1. In these writ petitions the petitioners who are Police Constables, have questioned the legality of the order by which they have been suspended pending departmental enquiry ordered against them.
2. It is not the case of the petitioners that the Superintendent of Police, who has passed the order is not the competent authority to pass the order. The contents of the order indicate that as departmental enquiry has been ordered against the petitioners in connection with the allegations referred to in the impugned order the authority considered that the petitioners should be placed under suspension pending enquiry.
3. Learned Counsel for the petitioners contended that rules of natural justice demand that before placing a civil servant under suspension pending enquiry, the civil servant should be given an opportunity of making representation against the making of an order placing him under suspension. In support of the contention, learned counsel relied upon a Division Bench judgment of the Bombay High Court in Rajeswara Sayanna v. State of Maharashtra (1983) 1 All. Ind. Ser. L.J. 484. Learned Counsel pointed out that in that case, though a charge sheet had been filed against the petitioner therein, before the court for offenses under Ss. 323, 448, 504 and 506 of the I.P.C., the order of suspension made against him was set aside on the ground that he was not given a hearing before passing the order of suspension and that the ratio of the decision fully supports his contention.
4. It is true that the decision supports the contention of the petitioners. But, with utmost respect to their Lordships I am unable to subscribe to the said view for the reasons which follow.
(i) Relevant part of rule 5 of the Karnataka Police Service (Disciplinary Proceedings) Rules reads :
'Suspension Pending Enquiry or Criminal Prosecution :
(1) The Government or the appointing authority or any authority superior to such authority or the authorities specified in column (4) of the schedule may place a police officer specified in the corresponding entry of column (2) thereof under suspension :
(a) Where a disciplinary proceeding against him is contemplated or is pending; or
(b) Where a case against him in respect of any criminal offence is under investigation or trial;
Provided that where an order of suspension is made by an authority lower than the Appointing Authority, such authority shall forthwith report to the Appointing Authority the circumstances in which the order was made.
(5) An order of suspension made or deemed to have been made under this rule may at any time be revoked by an authority not lower than the Appointing Authority.
(6) Where a police officer has been suspended and final orders in the enquiry pending against him have not been passed within a period of six months from the date of order of suspension, the case shall be reported to the Government for such orders as it may deem fit.'
5. The power to place a Police Officer under suspension is exercisable only when disciplinary proceedings are contemplated or are pending against him or when any investigation or trial in respect of any offence alleged against him is pending. The above rule is found in the Police Act. The rules which provide for placing a civil servant under suspension pending disciplinary proceedings incorporated under rules regulating conditions of service made under Art. 309 are also similarly worded.
(ii) The object and purpose of placing a civil servant under suspension is to keep him away from a position where he can interfere with the conduct of the enquiry or tamper with the documentary or oral evidence in any manner, or, where, having regard to the nature of the charges against him it is felt that it would be unsafe to continue to vest in him the power of his post.
(See para 19(b) of the G.O. dated 14th December 10, 1957 P-171 at page 179 of the K.C.S. (CCA) Rules with procedural instructions 1961 Edn.)
6. These aspects, in the nature of things cannot be and are not required to be, decided after hearing the concerned civil servant. It is neither feasible nor practicable. Insistence on giving of notice and hearing before placing a civil servant under suspension would defeat the very object and purpose of the power. The power is exercisable at the discretion of the authority on whom the power is conferred but it has to be exercised bona fide (see Partap Singh v. State of Punjab, : (1966)ILLJ458SC ).
(iii) The order is open for review by the appointing authority or any higher authority or any higher authority and the State Government as provided in sub-rules (5) and (6) of Rule 5 of the Rules. Hence the suspended police officer is at liberty to make representation against suspension to these authorities.
(iv) Just as in the case of ordering premature retirement of a civil servant after he had put in the prescribed number of years of service or had attained the prescribed age, in public interest, application of rules of natural justice is held to have been impliedly excluded (See J. N. Sinha v. Union of India [1970-II L.L.J. 284], and N. V. Putta Bhatta v. State of Mysore [1972-II L.L.J. 191], in the case of suspension of a civil servant, which power is also undoubtedly exercisable in public interest, the rule of natural justice viz., audi alteram partem, is, by necessary implication excluded.
7. For the aforesaid reasons, the petitions are rejected leaving liberty for the petitioners to make representations against the impugned orders before the competent authority.