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P.N. Rangaswamy Vs. the Commissioner of Coimbatore Municipality and ors. - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectService
CourtChennai High Court
Decided On
Case NumberWrit Petn. Nos. 1331 and 1990 of 1964
Judge
Reported inAIR1968Mad387; (1969)IILLJ435Mad; (1968)1MLJ329
ActsDistrict Municipalities Act; Personal Conduct of Officers and Servants of Municipal Council Rules - Rule 14
AppellantP.N. Rangaswamy
RespondentThe Commissioner of Coimbatore Municipality and ors.
Cases ReferredUnited Public Workers v. Mitchell
Excerpt:
.....and the petitioner's participation in that conference might well be consistent with his being a member of the public without being an active member of a political party......demonstration, but not strikes in the context of rule 4(1) of the bihar government servants conduct rules and o.k. ghosh v. e.x. joseph, : (1962)iillj615sc , dealing with a similar right in the context of rule 4-a of the central civil service (conduct) rules, 1955, were concerned with this aspect of the matter, i.e., freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peacefully and freedom to form association under the appropriate sub-divisions of art. 19(1) of the constitution. but taking active part in politics as specified in rule 14, like taking part in subscribing in aid of or assisting in any way, any political movement in india, must be viewed as an objectionable conduct on the part of a government servant harmful to good discipline and efficiency of service and should.....
Judgment:
ORDER

1. These two writ petitions are connected. The petitioner in both of them is one P.N. Rangaswami, who, at them time we are concerned with, was employed as a permanent Mathematics Assistant in the service of the Coimbatore Municipality. The terms of his service were governed by the statutory rules issued under the District Municipalities Act. Rule 14 of the Personal Conduct of Officers and Servants of Municipal Council Rules states-

'14. Taking part in politics: Subject to any general or special order of the Government, no officer or servant of a Municipal Council shall take part in subscribe in aid of, or assist in any way, any political movement in India, or relating to Indian affairs. When there is room for doubt whether any action which an officer or servant proposes to take will contravene this rule, he should refer the matter to the Government through the executive authority.

Note: Subversive activities or the expression of disloyal sentiments by an officer or servant will be regarded as sufficient ground for dispensing with his services'.

From 1954, the Municipality represented by the respondent, the Commissioner, began to take action against the petitioner on the allegation that he was taking part in the activities of the Communist party in contravention of the aforesaid rule, and he was actually dismissed from service in 1954 on a charge of contravention of the above rule.

He filed W. P. 605 of 1955 in this Court against the above order. But while the writ petition was pending, the Director of Public Instruction, Madras set aside the earlier order of dismissal, and as a consequence, the writ petition was withdrawn. On 1-5-1959 a fresh charge was framed against the petitioner and it is with this charge that we are now concerned, in these writ petitions. This charge stated that P.N. Rangaswami, Assistant, North Coimbatore Municipal High Court School took active part in and assisted the political activities of the Communist party during the period from February 1953 to December 1955 and thus violated the provisions of Rule 14 of the rules relating to the Personal Conduct of Officers and Servants of Municipal Councils. The gist of the allegations in support of the charge was (1) that he attended the Taluk Kisan conference on 9-2-1953 at Udamalpet; (2) that he attended the Provincial Kisan conference held at Perur near Coimbatore on 10-7-1954, and 11-7-1954; and (3) that he took part members held at R.K. Kalyana Mandapam at Coimbatore between 16th and 18th December 1955. Later on, that part of the allegations about his participation in the Taluk Kisan Conference at Udamalpet was not pressed. But at the enquiry following the charge which was held by the respondent Commissioner evidence was recorded of Sub Inspector Kesavalu in regard to his participation in the Provincial Kisan Conference at Perur on 10-7-1954 and 11-7-1954, and of Head Constable Krishnaswami, regarding his participation at the conference of the Communist party members held between 16th and 18th December 1955 at R.K. Kalyana Mandapam in Coimbatore Town.

The Commissioner found that the evidence showed that the petitioner had actively participated in the two conferences mentioned above and that such participation amounted to contravention of Rule 14 of the Personal Conduct of Officers and Servants of Municipal Councils Rules. The Commissioner was of the opinion that there was nothing to show that the petitioner had indulged in subversive activities. Considering these circumstances as well as the position of the petitioner as a senior member of the service, the Commissioner was of the opinion that it would suffice if the punishment of stoppage of increment for two years without cumulative effect was inflicted on him and accordingly he imposed that punishment. The petitioner's appeal to the Director of Public Instruction was dismissed. He has filed W. P. No. 1331 of 1964 for the issue of writ of certiorari to quash the order of stoppage of increment. At the same time he has filed W. P. 1990 of 1964 for the issue of a writ of mandamus directing the respondent, the Divisional Inspector of Schools, Coimbatore, to include his name in a panel for appointment of headmasters, in accordance with Rule 2 of the rules relating to the appointment of headmasters and headmistresses.

(2) Taking up first for consideration W. P. No. 1331 of 1964, the petitioner's contentions were twofold. Firstly, he contended that there was no acceptable evidence before the respondent-Commissioner for coming to the conclusion that the petitioner had contravened R. 14 aforesaid. Secondly, it was contended that the rule itself was violative of Art. 19(1)(c) of the Constitution guaranteeing the right which all citizens of India are entitled to enjoy, in the matter of forming associations or unions.

(3) Taking up for consideration first, the second point mentioned above, it appears to me that Rule 14 of the service rules aforesaid deals with an entirely different matter from the freedom to form associations or unions guaranteed in Art. 19(1)(c) of the Constitution. Rule 14 is designed in the interest of discipline and good government, on the assumption that active participation of Government servants in politics in any of the specific ways mentioned in Rule 14, will not be conducive to discipline or to the efficient conduct of the administration. But Art. 19(1)(c) of the Constitution gives liberty to all citizens, which will include Government servants to form associations or unions as long as the exercise of that right does not infringe any of the limitations laid down in Art. 19(4) which saves the operation of existing laws as well as future laws imposing reasonable restrictions in the interests of public order or morality.

The decisions cited by the learned counsel for the petitioner in this context, Kameswar Prasad v. State of Bihar, : (1962)ILLJ294SC , dealing with the right of a Government servant to take part in peaceful demonstration, but not strikes in the context of Rule 4(1) of the Bihar Government Servants Conduct Rules and O.K. Ghosh v. E.X. Joseph, : (1962)IILLJ615SC , dealing with a similar right in the context of Rule 4-A of the Central Civil Service (Conduct) Rules, 1955, were concerned with this aspect of the matter, i.e., freedom of speech and expression, freedom to assemble peacefully and freedom to form association under the appropriate sub-divisions of Art. 19(1) of the Constitution. But taking active part in politics as specified in Rule 14, like taking part in subscribing in aid of or assisting in any way, any political movement in India, must be viewed as an objectionable conduct on the part of a Government servant harmful to good discipline and efficiency of service and should not be confused with the several freedoms mentioned in Art. 19 of the Constitution. In the decision of this Court reported in Dakshinamurthi v. State of Madras, : AIR1967Mad392 to which I was a party, which dealt with a conduct rule for the guidance of police officers, analogous to Rule 14 above mentioned, the Bench observed:

'A civil servant of the State is also entitled to this freedom (freedom of political conviction) but by virtue of his special obligations as a civil servant, he is debarred from giving expression to his conviction in a manner which will interfere with his official duties as a loyal servant of the Government, which will give him, by virtue of his official position an undue advantage over other citizens, who do not hold such a public office..............There is nothing in the rules to prohibit a Government servant from having a mental sympathy or an inward leaning in favour of any particular political party 'as long as' it remains unexpressed in any of the modes declared objectionable by the 'rules of conduct'.' (Underlined (here into ' ') mine.)

(4) Reference may be made in this connection to the history of various items of legislations in the United States of America which subsequently led the Congress to enact what is known as Hatch Act, 1939. Regarding the justification of such legislation, the Supreme Court of the United States in United Public Workers v. Mitchell, (1946) 91 Law Ed. 754, observed:

'The provisions of S. 9 of the Hatch Act and the Civil Service Rule 1 are not dissimilar in purpose from the statutes against political contributions of money. The prohibitions now under discussion are directed as political contributions of energy by Government employees. These contributions too have a long background of disapproval. 'Congress' and the President are responsible for an efficient public 'service' ' (Underlined (here into ' ') mine.)

(5) it is possible to hold that Rule 14 of the Personal Conduct of Officers and Servants of Municipal Councils Rules was designed to achieve a similar purpose in the interests of an efficient public service, by providing that Government servants are debarred from taking active part in politics. It cannot, therefore, be struck down as unconstitutional, as infringing any of the freedoms guaranteed in Art. 19 of the Constitution.

(6) Taking up for consideration the further question whether the punishment of stoppage of increment for two years without cumulative effect imposed upon the petitioner can be struck down on the ground that there was no evidence at all to support the finding of the respondent-Commissioner, I am of the opinion that it is not possible to agree with the petitioner's contention. As mentioned already, the findings of the Commissioner were based upon the petitioner's alleged participation, firstly, in the Provincial Kisan Conference at Perur and secondly, his participation in the Conference of the members of Communist Party of India held at Coimbatore town between 16th and 18th December 1955. Regarding the Perur conference, it is necessary to note that it was a Provincial Kisan Conference, and that there was nothing to show that it was associated in any way with any political party. The Sub-Inspector Kesavalu stated that the petitioner P.N. Rangaswami did not make any speeches, but he was observed moving with the delegates for some time and he physically assisted the conference in its successful conduct. Kesavalu, Sub-Inspector, also deposed that the petitioner was moving with the delegates and the general public in a manner which could not otherwise be interpreted but as a participant and not as a spectator. But these considerations overlook the main fact that there was no evidence that the Kisan Conference was associated with any political party.

The evidence was that public also attended the conference, and the petitioner's participation in that conference might well be consistent with his being a member of the public without being an active member of a political party. Therefore, I agree with the petitioner so far as Perur conference is concerned. But in regard to the conference of the members of the Communist Party of India held at Coimbatore between 16th and 18th December 1955, the respondent's order has stressed the fact that this conference was held in camera and that the public were not allowed to attend the conference. Head constable Krishnaswami, who stationed himself outside the building where the conference was held, had noticed the petitioner going in and coming out of this incamera session of a political party on all the three days when the sessions lasted. No doubt the head constable was not allowed to go in because the meeting was held in camera. But his evidence is precise that he saw the petitioner going in and coming out repeatedly, presumably for attending the in-camera session. He also saw the petitioner moving with the other participants and from these facts of his observation, he concluded that the petitioner did not attend the conference merely as a spectator, but as an active participant. The evidence thus afforded in support of the charge is circumstantial. But it is noteworthy that the petitioner never attempted to give an explanation as to what made him resort to the place of this conference whether he went there as a passive spectator notwithstanding that it was an in-camera session at which the public were excluded. But his plea was a total denial of his having gone to that place at all. In the respondent to arrive at the conclusion that the circumstances were consistent with the petitioner having actively participated or assisted in the activities of a political party at the time when this conference was held in camera. This finding on the evidence is one which cannot be assailed in writ proceedings nor can this be considered as a case of total want of evidence. I am of the opinion, therefore, that this writ petition deserves to be and is hereby dismissed.

(7) The prayer for mandamus in W.P. No. 1990 of 1964 was made on the assumption that the refusal to include the petitioner's name in the panel of headmasters was based upon his adverse record including the stoppage of increment for two years, which forms the subject-matter of W.P. No. 1331 of 1964. W. P. No. 1990 of 1964 was filed in order to provide, in the event of the petitioner succeeding in W.P. No. 1331 of 1964 for the issue of a direction by way of mandamus to the respondent, the Divisional Inspector of Schools, to consider the petitioner's name for being included in the panel without being influenced by the fact of the prior punishment. But since I have held that it is not necessary to quash the order dealt with in W.P. No. 1331 of 1964, there is also no necessity to issue a writ in the nature of mandamus, which is the prayer in W.P. No. 1990 of 1964. This writ petition is also dismissed.

(8) In the circumstances of the case, there will be no order as to costs.

(9) Petitions dismissed.


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