Municipal commissioners can suspend civic officials and employees against whom departmental proceeding is initiated, a full bench of the Bombay high court held on Thursday. However, the suspension should be ratified by general body of the corporation within six months, failing which, it would stand revoked, the bench stated.
On September 10, 2009, the commissioner of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) had placed five civic officers under suspension for alleged irregularities in payments to a private contractor.
In a similar case in the year 1999, a division bench had held that municipal commissioners had no power to issue suspension orders pending departmental enquiry.
On April 8, 2011, while hearing a petition filed by the five NMMC officers, another division bench of the high court found the 1999 order seemed contrary to the provisions of the Bombay Provincial Municipal Corporations Act, 1949, and had therefore referred the matter to the full bench for a reconsideration.
The full bench comprising chief justice Mohit Shah, justice Abhay Oak and justice Roshan Dalvi held that plain reading of relevant provisions of the BPMC Act makes it clear that the municipal commissioner has the power to suspend any civic officer or employee pending departmental enquiry or even when departmental proceeding is proposed to be held against the officer or the employee.
However, the full bench’s further clarification is what has brought respite to the five officers.
The bench clarified that the BPMC Act requires that the suspension order issued by the commissioner should be ratified by the general body of the corporation within six months, failing which there will be automatic revocation of the suspension.
The full bench held that the suspension of the five officers stood automatically revoked, since it had not been ratified by NMMC general body within stipulated period of six months after the commissioner’s order.