In a judgment passed by the Supreme Court on November 17, 2015, the apex court has observed that until and unless a fine balance is maintained between prosecuting a guilty officer and protecting an innocent officer from vexatious, frivolous and mala fide prosecution, it would be very difficult for the public servant to discharge his duties in free and fair manner.
It has further held that the efficiency of a public servant demands that he should be free to perform his official duties fearlessly and without any favour. And hence there is a dire necessity to fill in the existing gap by protecting the honest officers while making the corrupt officers realize that they are not above law.
||Writ Petition (C) No. 933 of 2014
||Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh v. State Government Of Uttar Pradesh
- Justices Ranjan Gogoi, and
- Justice NV Ramana
The bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and NV Ramana ordered the Government of Uttar Pradesh to pay a sum of Rs. 10 lakh to an Indian Forest Service (IFS) Officer for framing him in a false corruption case.
The retired officer – Dr. Ram Lakhan Singh approached the Apex Court through a writ petition under Article 32 of the Constitution of India contending that he was illegally detained by the UP state authorities after implicating him in false vigilance cases and dishonouring the High Court’s directions. He claimed that as a result of “malicious, willful and contemptuous acts of the State and clear abuse of legal process”, he and his family members had to suffer a great ordeal of mental agony and heavy financial loss besides being defamed in the society. Claiming a violation of fundamental rights, Singh prayed the Court to “express displeasure over the violation of his family members’ fundamental rights and to direct the respondent to pay compensation for the loss of his professional career, reputation and for causing mental agony”. Petitioner argued the case himself appearing in-person.
After hearing the case and appreciating the documents, Court found that as a result of the state action, petitioner had to suffer mental agony and loss of reputation in the society besides huge financial loss.
Discussing the role of the public servants, Court observed:
A public servant in a democracy should be a guardian of morals. He is entrusted with higher responsibilities of a public office and they contribute their best for the just and humane society. We feel that for effective functioning of a democracy, the role of Executive is very important. Civil servants and public officials are expected to maintain and strengthen the public’s trust and confidence by demonstrating the high standards of professional competence, efficiency and effectiveness by upholding the Constitution and rule of law, keeping in mind the advancement of public good at all times. Public employment being a public trust, the improper use of the public position for personal advantage is considered as a serious breach of trust. With the changing times, the role of Executive and expectation of the citizens in governance also underwent tremendous change.
Showing its concern over the prevalent corruption in the government bodies, Court observed:
Dishonesty and corruption are biggest challenges for any developing country. If the public servant indulges in corruption, the citizens who are vigilant in all aspects take note of this seriously and develop a sense of distress towards the Government and its mechanism, on a whole it sends a very alarming message to the society at large and to the common man in particular. In any civilized society, the paramount consideration is the welfare of the society and corruption is the biggest hindrance in that process. If the corrupt public servant is not punished, then it will have a negative impact on the honest public servants who will be discouraged and demoralized. Some upright officers resist corruption but they cannot alone change the system which victimizes them through frequent punitive transfers, threat to their families and fabricating, foisting false cases.
Stressing over the need to protect the honest public servants, Court observed:
…until and unless we maintain a fine balance between prosecuting a guilty officer and protecting an innocent officer from vexatious, frivolous and mala fide prosecution, it would be very difficult for the public servant to discharge his duties in free and fair manner. The efficiency of a public servant demands that he should be free to perform his official duties fearlessly and without any favour. The dire necessity is to fill in the existing gap by protecting the honest officers while making the corrupt officers realize that they are not above law. The protection to an honest public servant is required not only in his interest but in the larger interest of society. This Court time and again extended assurance to the honest and sincere officers to perform their duty in a free and fair manner towards achieving a better society.