On Tuesday, The High Court of J&K and Ladakh held that suspension of an employee was not a punishment but it amounts to the same due to very strong stigmatic social connotations once it was prolonged.
The observation was made by a division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Wasim Sadiq Nargal while dismissing the government’s appeal against the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order of April 27 this year.
The accused had been placed under suspension in 2018 but no charge sheet or inquiry was conducted against him since then. He said that no charge sheet was served upon him despite an efflux of more than four years from the date he was placed under suspension.
Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in its order had set aside J&K Home Department’s order issued in February 2018.
According to the order, a government employee Hilal Ahmad Rather was placed under suspension.
The division bench pointed out that from the perusal of the CAT’s order, it was apparent that despite the time given to the counsel for the government, no response was ever filed.
The bench said that the tribunal keeping in view the urgency involved in the petition that the petitioner was due to retire on April 30, 2022.
In the appeal against the tribunal’s order before the High Court, the government contended that the charges against the employee were very serious and that the tribunal did not provide ample time for response.
“No plausible reasons have been explained for such a delay for not framing the charge sheet, even after a lapse of more than four years,” the court said.
The court held that the law is settled by the Supreme Court in various authoritative pronouncements that although the suspension is not a punishment once it is prolonged, then it amounts to punishment, as it has very strong stigmatic social connotations.
“By keeping the employee under suspension for four long years, the (employee) has been put to a lot of stress and temporary deprivation of his full wages over this period, and such inaction on part of the (authorities) indicates a total lack of seriousness in dealing with the matter”, the court said.
“It was expected on the part of (them) to have acted with promptitude by conducting the inquiry within the stipulated time period,” the court added.
The court observed that from the perusal of the order of suspension, it was clear that the inquiry was required to be completed within 15 days. It also noted that by keeping the employee under suspension for four long years, he had been put under a lot of stress and temporary deprivation of his full wages over this period.