Reinstated government servants entitled to back wages: High Court

Government servants suspended or dismissed from service on being convicted in criminal cases and subsequently reinstated following their acquittal by a higher judicial forum are entitled to arrears of pay and allowances for the period of their absence from duty, the Madras High Court has held. A Division Bench of Justice Chitra Venkataraman and Justice M. Duraiswamy came to the conclusion on the basis of Fundamental Rules governing certain service conditions of government employees. The judgement was passed while allowing a writ appeal filed in the Madurai Bench by a Village Administrative Officer (VAO) from Tiruchi. The writ appeal was directed against a portion of an order passed by a single judge of the High Court on February 1, 2008. Disposing of a writ petition, the Judge had directed the authority concerned to reinstate the VAO in service following his acquittal from corruption charges but refused to order payment of back wages. Differing with the view taken by him, the Division Bench said that Rule 54 (2) of the Fundamental Rules stipulates disbursement of pay and allowances to a government servant who had been exonerated of charges levelled against him. The period of suspension, removal or compulsory retirement should be treated as period spent on duty. In the present case, the appellant V. Pitchai said that he joined government service as a VAO in 1984. The Tiruchi Revenue Divisional Officer suspended him in 1999 following the registration of a corruption case by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption sleuths. But no disciplinary proceedings were initiated against him. On conclusion of trial, the Tiruchi Chief Judicial Magistrate convicted him in the corruption case on October 14, 2004. The judgement was taken on appeal before the High Court. Pending adjudication of the appeal, the RDO passed an order on November 16, 2004 dismissing the VAO from service. The High Court on September 27, 2007 reversed the conviction and exonerated the appellant of all charges. But, a month later, the RDO rejected the appellant’s plea to reinstate him in service on the strength of the acquittal order and hence the writ petition and the present writ appeal. SOURCE:The Hindu

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