In a major judgment concerning government servants, the Madras High Court has ruled that if a government employee is permitted to retire on attaining superannuation without prejudice to disciplinary proceedings against him, the proceedings can continue under the pension rules.

A Full Bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice R.K.Agrawal and Justices N.Paul Vasanthakumar and K.Venkataraman, passed the judgment while dismissing an appeal by C. Mathesu.

The question before the Bench was whether even in cases where there were serious charges of misappropriation, an employee, on attaining superannuation, could be allowed to retire without prejudice to the disciplinary proceedings contemplated.

Mathesu was working as a Village Administrative Officer (VAO) at Olaipatti, Salem district.

On reaching the age of superannuation, he was allowed to retire on June 30, 2011 without prejudice to the disciplinary proceedings against him.

Charge memo

The charge against him was that while working as a VAO at Navapatti village, proceedings were initiated against him for irregularities in the disbursement of old age pension. A charge memo was issued to him a day prior to his retirement.

He filed a writ petition challenging the charge memo and the impugned order of June 30, 2011.

He contended that once he had been permitted to retire, he could not be proceeded against. A single Judge dismissed the petition. Hence, the present appeal.

Writing the judgment for the Bench, the Acting Chief Justice said the Fundamental Rules and the Tamil Nadu Pension Rules were statutory in nature.

Applying the rule of harmonious construction, both the rules applied in different circumstances – the Fundamental Rules, making provision for treating a government employee in service even after he reached the date of superannuation in case he had been placed under suspension and permit departmental proceedings to continue, while the Pension Rules took care of a situation where an employee had retired on superannuation and disciplinary proceedings had either been instituted prior to retirement date or can be instituted in specified circumstances after retirement.

The principle of harmonious construction of two different statutes should be applied in the present case.

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