Kerala HC: Investigation Finding Under Rule 67(8) of Kerala Education Rules, 1959 Is Not Conclusive

On 4th June 2021, a writ appeal was filed before the Honourable High Court of Kerala against the order of a single judge of the same court of judicature. The Appellant filed an appeal after being aggrieved by the single judge’s order which held the suspension valid. The writ appeal was argued before the division bench of Honourable Justice S.V. Bhatti and Honourable Justice Bechu Kurian Thomas.

Facts

The Manager of the Zamrin’s higher secondary school in Kerala (hereinafter referred to as Appellant) filed a petition in the Kerala High Court challenging the order from the district education office, i.e., Respondent 1 in the instant case, that directed the Appellant to cancel the suspension order of a high school teacher, i.e., respondent 3 in this case, and to reinstate him.

The Appellant had issued a suspension order to Respondent 3 on 20th August of 2014, when a disciplinary proceeding was initiated. He was reinstated on 20th January of 2020. Within ten days of reinstatement, i.e., on 27th January 2020, the respondent was suspended, but Appellant issued another suspension order on 13th February 2020 due to the delay caused by the state’s intervention. Respondent 3 was suspended due to the registration of the crime. The Appellant initiated this action to protect the academic atmosphere. 

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Within days of the suspension, the government authority issued a reinstatement order of the teacher to the Appellant, which was challenged in the original writ petition by the appellant/original petitioner. The single learned judge held the reinstatement order validly, and the appellant/original petitioner was duty-bound to reinstate the 3rd respondent. The Appellant challenged this order in the writ appeal.

Arguments by the Appellants

The Appellant was represented by designated senior counsel Advocate Gopalakrishna Kurup and Advocate Sussy George Poothicote. The counsels for the appellants argued that the order passed by the single learned judge had ignored the statutory provisions. They claimed that the order did not consider the correct perspective/interpretation of rule 67 of Kerala Educational Rules,1959. The counsels relying on the honourable court’s earlier judgment in Meenakshi v. State of Kerala differentiated the investigation initiated under section 67(8) and section 75 of the Act above. The counsel argued that the suspension order passed by the Appellant was a necessary step to facilitated smooth academic progression.  

Arguments by the Respondents

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Respondents 1 and 2, being government authorities, were represented by Advocate M.I. Johnson, and Respondent 3, i.e., Advocate Manu Govind, represented the suspended teacher. The counsel argued that the suspension of Respondent 3was a tainted and malafide filled act. They made the court aware of the non-compliance of the government order of reinstatement by the Appellant and for which the Court had to interfere twice. The government pleader claimed the suspension order was not sustainable and highlighted the same Manager suspending respondent 3 in an earlier instance. The non-sustainability of the suspension order was considered as the counsel claimed the order came out of vengeance. The honourable Court recorded the submission. 

Court’s Observation

The Court recorded and considered both the appellants as well as respondents. The bench examined section 67(1), (3), and (8) of the Kerala Educational Rules,1959, that empowered a manager to issue suspension notice. The Court observed that the suspension is valid only if the pre-determined conditions under section 67(1) of the Act are satisfied. The three conditions are:

  1. Disciplinary proceedings are contemplated or pending.
  2. When an investigation of a criminal offence is ongoing against the delinquent.
  3. When final orders are pending in disciplinary proceedings. 

The Court observes this as an essential criterion to be fulfilled for placing a teacher under suspension. The court also observed that public interest has to be considered for suspension. The findings in the disciplinary proceedings are only preliminary and not conclusive. Hence the Court was seen concurring with the learned single judge’s impugned order. 

Court’s Order

The division bench of the Hon’ble Kerala High Court found that the Appellant had passed the suspension order, which did not satisfy the criteria laid down. The learned single judge’s view was accepted and supported by the honourable Court as it dismissed the writ appeal declaring it as failed.

Click here to view the Judgement.


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