Tamil Nadu

‘Preponderance of probabilities enough to punish public servants’

Preponderance of probabilities was sufficient to punish public servants under the Discipline and Appeal Rules, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court observed while dismissing the petition filed by a Village Administrative Officer (VAO) who was punished for misconduct.

The court was hearing the petition filed by R. Vasantha from Dindigul district who challenged the punishment of stoppage of increment for three years with cumulative effect awarded to her on a charge of misconduct.

Disciplinary proceedings were initiated against the petitioner after she granted permission to a woman landowner to cut seemai karuvelam trees that had grown on her land. Actually, the Revenue Inspector concerned should have given the permission.

Justice S.M. Subramaniam observed that the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authorities as well as the appellate authorities could be modified in rare circumstances by the High Court in a writ petition.

It could be in the case of punishment not being proportionate to the gravity of the charge. As far as the disciplinary authorities were concerned, the standard of proof required was not akin to that of the standard of proof required in a criminal or a civil case, the court said.

The allegation set out in the charge memo, the materials available on record and consideration by the disciplinary authority as well as the enquiry officers were sufficient to arrive at a conclusion that the punishment was imposed in accordance with law.

In the present case, a charge memo was issued and the petitioner denied the charge. An enquiry officer was appointed and the petitioner was given a reasonable opportunity to defend her case. Thereafter, the finding was arrived at by the officer.

There was no perversity on the part of the disciplinary authority in accepting the finding and imposing the punishment on the petitioner, the court said, and observed that the punishment imposed was in consonance with the rules in force.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 4:10:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/preponderance-of-probabilities-enough-to-punish-public-servants-madurai-high-court/article32894029.ece

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