TAMIL NADU

Government servant bound by Article 51 A: High Court

K.T.Sangameswaran

CHENNAI: Apart from the conduct rules, a government servant, just like any other citizen, is bound by Article 51 A imposing fundamental duties, the Madras High Court has said.

Upholding the dismissal of a government servant for violating the conduct rules and for suffering imprisonment for taking part in a political agitation, Justice K.Chandru said the petitioner being a government servant ought not to have participated in the agitation conducted by a political party and get himself arrested and convicted for burning a copy of the Constitution and also not informing the employer about his conviction. K.Karunanidhi (since deceased), who was an Assistant in the Commercial Taxes Department was dismissed from service in February 1996. His appeal before the Deputy Commissioner, Commercial Taxes, was also dismissed. Against this, he filed the present petition. (After his death, his wife K.Kantha was substituted as legal heir.)

Unauthorised absence

The ground for dismissal was that he was initially on unauthorised absence from work. When enquiry was pending, it was brought to the authorities’ notice that he participated in an agitation conducted by the DMK and was in Cuddalore Central Prison for two months. In the same case, he was convicted in August 1987, but he never informed his employer about the conviction.

The petitioner claimed that he was not punished. He was unnecessarily implicated in the case. But records obtained by the authorities showed that he participated in an agitation of burning Constitution copy against imposition of Hindi as official language. The same was proved before the trial court.

A contention of the counsel was that even if the petitioner was convicted, dismissal was disproportionate.

Mr.Justice Chandru said violation of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act was a serious offence and burning a copy of the Constitution would be hit by the legislation. Citing a High Court Division Bench ruling, he said as to how far such an agitation was protected by the right to freedom of speech and the inter-link between the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act and Article 51 A were considered in the same judgment. Even with regard to prolonged absence of a government servant, the Supreme Court had forewarned courts from showing any indulgence and the need to apply the fundamental duty enshrined in the Constitution. In the light of clear legal pronouncements, the petitioner could not be shown any indulgence in the matter of punishment.

The petitioner “had not only contravened the conduct rules making himself liable for disciplinary action, but also having got imprisonment by voluntarily participating in a political agitation, he has violated the laws of the land and disobeyed the fundamental duties enshrined in the Constitution,” Mr.Justice Chandru said.