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Saturday, December 5, 2015

The efficiency of a public servant demands that he should be free to perform his official duties fearlessly and without any favour. The dire necessity is to fill in the existing gap by protecting the honest officers while making the corrupt officers realize that they are not above law. The protection to an honest public servant is required not only in his interest but in the larger interest of society. This Court time and again extended assurance to the honest and sincere officers to perform their duty in a free and fair manner towards achieving a better society. It appears that after his discharge from the Court proceedings, the petitioner had written a letter to the Chief Minister on 12th May, 2011 seeking an amount of Rs.4½ crores towards compensation and damages. Normally, this Court is reluctant in determining or granting any compensation while exercising its jurisdiction under Article 32 of the Constitution, but advises the parties to approach the competent Courts for adjudicating those issues. However, keeping in view the peculiar facts and circumstances of this case and taking into consideration the age and trauma suffered by the petitioner who spent about 11 days in jail and fought the legal battle for about a period of 10 years before various forums and more particularly in the absence of any proved charges of corruption against the petitioner, we deem it fit that a lump sum amount of Rs.10 lakhs be awarded as compensation to the petitioner on all forms. 15. Accordingly, we direct the State of Uttar Pradesh to pay a lump sum of Rs.10 lakhs to the petitioner within a period of three months towards compensation.

                                                                  REPORTABLE

                        IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
                         CIVIL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

                    WRIT PETITION (CIVIL) No.933 OF 2014

Dr. RAM LAKHAN SINGH                      …. PETITIONER

VERSUS

STATE GOVERNMENT OF UTTAR PRADESH
THROUGH CHIEF SECRETARY                    ….  RESPONDENT

                               J U D G M E N T

N.V. RAMANA, J.

      This petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India  is  filed
by one Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh, an incumbent of  Indian  Forest  Service  (1969
Batch, U.P. Cadre)  who  rendered  services  to  the  respondent  State  and
Government of India in  various  positions  for  about  35  years  till  his
retirement.  The main contention of the petitioner is that he was  illegally
detained by the  respondent  authorities  after  implicating  him  in  false
vigilance cases and dishonouring the High Court’s  directions.   Because  of
the malicious, willful and contemptuous acts of the State  and  clear  abuse
of legal process, he and his family members had to suffer a great ordeal  of
mental agony and heavy financial loss besides being defamed in the  society.
 Hence, he prayed this Court to express displeasure over  the  violation  of
his family members’ fundamental rights and to direct the respondent  to  pay
compensation for the loss of his professional  career,  reputation  and  for
causing mental agony.
2.    The relevant facts as submitted by  the  petitioner,  who  argued  his
case before us in person, are that he has rendered about  35  years  service
to the State of U.P. and  the  Government  of  India,  with  an  unblemished
record.  He became a Member of the National Board for Wild Life  (for  short
“NBWL”)  on  22nd    September,  2003.   The  then  Chief  Minister  of  the
respondent State wanted the petitioner to take necessary steps so as to  get
the Benti Bird Sanctuary located at Kunda of Pratapgarh District  denotified
by the NBWL in its meeting held on 15th October, 2003.   As  the  petitioner
did not comply with  the  directions,  the  then  Chief  Minister  of  Uttar
Pradesh, in the guise of a complaint by the MLA of  his  own  party  against
the  petitioner,  issued  directions  to  the  Director  General,  Vigilance
Establishment of the State to initiate a vigilance enquiry against him.   As
per the procedure envisaged for the purpose by  D.O.  Letter  No.2020/39(2)-
12(5)-74, dated
12-09-1997 (Annexure P-11), before  a  case  is  sent  for  State  Vigilance
Establishment,  the   approval  of  the  State  Vigilance  Committee  is   a
condition  precedent,  but  the  respondent  State  without  following   the
prescribed procedure, conducted vigilance enquiry and removed him  from  his
post.  The petitioner moved the High Court by Writ Petition No.126  of  2004
to declare that  the  vigilance  enquiry  against  him  was  done  in  clear
violation of the prescribed procedure.  The High Court by orders dated  30th
January,  2004  and  14th  September,  2007  directed  the  State  Vigilance
Committee to carry out the enquiry proceedings, but the respondent  did  not
comply with the directions of the High Court.
3.    While that being so, Writ Petition No.2985 of 2004  was  filed  before
the High Court by an advocate arraying the  petitioner  as  respondent  No.4
therein.  According to the petitioner,  the  writ  petition  (PIL)  was  got
purportedly filed by the advocate who was working in the office of the  then
Advocate  General,  making  false  averments  stating  that  the   vigilance
committee had already completed the enquiry in various issues  against  him.
As a matter of fact, on the date of institution of the said  writ  petition,
the enquiry against the petitioner  was  not  even  referred  to  the  State
Vigilance Committee.  In the said petition, the High Court,  on  25th  June,
2004, passed an order which, inter alia, reads thus:
     “List this case on 12.02.2004, Vigilance Committee shall carry on with
      the proceeding, but no final order shall be passed.


      It has been further averred that the vigilance committee had  already
      completed the enquiry in various issues against the  respondent  No.4,
      namely Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh and the matter is serious in nature in mis-
      utilization of Government funds in its own way.  Nowhere the  Division
      Bench vide its order dated 30.01.04 had stopped  the  State  to  lodge
      FIR, if prima facie, the Vigilance Committee comes to  the  conclusion
      that some cognizable offence is committed by respondent No.4.  It  was
      always open for the State to lodge FIR, if prima facie, the  Vigilance
      Committee had come to a conclusion that some  cognizable  offence  has
      been committed by respondent No.4, it is always open for the State  to
      lodge an FIR, if  some  cognizable  offence  is  found  to  have  been
      committed by the Respondent No.4, and if it comes out from the  report
      of the Vigilance Committee, not only the State but also any person can
      lodge an FIR under Section 154 Cr.P.C. with respect  to  a  cognizable
      offence said to have been  committed  by  a  particular  person.   The
      Division Bench has never stopped the State to lodge an FIR  since  the
      Departmental proceeding can very well continue simultaneously.


      With the aforesaid observation, this petition stands finally disposed
      of.”

4.    Taking advantage of the order dated 25th  June,  2004  passed  by  the
High Court, FIR was registered against the  petitioner  and  his  house  was
raided.  The petitioner claims that in the case of house raid and arrest  of
a Member of the All India Services like that of the  petitioner,  the  State
Vigilance Establishment is required to take prior  permission  and  approval
of the Chief Secretary of the State, whereas in the case of  the  petitioner
no such approval had been obtained.   Afterwards,  the  respondent  obtained
approval by a
pre-dated letter on 5th July, 2004,  concealing  the  fact  of  raiding  the
petitioner’s house on 25-06-2004 and the petitioner  was  finally  arrested.
Subsequently, two more FIRs were registered against the  petitioner  on  the
same day and the petitioner was suspended from his official duties.
5.    Aggrieved thereby, the petitioner approached  this  Court  by  way  of
filing Writ Petition No.236 of 2004 and this Court permitted the  petitioner
to approach the  High  Court  afresh.   Accordingly,  the  proceedings  were
recommenced before the High Court  in  Writ  Petition  No.126  of  2004  and
finally on 30th August, 2011, the High Court disposed of the  matter,  inter
alia, observing thus:
      “Heard Sri Prashant Chandra, learned Senior Advocate in  the  presence
       of the  petitioner  Dr.  Ram  Lakhan  Singh  and  Sri  J.N.  Mathur,
       Additional Advocate General for the State.


        The prayer of the counsel for the petitioner is that all actions and
       orders passed, if any, in violation of the Court’s order dated 30-01-
       2004 be declared to be null and void and be  quashed  and  that,  in
       fact, the matter was  never  referred  to  Vigilance  Committee  and
       consequently, no vigilance enquiry was ever  initiated  against  the
       petitioner and, therefore, all actions  taken/complaints lodged with
       the assumption that vigilance enquiry has been initiated against the
       petitioner, shall stand void and non est.


        Sri J.N. Mathur does not dispute the aforesaid position and  has  no
       objection if such a direction is issued.


        We have gone through the documents on record and we find that it  is
       a case where the petitioner has undergone severe  agony  because  of
       the  incorrect  statement  about  the  Vigilance   Committee   being
       constituted and vigilance enquiry being initiated against him.”

6.    The petitioner finally submitted that  he  was  prosecuted  without  a
plausible  cause  and  only  by  malicious  and  willful  intention  of  the
respondent, he had to suffer unlawful suspension from the post of  Principal
Chief Conservator of Forest, loss of full  salary  and  retirement  benefits
which were withheld for a period of more than ten years.   For  causing  him
the loss of professional career  including  that  of  the  Member  of  NBWL,
reputation, great mental agony and heavy  financial  loss  besides  defaming
his character, the petitioner prayed for compensation.
7.    The State has filed a counter affidavit denying the  allegations  made
against the State and the learned senior counsel  appearing  for  the  State
submitted that the arrest and suspension of  the  petitioner  were  done  in
accordance  with  proper  procedure.   The  prior  approval  of  the   State
Vigilance Committee applies only in those  cases  where  the  Administrative
Department recommends the cases for investigation and  such  prior  approval
of State Vigilance Committee is  not  required  in  cases  as  that  of  the
petitioner where the Chief Minister directly orders for  vigilance  enquiry.
In the enquiry, it was  found  that  the  petitioner  was  allegedly  owning
disproportionate assets beyond his income, as being a public  servant,  such
offence attracts  punishment  under  Sections  13(1)(e)  and  13(2)  of  the
Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.  Even the search operation by  the  team
consisting  of  officers  from  the  Vigilance  Department  including   lady
officers  was  conducted  in  consonance  with  the  rules  and  regulations
honoring the human rights.  Thus,  the  respondent  had  not  committed  any
illegality and there was no flouting of  any  orders  of  the  Hon’ble  High
Court or blatant violation of fundamental right to life  guaranteed  to  the
petitioner.
8.    Learned senior counsel finally submitted that even all the  retirement
dues of the petitioner amounting to  Rs.14.57  lakhs  and  Rs.3,00,886/-  as
interest on gratuity for delay has been paid.   In addition, the  petitioner
who retired on 31-12-2004 was being paid provisional pension  w.e.f.  01-01-
2005 till his final pension was sanctioned on 28-08-2015.   However,  earned
leave encashment of Rs.4,03,106/- was sanctioned on 21-02-2014, but for  the
payment of interest on  late  payment  of  leave  encashment,  there  is  no
provision in the rules and hence the interest could not be paid.
9.    Having heard the parties on either side, we find  that  the  narration
of the facts  indicates  a  clear  procedural  lapse  on  the  part  of  the
respondent which  caused  mental  agony  and  financial  loss  to  the  writ
petitioner.    Though  there  is  no  material  before  us  indicating   the
involvement of the Chief Minister in initiating the proceedings against  the
petitioner for not fulfilling his request, as  alleged  by  the  petitioner,
however, the initiation of vigilance proceedings and statements made  before
the High Court by officers of the respondent State led to the arrest of  the
petitioner causing great loss to him.  At the end of the  day,  as  per  the
statement made by the respondent before the High Court and by the  order  of
the Special Judge, Anti Corruption Act, Lucknow (Annexure  P-31)  on  15-02-
2012, all the actions against the applicant have been declared as  null  and
void.  But in the entire process, the petitioner had to suffer mental  agony
and loss of reputation in the society besides  huge  financial  loss.   Even
the retrial benefits have been paid to the  petitioner  belatedly  which  is
attributable to the negligence and irresponsible act of the State.
10.   A public servant in a democracy should be a guardian  of  morals.   He
is entrusted with higher  responsibilities  of  a  public  office  and  they
contribute their best for the just and humane society.   We  feel  that  for
effective functioning  of  a  democracy,  the  role  of  Executive  is  very
important.  Civil servants and public officials  are  expected  to  maintain
and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence by demonstrating  the  high
standards  of  professional  competence,  efficiency  and  effectiveness  by
upholding the Constitution and rule of law, keeping in mind the  advancement
of public good at all times.  Public employment being a  public  trust,  the
improper use of the public position for personal advantage is considered  as
a serious breach of trust.  With the changing times, the role  of  Executive
and expectation of the citizens  in  governance  also  underwent  tremendous
change.
11.   Dishonesty and corruption are biggest challenges  for  any  developing
country.  If the public servant indulges in  corruption,  the  citizens  who
are vigilant in all aspects take note of this seriously and develop a  sense
of distress towards the Government and its mechanism, on a whole it sends  a
very alarming message to the society at large  and  to  the  common  man  in
particular.  In any civilized society, the paramount  consideration  is  the
welfare of the society and corruption  is  the  biggest  hindrance  in  that
process.  If the corrupt public servant is not punished, then it  will  have
a negative impact on the honest public servants who will be discouraged  and
demoralized.  Some upright officers resist corruption but they cannot  alone
change  the  system  which  victimizes  them   through   frequent   punitive
transfers, threat to their families and fabricating, foisting false cases.
12.   In such a scenario, until  and  unless  we  maintain  a  fine  balance
between prosecuting a guilty officer  and  protecting  an  innocent  officer
from vexatious, frivolous and  mala  fide  prosecution,  it  would  be  very
difficult for the public servant to discharge his duties in  free  and  fair
manner.  The efficiency of a public servant demands that he should  be  free
to perform his official duties fearlessly and without any favour.  The  dire
necessity is to fill in the existing gap by protecting the  honest  officers
while making the corrupt officers realize that they are not above law.   The
protection to an honest public servant is required not only in his  interest
but in the larger interest of society. This Court time  and  again  extended
assurance to the honest and sincere officers to  perform  their  duty  in  a
free and fair manner towards achieving a better society.
13.   In the case on hand, the counter affidavit  filed  on  behalf  of  the
State at the time of hearing specifically indicates that  the  FIRs  against
the petitioner were lodged for  the  crimes  relating  to  the  petitioner’s
owning  disproportionate  assets  beyond  his  income,  illegal  mining  and
auction of Tendu patta leaves causing loss  of  revenue  to  Government  and
undue gain to the purchasers.  However, except  making  such  averments,  no
material in support of allegations leveled against the petitioner  has  been
made available to this Court.  On the other hand,  the  order  of  the  High
Court passed on 30th August, 2011 in Writ Petition No.126 of 2004  (Annexure
P-30), clearly indicates that the Additional Advocate General for the  State
did not dispute the averments made by  the  petitioner  that  his  case  was
never referred to Vigilance Committee and consequently no vigilance  enquiry
was ever initiated against him.   The High Court order further reveals  that
the Additional Advocate General also expressed no objection to declare  that
all actions taken and complaints lodged against the petitioner  shall  stand
void and non est in the eye of law.  Thus, in the light  of  the  foregoing,
it is clear that the defence taken by the State in the counter affidavit  is
only  to  justify  its  illegal  action  against  the  petitioner,   without
producing any material supporting the stand taken by them.
14.   It appears that after his discharge from the  Court  proceedings,  the
petitioner had written a letter to the Chief  Minister  on  12th  May,  2011
seeking  an  amount  of  Rs.4½  crores  towards  compensation  and  damages.
Normally,  this  Court  is  reluctant  in  determining   or   granting   any
compensation while exercising its  jurisdiction  under  Article  32  of  the
Constitution, but advises the parties to approach the competent  Courts  for
adjudicating those issues.  However, keeping in view the peculiar facts  and
circumstances of this case and taking into consideration the age and  trauma
suffered by the petitioner who spent about 11 days in jail  and  fought  the
legal battle for about a period of 10 years before various forums  and  more
particularly in the absence of any proved charges of corruption against  the
petitioner, we deem it fit that a lump sum amount of Rs.10 lakhs be  awarded
as compensation to the petitioner on all forms.
15.   Accordingly, we direct the State of Uttar Pradesh to pay  a  lump  sum
of Rs.10 lakhs to the petitioner within a period  of  three  months  towards
compensation.
16.   The writ petition stands disposed of accordingly.


                                                       …………………………………………………J.
                            (RANJAN GOGOI)




                                                        .……………………………………………J.
                            (N.V. RAMANA)
NEW DELHI,
NOVEMBER 17, 2015.

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