P. Govinda Menon, J. -
(1.) THE petitioner was recruited into the Madras Subordinate Police Service as Sub -Inspector of Police on 13 -10 -1942 and had been functioning as such from that date. From 10 -5 -1951 he had been in charge of the Rasoolpet Police Station, Guntur District, when, on 13 -3 -1952, the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Guntur, served on him an order at 6 -45 p.m. that under the orders of the District Superintendent of Police, Guntur, he was relieving the petitioner of the charge from the station forthwith, with the result that the petitioner was directed to hand over charge at once to another Sub -Inspector. Two days later, this was followed up by an order from the District Superintendent of Police containing the statement that there was evidence that the petitioner as Sub -Inspector of Rasoolpet station has been receiving illegal gratification from the public and that there was definite information that he has received illegal gratification from four persons of Guntur town.
It was further stated that the petitioner had sent a letter to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Northern Range, Masulipatam, on an inland postal cover with something written in Tamil of which the English handwriting forming the address of the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Northern Range, has been certified to be that of the petitioner by officers who knew his handwriting in the usual course of business. For confirming this fact the letter had been forwarded to the handwriting Expert, Madras, and further enquiries had to be made about it. Therefore, pending enquiry into these allegations, the petitioner was placed under suspension and was told that he will draw eligible subsistence allowance and dearness allowance during suspension period. On 19 -3 -1952 the petitioner sent a memorial to the Inspector General of Police, wherein he stated that the suspension was illegal and was the result of misunderstanding and enmity and there was a request that the Inspector General should take the necessary action and do the needful justice by issuing express orders."
On 7 -4 -1952 he made another representation to the Deputy Inspector General of Police and the Special Officer, Northern Range, Masulipatam, praying that the superior officer, the Inspector, should be transferred forthwith outside the district in the interests of justice and equity; otherwise there would be no scope for him to vindicate his innocence and get justice done. In both these petitions he had made allegations against the Inspector Ramaswami. On 19 -4 -1952, the petitioner received an endorsement on his petition to the Deputy Inspector General of Police dated 7 -4 -1952 stating that, the enquiry against him was then in the hands of the X Branch, C. I. D., and till that was over his request could not be granted. On 27 -4 -1952 the petitioner sent another memorial to the District Superintendent of Police contending that the order of suspension was 'ultra vires' and 'mala fide' for various reasons.
It was further stated there that the investigation by the X branch would reveal that he was innocent and free from blame. On 1 -5 -52 there was an endorsement on this application by the District Superintendent of Police, Guntur, to the effect that there was no reason to revoke or change the order placing the petitioner under suspension as the enquiry against him had been taken up by the C. I. D. and until a definite conclusion was arrived at by the C. I. D. Officer, matters would have to stand as they were then. Since there was no reply to the memorial dated 7 -4 -1952 sent by the petitioner to the Inspector General of Police he sent another on 9 -5 -52 and followed it up by another dated 22 -5 -52. To these he got a reply dated 9 -7 -1952 from the Inspector General of Police stating that his request could not be granted. In the meanwhile he is alleged to have sent another petition to the Chief Minister of Madras also.
It is alleged by the petitioner that he had not received any reply from the Government for the representations made by him. But on 6 -2 -1953 the District Superintendent of Police, West Godavari, to whom the enquiry had been transferred, framed a number of charges against the petitioner and they were served on the petitioner on 18 -3 -1953. Thereafter this application for the issue of a writ of certiorari was filed in this court on 19 -3 -1953. The prayer in the application is for an order or direction, or other appropriate writ under Article 226 of the Constitution, declaring as illegal, the order of suspension dated 15 -3 -1952 bearing D. O. No. 511/52 issued from the office of the District Superintendent of Police, Guntur, suspending the petitioner as Sub -Inspector of Police, Rasoolpet Police Station, Guntur, and also directing the Government to forbear from continuing, or enforcing, the said order of suspension.
(2.) A preliminary objection is taken by the Government Pleader, who appears for the respondent State, that though the order of suspension was passed on 15 -3 -1952, the petitioner has taken a year to file the writ application in the High Court. Therefore, the inordinate delay in the filing of this petition will, by itself, disentitle the petitioner to any relief. In other words, the learned Government Pleader's contention is that the petitioner has not moved this court within a reasonable time of the serving of the order of suspension on him and that he cannot be allowed to take his own time and file a writ petition about a year later. The argument on behalf of the State is that an application for a writ of certiorari is in the nature of an extra -ordinary remedy and should therefore be invoked, or taken advantage of, as early as possible.
It is further urged that since in the case of an appeal, or second appeal, or revision petition, to this court from the decree, judgment, or order, of any subordinate Court, the period of limitation is 90 days, and that in criminal appeals from the convictions by Sessions Court the period of limitation is 60 days, it is not only inexpedient, but is illegal and unjust, to allow a party to move this court for a writ nearly a year after the order by which he is aggrieved has been passed. The learned Government Pleader lays great stress on a decision in - - 'Nathamooni Chetti v. : AIR1951Mad250 (A); where Rajamannar C. J. and Somasundaram J. lay down that though there is no specific period of limitation it has generally been the accepted practice of this court not to exercise the extraordinary power by way of the issue of prerogative writs when there has been long delay since the passing of the order sought to be quashed. In that case, the order sought to be quashed was dated 21 -10 -1948 and the application for the writ of certiorari was filed only towards the end of 1949 and it came up for hearing on 19 -7 -1950. The learned Judges therefore held that the inordinate delay by itself would disentitle the petitioner from seeking any remedy.
On the other hand Mr. Narasaraju for the petitioner invited my attention to another decision of this court in - - 'Muthiah Chettiar v. : 19ITR402(Mad) (B), which contains observations at page 206 to the following effect:
"The other objection is based on the long delay in making the application. The order of the Commissioner rejecting the petitioner's application for revision was made on 5 -4 -1949, while the application for the issue of a writ of certiorari was made about a year after that date. We have held that though there is no period of limitation as such prescribed for application for the issue of prerogative write, long delay can be one of the grounds for refusing to grant an application for the issue of such writs. In this case, however, we think there are circumstances which should make us take a more lenient view. Though wrongly advised, the applicant appears to have sought some remedy from the Central Board of Revenue, of course, unsuccessfully. Having regard to this fact, we do not consider that the delay should prevent the party from obtaining the relief to which we have found he is entitled."
Mr. Narasaraju therefore contends that the delay of one year was due to the fact that the petitioner was exhausting all the departmental remedies he could have availed of. He has unsuccessfully petitioned to the D. I. G. of Police as well as to the Inspector General of Police. He made a representation to the Government for which no reply was received. In such circumstances, having 'bona fide' resorted to the departmental remedies available to him, he should not be blamed for the delay in moving this Court for, if he had not approached his departmental superiors for the cancellation of the suspension, that fact itself might be pointed out against him as a reason for refusing a relief in this Court on the ground that he has not taken advantage of other proper & more efficacious remedies. The learned counsel contends that when once finally the charges were framed on 6 -2 -53 and served on him on 18 -2 -1953 he was conscious of the fact that he could get no redress at all from the departmental authorities and so perforce was compelled to seek a remedy in this court. It seems to me that there is something to be said for this argument. I would certainly have refused to entertain an application for the issue of a writ of certiorari to quash an order passed one year prior to the application if, during the intervening period, the aggrieved party had not taken any steps. But there is some justification for the petitioner waiting for nearly a year, because, during that period, he had not remained silent, or idle, but had been knocking at the doors of his departmental superiors to find out whether, from those quarters, he could obtain any relief.
It cannot be said that he was mala fide, or recalcitrant, in seeking those remedies. In these circumstances, following the decision in ' : 19ITR402(Mad) (B)' I would hold that there was sufficient justification for the petitioner to have delayed in coming to this court. Delay by itself should not disentitle the applicant of any relief. But if the delay was caused by reasons which could be satisfactorily and properly explained, then this court would not refuse the remedy to the petitioner. I would therefore overrule the preliminary objection and dispose of the writ application on merits,
(3.) LEARNED counsel for the petitioner puts forward two contentions; firstly that he has not been apprised, or given notice, of any charges against him, before the District Superintendent of Police, by his entry in the general diary at 6 -45 p.m. on 13 -3 -1952, relieving him of his duties as Sub -Inspector of Police of Rasoolpet Police station; and secondly the order dated 15 -3 -1952 by which he was suspended is illegal, in view of Article 311, Clause (2) of the Constitution because he was not given a reasonable opportunity of showing cause why the action proposed to be taken against him should not be taken. On the first part of the argument my attention has been Invited to Article 303 as well as to Order 98 of the Madras Police Standing Orders, Article 309 of the Constitution lays down that subject to the provisions of the Constitution, Acts of the appropriate Legislature may regulate the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed, to public services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of any State.
The proviso to that Article says that pending the passing of such legislative Acts by the respective Legislatures, in the case of the Union, the President, and in the case of the States, the Governor or Rajpramukh, or such person as he may direct, may make rules regulating the recruitment and conditions of service of persons appointed to such services; and any such rule so made shall have the effect subject to the provisions of any such Act. It is conceded that the Madras Legislature has passed no such Act, but that the Governor has made certain rules regarding the conditions of services and posts in connection with the affairs of the State. The Discipline and Appeal Rules made by the Governor are in pursuance to this power and Order 98 of the Madras Police Standing Orders is in the following terms:
"93(1) Under the proviso to Rule 2 (e) of the Discipline and Appeal Rules (Annexure III), the penalty of suspension should be resorted to only when it is necessary in the public interest to suspend an officer pending enquiry into grave charges against him. When suspension is ordered for such reason it should not be necessary to observe the procedure laid down in Order No. 90."
It is contended that in this case there are no grave charges against the petitioner and that it was unnecessary, in the public interests, to suspend him pending enquiry. Therefore, the procedure laid down by Order 90 ought to have been followed and not having done so, the order of suspension cannot be justified. The learned Government Pleader, on the other hand, contends that if the facts alleged in the order of suspension are true, then certainly the charges are grave and a person against whom enquiry into such charges are pending is unfit to be in public service pending such enquiry and public Interests require and necessitate the suspension of such a person. Moreover, the charges framed against the petitioner on 6 -3 -53 reveal that if proved the petitioner is a very grave delinquent. In my view the Government Pleader's contentions are well founded.
If a person is suspected to have received Illegal gratification and to have written anonymous letters to his superior, and if such charges are proved against him, he is certainly guilty of grave charges; and if his superior officer has reason to believe that any subordinate officer is guilty of such a conduct, it is certainly in the public interests to prevent him from performing public duties. The term "grave charges" in Order 98 (1) cannot be equated with the word "charge" as understood in the various chapters of the Criminal P. c. where that word has a technical and specialised meaning. When Order 98 (1) speaks of "grave charges'' it only means that there are reasonable grounds for believing that there are grave allegations and nothing more. For the meaning of the word "charge" in its common parlance, reference may be made to page 194 of Ramanatha Aiyar's Law Lexicon where the dictionary meaning of the word is given as:
"Charge. (Charge in criminal law) The expression "charged with" as applied to a crime, is sometimes used in a limited sense, intending the accusation of a crime which preceded a formal trial. In a fuller and more accurate sense the expression includes the responsibility for the crime."
I am therefore of opinion that there is no ground for holding that the provisions of Order 98 (1) cannot apply to the facts of the present case. The first contention is therefore overruled.;