Cop reinstated after 23 yrs, Madras HC says dismissal too harsh a punishment

He was charged with causing shame to the police department and the government as the letters were titled ‘Grievances of Policemen.
The division bench highlighted that the letters were not written against particular higher officials, but seemed to be written out of frustration.
The division bench highlighted that the letters were not written against particular higher officials, but seemed to be written out of frustration.(Representative image)

CHENNAI: Finding the punishment of removal from service disproportionate to the charges against him, the Madras High Court has ordered the reinstatement of a policeman, M Balachandran, 23 years after he was sacked from the force for indiscipline.

The order was passed by a division bench of Justices S M Subramaniam and C Kumarappan recently, on an appeal filed by Balachandran, who was ‘dismissed from service’ on the charges of writing anonymous letters to an inspector of the Coimbatore B-4 police station in 1998.

He was charged with causing shame to the police department and the government as the letters were titled ‘Grievances of Policemen. Tamil Nadu! Come to the rescue of bonded labourers’. Balachandran was later ‘removed from the service’.

His attempts to seek relief through the Tamil Nadu Administrative Tribunal and the High Court proved futile as the latter had dismissed his petition. He then filed an appeal challenging this order. Stating that his writing of anonymous letters was misconduct, the division bench highlighted that the letters were not written against particular higher officials, but seemed to be written out of frustration.

“Therefore, the punishment of dismissal from service, in our opinion, is harsh,” the bench said, adding that the disciplinary authority ought to have taken a lenient view regarding the quantum of punishment since he had revealed that the letters were written due to instigation by his colleagues. A humane and logical approach is required to regulate the disciplinary aspects in the force, the bench said.

Furthermore, it noted that remaining out of service for about 23 years and the pendency of his petition before the tribunal for about 20 years are themselves punishment for the appellant.

The bench set aside the 2019 order of the HC and directed the respondent officials to reinstate him into service within four weeks. Once reinstated, Balachandran will have nine years in service before retirement, according to the order. The bench said that he is not entitled to back wages or any other monetary benefits for the period he was out of service. However, it added that he is entitled to continuity of service only for the limited purpose of reckoning the qualifying services for pension benefits.

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