M. Anantanarayanan, C.J.
1. In our view, the learned Judge (Kailasam, J.) had every justification to make an interim order in G. M. P. No. 17995 of 1968 in W. P. No. 4637. of 1968, cancelling the suspension of the concerned Officer, under the circumstances. It is sufficient for us to observe that a period of nearly ten months had elapsed since the Officer was first placed under suspension, and that, on an earlier representation, the Court directed that charges should be framed within three months, and that, if that was not done, the petitioner could approach the Court, again, for redress, and, the outcome is the order from which the writ appeal is sought to be filed.
2. Quite apart from the broad principle that we have reiterated so often in the past, that this Court will not ordinarily interfere by way of appeal, from the exercise of an interlocutory discretion by a learned judge of this Court, by virtue of his jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, there is a graver and more basic principle involved, upon which this writ appeal has to be dismissed. If the argument of the learned Government Pleader is to be accepted by us, it would imply that there is no principle of natural justice, under which the executive could be inhibited from indefinitely placing an Officer in the agony and disability or suspension from his office, while the question of the charges is being adumbrated in a most leisurely fashion, and years might elapse before a decision is taken. On the contrary, in our view there is a very clear and distinct principle of natural justice, that an Officer is entitled to ask, if he is suspended from his office because of grave averments or grave reports of misconduct, that the matter should be investigated with reasonable diligence, and that charges should be framed against him within a reasonable period of time. If such a principle were not to be recognised, it would imply that the executive is being vested with a total, arbitrary and unfettered power of placing its officers under disability and distress, for an indefinite duration. We cannot accept this, nor is any such claim supported by any precedent or authority.
3. Under the circumstances, the writ appeal is dismissed. The learned Judge observes that the Officer 'will be allowed to resume his post'. The learned Government Pleader submits that there may be great difficulty in permitting the Officer to resume duties in the very post, when the performance of those duties by him in the past, had led to the imputation of grave irregularities, we are unable to see any real difficulty in the matter. We clarify the position by stating that it is open to the Government to permit the Officer to resume duty in that identical post, or, any post of equal grade and emoluments, which may be available for making an order of resumption of duty.