Q: I was a senior engineer in a public sector unit and had been involved in the co-operative society activities of the company. I was falsely implicated in a case relating to the society and remanded in judicial custody for more than two days. Before I could obtain bail, the company management suspended me. Even after I got bail it did not review the decision. The complaint against me is of a vindictive nature and was made only to harass me. The case is pending in a Ranchi court for over 12 years. All the records pertaining to the case were destroyed in a court fire. The management has not offered any reason for my suspension. Neither has it instituted a departmental enquiry against me. How long can an employee be kept under suspension on the basis of a 48-hour custody clause? How can the suspension be revoked?
A: An employee may, in accordance with the applicable service rules, be suspended where disciplinary proceedings are contemplated or pending against him or her or where a case against him or her in respect of a criminal offence is under investigation enquiry or trial. Government service rules usually contain a “48-hour custody clause” whereby a government employee is deemed to be suspended till further orders if he is detained in custody for a period exceeding 48 hours under any law with effect from the date of detention. It appears that your employer had prima facie grounds for passing the initial order of suspension. This order does not cease even if you obtain bail and continues till a final decision is made by the employer after the completion of the criminal proceedings or departmental enquiry against you.
In your case, a terribly long period has lapsed since the beginning of your ordeal but it appears that you have not taken any pro-active steps to expedite the matter. You need to immediately make an appropriate application to quash the criminal proceedings against you as the prosecution is not in a position to prove anything anyway. This may result in an order of either dismissal of the case or at least some direction for the expeditious hearing of the case.
Simultaneously, you need to take steps for modifying or revoking the order of suspension. You can either apply for review before the suspending authority or prefer an appeal from the order to the competent superior authority as may be provided in your service rules. Alternatively, you ought to move the high court directly by filing a writ petition challenging the inaction on part of your employer in deliberately prolonging your suspension.
Since courts may be reluctant to interfere with purely administrative orders, you must be careful to clearly point out the prejudice you are suffering as a result of the mala fide inaction on part of your employers, who have not even initiated any disciplinary proceedings till date and are acting in a biased and arbitrary manner with ulterior motive. Stress the fact you have been charged with an offence that is not related to your official functions and as such there is no reason why you should be debarred from working till the matter is decided. You must contend further that though there may be no prescribed time limit for continuation of suspension, your employers cannot be permitted to unnecessarily prolong the matter for no tangible reason. The employer is not absolved of the responsibility of bringing the matter to its proper conclusion. There are cases where valid orders of suspension have been revoked on the grounds that there was unjustified delay in arriving at a final decision. Such undue prolongation amounts to punitive suspension and departmental proceedings ought to be completed within a reasonable time. Again even if the court does not revoke the order in your case, it will at least give directions to your employer to review its decision to suspend you after giving you a reasonable opportunity of being heard and thus will have the effect of breaking the impasse instead of allowing the situation to remain in perpetual limbo.
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