The Supreme Court has held that even if a suspended government employee was acquitted in a criminal trial, his reinstatement would not necessarily entail payment of wages for the suspension period and the employer’s stand on the issue would be final.
The apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik said Thursday that courts or tribunals could not interfere with any decision of the authorities to pay or not to pay or the extent of payment for the period during which the employee was under suspension.
Justice Patnaik said, “…even where the employee is acquitted of the charges in a criminal trial for lack of evidence or otherwise, it is for the competent authority to form its opinion whether the suspension of the employee was wholly unjustified”.
“So long as such opinion of the competent authority was a possible view in the facts and circumstances of the case and the materials before him, such opinion of the competent authority would not be interfered by the tribunal or the court,” he said.
The court said this while setting aside the Aug 18, 2009, order of the Andhra Pradesh Administrative Tribunal and Feb 18, 2010, order of the state high court holding that the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) emplpoyee M. Prabhakar Rao was entitled to back wages for the period he was under suspension while facing criminal trial in which he was acquitted.
Both the tribunal and the high court had set aside the orders of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation which said that though Rao was acquitted by the trial court for lack of evidence, his suspension for allegedly accepting a bribe was not unjustified. Thus, he was not entitled to back wages upon reinstatement.
Rao was placed under suspension on the complaint by M.R. Srinivas for taking a bribe of Rs.2,000 for allegedly under-assessing the rateable value of his house in Hyderabad for the purposes of calculating house tax.
During the trial, complainant Srinivas turned hostile and said that Rs.2,000 he paid to Rao was not an illegal gratification for reducing house tax.
The apex court judgment said that the “opinion of the competent authority was a possible view on the material which the competent authority could form in the facts and circumstances of the case while passing an order in exercise of his powers…declining to allow the salary and allowances of the respondent (Rao) for the period of suspension”.