The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) has set aside the dismissal of a prison guard who was caught on television cameras accepting cash and transferring it to convicts inside the Nashik Central Prison.
The tribunal observed that “the gravity of the alleged misconduct cannot be a criteria to dispense with holding of a departmental inquiry against the government servant.”
A division bench comprising Justice (retired) S.R. Sathe and MAT member A.P. Sinha has ordered the prison authorities to reinstate the guard, Ramchandra Jadhav, within a month.
On May 3, 2007, news channel IBN-7 had aired a story where Jadhav was seen accepting cash from a released prisoner. Jadhav was then posted on night duty outside the high security cell housing some of the convicts of the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blasts case and other underworld criminals. He had purportedly admitted on camera that he transacted the cash in and out of the prison by charging 20 per cent commission.
On May 31, 2007, another news channel, Star News, aired a story showing Jadhav accepting money from another released prisoner. The money was again meant for a prisoner lodged inside the prison.
The DIG Prisons, Aurangabad, had dismissed him on July 23, 2007, as per the provisions of Article 311(2)(b) of the Constitution, which allows dispensing with regular departmental inquiry if it was not practically feasible.
Jadhav had moved the administrative tribunal through Advocate Arvind Bandivadekar, after DG Prisons dismissed his appeal against the dismissal order. Prison authorities had contended before the tribunal that regular inquiry was not held, as there was no scope of witnesses coming forward.
“When a particular incident has been seen by the whole world, it was certainly improper to hold that it was not reasonably practicable to hold a (regular) inquiry,” observed the bench.
Noting several occasions of abuse of powers under Article 311(2)(b) of the Constitution, especially in police and prison department, the MAT has asked the state to give necessary instructions or training to authorities concerned for proper exercise of the exceptional powers.