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In a recent order, the Madras High Court had some harsh words to say on the alarming rise of corruption cases in public employment.
While dismissing a petition praying for reduction in the punishment imposed on a police officer who was found guilty under the Prevention of Corruption Act (POCA), 1988, Justice V Parthiban observed,
“Today, the tentacles of corruption have permeated to all levels and are eating into the vitals of the State. If such omnipotent corruption is not checked and eradicated, practically the State will be left with nothing for the future generation to understand what is honesty, which is the very essence of civilised human existence.
What is being witnessed today is an alarming rise of corruption cases in public employment and the corruption is almost being elevated to the status of institutional necessity. Corruption, which was once an exception to a civilised existence, has now become a rule and over a passage of time, at this rate, corruption would grow like a Frankenstein’s monster and would annihilate the substratum of virtuous existence.”
The police officer in question, a Sub-Inspector, was implicated for charges of corruption in 2001. After his first suspension in November 2001, he was reinstated back in service in February 2002.
However, in 2006, it was found that three charges of corruption levelled against him under the Tamil Nadu Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules stood proved.
Consequently, he was placed under suspension again and was not allowed to retire from service, although he was due to reach superannuation in August 2007.
In due course, the trial Court found him guilty under the POCA. The conviction eventually lead to the petitioner being dismissed from service in 2008, with effect from August 2007.
Appeals made against the trial court verdict and his impending dismissal did not yield any result. A mercy petition preferred before the Director General of Police, seeking a reduction in the penalty imposed was also dismissed in 2015.
This rejection was subsequently challenged before the Madras High Court, on the ground that the penalty imposed on the petitioner (i.e. dismissal from service) was excessive and harsh.
The Court, however, did not find any merit in this plea, opining that such deterrent punishment ought to be the order of the day to curb the abominable menace of corruption.
Such a stern view also finds support in the rules applicable to Central Government employees i.e. the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules (CCS CCA Rules), the Court ruled.
As per the CCS CCA Rules, the punishment imposed on employees for illegal gratification is either removal from service or dismissal from service. A departure from such penalty would only be possible in exceptional circumstances, on recording special reasons in writing. Voicing his approval for such stringent punishment when it comes to tackling corruption, Justice Parthiban opined,
“Unless, the monstrosity of ubiquitous corruption is handled with iron hand, it will eventually lead to a situation where the entire citizenry will be forced to participate in the game of corruption. The space for probity in public employment will be consumed in its entirety by the depraved officialdom. The society will ultimately degenerate into unwholesome dystopian existence, in future.”
The Court, therefore, dismissed the petition with the following observation.
“Since this Court is of the considered view that the proved corruption cannot be condoned under any circumstances and therefore dismissal order cannot even be remotely held to be disproportionate.
On the other hand, as found in the CCS CCA Rules, governing the service conditions of the Central Government Servants, as a matter of imposing punishment for dishonesty, it can only be either removal or dismissal from service. While holding as such, the writ petition is hereby dismissed as being devoid of merits.”
Before parting with the case, the judge also recommended that appropriate State amendments be introduced to the disciplinary rules governing State government employees, to prescribe harsh penalties akin to those in the CCS CCA rules for corrupt officials.
Accordingly, a copy of the order is to be issued to the Chief Secretary of the state to bring in appropriate amendments to the state rules i.e. the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Service (Discipline and Appeal) Rules.