New Delhi: Highlighting the inequality in punishments apparently due to ranks, the Supreme Court has questioned the Railway Protection Force (RPF) over simply reducing the rank of an officer who conducted illegal gambling but dismissing a constable whose house was used for the illicit game.
“You dismissed the constable because his house was used. And this man was not even present in the house when the raid was conducted. But the senior officer, who asked him to give the keys of his house and gets the gambling conducted, gets a minor punishment. Don’t you think it is unfair?” a bench led by Justice Madan B Lokur asked Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha.
The Court told the ASG, who was appearing for the RPF, that the punishment did not only seem to be unequal but also disproportionate to the offence in question. “We are not saying that offenders of the police force should not be punished at all. But the punishment has to be proportionate and equal to all. A senior officer cannot get away easily while a junior officer becomes the fall guy,” remarked the bench.
The Court also noted that the petitioner, Atulkumar Virbhai Jasleniya, was initially awarded reduction of increment for one year but on a suo motu revision of the disciplinary action, his punishment was enhanced to the dismissal of service. On the other hand, the sub-inspector, under whose charge gambling was done in the premises of the petitioner, had been reduced in rank to the assistant sub-inspector.
“It appears to us prima facie that the punishment of dismissal from service is quite disproportionate to the allegations against the petitioner, particularly as compared to the punishment awarded to the sub-inspector,” maintained the bench in its recent order.
At this, Narasimha replied that he would like to take instructions whether the punishment could be suitably modified. The bench gave him four weeks to revert with the instruction. While posted at Vadodara in Gujarat, Jasleniya had handed over keys of his government quarter on being asked by Sub-Inspector Radheyshyam Singh in August 2010. Late that night, a police team conducted a raid and found around 20 people gambling by cards.
Apart from an FIR being lodged in a local police station, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Jasleniya and others. He was punished by reducing his scale of pay one stage below for one year with cumulative effect by communication in March 2011, which was not challenged by Jasleniya.
However, suo motu proceedings were later initiated to review his punishment and he was dismissed from service by an order in June 2011. Gujarat High Court refused to entertain Jasleniya’s plea for a consideration, stating that it could not be said that the competent authorities committed any error or the punishment was disproportionate.