Quashing a government order whereby a senior KAS officer was prematurely retired last year, Jammu and Kashmir High court has directed the government to treat the officer in active service till the date he attained actual age of superannuation.
"Consequently, the petitioner would be entitled to and paid all the dues and service benefits for the period he has remained out of service pursuant to the impugned order till the date he actually attained his age of superannuation," a bench of Justice Ali Muhammad Magrey ruled, while allowing a petition by Muhammad YousufBhat
Bhat had challenged the legality and constitutionality of the government's GAD order (866-GAD of 2015 dated 30.06.2015 before the high court to sustain his claim that he is neither inefficient nor corrupt.
The government however contended that the order was issued to "weed out inefficient and corrupt officer from the service in public interest.
Interestingly the government had taken the decision after taking into consideration Bhat's service record of 2002-04 when as per his ACRs he was described as "an asset for government, very resourceful and hardworking."
Before his premature retirement, Bhat, had discharged services as Additional Deputy Commissioner, Anantnag; CEO Pahalgam Development Authority and Secretary, State Commission for Women.
The petitioner claimed that his compulsory retirement was ordered at the behest of the owners of sealed and demolished structures, which include politicians, Police officers, bureaucrats and businessmen, having personal interest in illegal constructions at Pahalgam.
"The committee in the instant case did not consider the entire service record –ACRs and APRs of the petitioner. " The whole exercise is, therefore, rendered arbitrary , on account of non application of mind on part of the committee" the court observed.
"From a bare reading of the above entries made in the ACRs of the petitioner for the years 2002-2003 and 2003-2004, it is established beyond doubt that there was nothing adverse about the petitioner's performance, conduct or reputation for integrity reported, recorded or rumoured either in the reporting year 2002-2003 or 2003-2004. In fact, in the ACR for the year 2002-2003 his performance has been rated to be "Outstanding".
The Committee that recommended Bhat's premature retirement had noticed that in his capacity as ADC Anantnag, Bat was found to have released funds to the tune of Rs.20 lakh to three Block Development Officers (BDO) of Anantnag District on pick and choose basis, without ascertaining whether the electrification works were executed by them.
A case (FIR 18/2005) at Police Station Vigilance Organization, Kashmir, (VOK) was registered against Bhat and the GAD had accorded sanction to prosecute him. However, the order was quashed by the court.
The Committee had recorded that "it was observed that the Annual Confidential Reports (ACRs) of the officer for the period in which FIR was registered are not available".
At the same time, Bhat placed on record, photocopies of his ACRs for some of the years, which include that of 2003-2004.
"This by itself establishes that ACRs of (Bhat) for the years 2002-2003 and 2003-2004, during which FIR no.41/2003 was registered, were readily available with the Government and/or the Committee. If the same were not available with the Committee, then that would mean that the Government did not place the same before the Committee," the court observed.
"The law thus laid down is that involvement of a person in a criminal case does not mean that he is guilty. He is still to be tried in a court of law and the truth has to be found out ultimately by the court where the prosecution is ultimately conducted,' the court observed.
But before that stage is reached, it would be highly improper to deprive a person of his livelihood merely on the basis of his involvement" the court said, observing in the instant case the trial has not at all commenced and the petitioner has not yet been proven guilty.
"Therefore it was improper to retire the petitioner on the basis of the allegations made in the FIR in question," the court said while referring to SC judgments.
Referring to Bhat's ACR for the year 2003-2004, the court observed "nothing adverse reported" had been remarked in his integrity column and the overall assessment reads as: "An asset for and various organizations. Very resourceful and hardworking".
The court came down heavily on Bhat for mentioning his age as 49-year-old instead of 59-yeard-old, observing that that the "mention of exact age in a writ petition is not a mere formality." It, however, However, took a lenient view and pardoned Bhat for making a false statement about his age which as per record is 17.06.1956