Public servants using mobile phones during office hours has become common nowadays, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court observed, while directing the State government to frame regulations for the use of mobile phones and mobile cameras in workplaces during office hours.
Justice S.M. Subramaniam observed that using mobile phones and taking videos inside the office was a grave misconduct. Officials working in government departments should never be allowed to use mobile phones inside the office for personal purposes. “If at all any emergency call needs to be attended, permission should be obtained from the superiors to step out of the office and use the mobile phones,” he said.
The judge said that in all circumstances, the mobile phones should either be switched off or kept in vibration/silent mode so as to not cause any disturbance or nuisance to the public and others working at the office.
This should be the minimum level of discipline to be followed in government offices. Frequent use of mobile cameras inside the office will cause disturbance and disrupt the functioning of public offices, he said.
Allowing employees to use mobile phones and mobile cameras inside the office without any restriction will result in serious consequences, the judge said.
Therefore, the State government should take a serious note of this and issue appropriate circular/instructions to all government offices to ensure that mobile phones are kept in a common cloakroom at the time of entering the office. For emergency calls, the official phone numbers should be utilised, the judge said.
The government was duty-bound to ensure that public servants were not wandering with mobile phones inside the office during office hours, and this should be regulated in accordance with the Tamil Nadu Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1973. In the event of any violation of the guidelines/instructions, strict action should be initiated under the relevant provisions.
Exceptions should be made for the use of official mobile phones and telephones by field officers and other authorised persons, the judge said.
The court was hearing a petition filed by D.S. Radhika, a government employee from Tiruchi. She was placed under suspension for frequently using her mobile phone during office hours and filming her co-workers. She challenged the suspension order.
The court rejected the relief sought by the petitioner and disposed of the petition by directing the authorities concerned to conduct an inquiry and conclude the same as expeditiously as possible. The court posted the case to April 13 for reporting compliance.