The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday directed the police department to reinstate a Grade-II constable accused of stealing two mobile phones of his colleagues at Tamil Nadu Special Police IX Battalion, Manimutharu, Ramanathapuram district.

Partly allowing a writ appeal filed by the Commandant of the Battalion, a Division Bench comprising Justice D. Murugesan and Justice S. Nagamuthu said the punishment of removal from service was not in proportion to the offence committed by the police constable.

“Having regard to the fact that the respondent is a young man… and that reformation would be the best course to be adopted… we are of the view that imposition of punishment of stoppage of increment for two years without cumulative effect shall be the appropriate penalty which would meet the ends of justice,” the judges said.

According to the appellant, the constable joined police service in March 2002 and was posted in the battalion from January 1, 2003 after completing the training period. The Kallidikurichi police registered a theft case against him on September 6, 2003 on the basis of complaints given by his fellow policemen.

He was found guilty in a departmental enquiry and removed from service on December 15, 2003. Disposing of a writ petition filed by him, a single judge on November 2, 2007 held that the petitioner was guilty. However, he directed the Commandant to reinstate the constable without salary for the period during which he was out of employment.

In his affidavit, filed in support of the writ appeal, the Commandant contended that the single judge ought not to have let the constable go scot-free even after finding him guilty of the offence committed by him. The Division Bench agreed with the submissions and imposed the penalty of stoppage of increment.

Writing the judgement for the Bench, Mr. Justice Nagamuthu said: “Withholding of salary for the period during which he was out of employment can never be termed as penalty or equated to penalty in terms of Rule 2 of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules, 1955.”

The Judge went on to state: “In normal circumstances, while finding that the punishment is disproportionate, this Court would remand the matter back to the disciplinary authority for imposition of lesser punishment…But in rare cases, having regard to the length of time…this Court is not precluded from inflicting appropriate punishment.”

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