to join him after office hours. Merely because money was found from the petitioner, there cannot be a presumption, the judge said.

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