The Madras High Court has ruled that the conduct of the police personnel in holding a demonstration before the Office of the Police Commissioner, raising slogans against the higher officials, delivering interviews to the media, in demanding for immediate relieving of an entire transfer order is an activity similar to strike.
The petitioner before Justice R. M. T. Teekaa Raman, while he was working as Police Constable in Coimbatore Corporation, was said to have agitated against the Commissioner of Police in the campus of the Commissioner Officer, in connection with the mass transfer order. While issuing relieving orders as per serial number, initially 132 members were relieved and remaining others were allotted other works namely to produce the accused before the Criminal Court and to engage the armed reserve for law and order panthobasth and escort for VIP visit. The Commissioner of Police announced that the second part of the transfer list will be released in one or two days. Aggrieved from the said announcement, the petitioner along with 28 Police personnel assembled together and agitated before the Office of the Commissioner and the said fact was reported in the News Papers and some of the participants of the agitation had given interviews to the press and the same was reported in print Media.
Accordingly, summons were issued to the 28 persons and after obtaining necessary orders from the Administration side, disciplinary proceedings were initiated, and the petitioner was awarded punishment of stoppage of increment with cumulative effect for three years. Subsequently, in appeal, the Commissioner of Police had reduced the punishment from stoppage of increment for three years with cumulative effect to stoppage of increment for two years with cumulative effect.
The bench appreciated that Rule 25 of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Police Officers conduct Rules lays down that No police officer shall engage himself in strike on incitements there to on in "similar activities".
The bench noted that in Administrative law, transfer order and relieving order are two different things, and that depending upon the administrative exigency the relieving order will come into force on a later date and the same is not per se arbitrary. "In the instance case, the Deputy Commissioner of Police has effected the order of transfer and has given instructions to the concerned Officers to relieve from serial Nos.1 to 134 on the same day and taking note of the service of the armed reserve police is required for production of under trial prisoners in the Court for trial as required under the Code of Civil Procedure and for extension of remand order, production of accused before the concerned Judicial Magistrate or Sessions Judge and for deployment of the Armed Reserved Police in sensitive communal areas in Coimbatore and for deployment of the police personnels to maintain law and order and bandobasth and also taking note of the escort for VIPs as segregate upto in the serial No.132 to be relieved on the same day. Remaining balance persons to be relieved after few days on arrival of the transferred candidates from other Districts to Coimbatore District", narrated the Single Judge, adding that aggrieved over such an action, the petitioner has alleged to commit the charge.
The bench observed that as per the proved charges, the petitioner assembled in the ground of the Commissioner of Police Office in Coimbatore and formed themselves as a group by shouting slogans against the Commissioner of Police and created ruckus in the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Police and Commissioner of Police in the same complex and rhoered the higher officials and demanded for immediate relieving of the entire transfer order. While assembling and shouting against the Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner of Police, they went marching in the playground and delivered interviews to the press and media, levelling baseless allegation against the Uniformed Police Officials without material by casting colour on the orders of the Commissioner. The Court found that the action of the petitioner and other persons involved falls under "Similar Activities" as mentioned in the Rule 25.
Taking into consideration of the act of the delinquencies, which, per the Court, squarely fell under Rules 3 and 25 of the Tamil Nadu Police Subordinate Police Officers conduct Rules, the bench expressed that the Disciplinary Authority had rightly inflicted punishment of stoppage of increment for three years with cumulative effect. "However, it appears that the Appellate Authority/Commissioner of Police, being an Office with gentleman attitude, has taken lenient view that on the ground that the petitioner rendered only short service and that was first instance, that the proved misconduct, falls under similar activities as modified and reduced the quantum of punishment, I find that the order passed by the Commissioner of Police is soft in nature", said the bench.
The bench declared that the punishment cannot be termed as excessive and the same was in consonance with the proved charges and hence, there was no illegality or infirmity in the impugned order.