Published on: September 20, 2022 at 22:46 IST
The order of the Central government terminating the employment of Gujarat cadre IPS officer Satish Chandra Verma, who supported the CBI in the probe into the Ishrat Jahan encounter killing case, has been postponed by the Supreme Court for a week.
A bench made up of Justices KM Joseph and Hrishikesh Roy said that Verma must take the necessary actions to alter the writ case now before the Delhi High Court in order to file an appeal to the dismissal order.
“It is for the High Court to consider the question as to whether order of stay of implementation of order passed by disciplinary authority is to be continued beyond a period of one week,” it added.
A month before Verma was scheduled to retire on September 30, the Home Ministry fired him on August 30.
Speaking to the media “which damaged the country’s international relations” is one of the grounds for dismissal.
In 2016, after Verma talked to the media to refute the accusations of torture in the Ishrat Jahan case investigation, the disciplinary processes were started.
While the Delhi High Court was hearing his appeal against the disciplinary actions, the dismissal decision was made. The High Court had permitted the disciplinary actions to go forward in 2021 but had urged the Union not to act hastily.
Later, the Union Government filed a request for modification of the temporary protection, claiming that the investigation is complete and the responsible authority has been notified.
The High Court changed the temporary protection on August 30 so that the authority may issue the final order. However, if the ruling harms Verma, the High Court ordered the Union to delay enforcing it until the next hearing date.
The dismissal order was issued the same day the High Court changed the interim protection.
On September 7, the High Court gave the Union permission to carry out the dismissal decision, but it urged the Union to postpone doing so until September 19 so that Verma might pursue legal action.
Verma has petitioned the Supreme Court twice for special leave in an effort to overturn portions of the High Court’s rulings from August 30 and September 7 that permitted the dismissal order to be carried out.
He argued that the High Court made the ruling despite the lack of documentation proving that the Union had served him with the application.
Senior Attorney Kapil Sibal stated before the Supreme Court that Verma is scheduled to retire on September 30 and that the High Court had previously adjourned the matter for January 2023 even though it had occasionally issued rulings on his request.
“My petition is getting infructuous. I can’t argue here also….Either you transfer the High Court petition and hear it or HC to prepone the hearing… Otherwise I’ll argue on merits,” Sibal submitted.
According to the Service Rules, disciplinary actions that were started during Verma’s employment could have been completed even after his retirement, the official continued, thus there was no rush to pass the order of dismissal.
In his appearance on behalf of the Centre, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta contended that the High Court had not received any challenges to the dismissal judgement.
“It’s not as if there is a challenge to order of Disciplinary Authority in WP as what is in challenge is challenge to charges,” the SG said.
Sibal argued, however, that Verma is entitled to relief even in the writ case by challenging one article of charges and without changing the writ petition or attempting to dispute the judgement of dismissal.
The Bench commenced by asking Sibal if they had sought permission from the high court before going to the Supreme Court.
Verma is scheduled to retire on September 30, and Sibal was informed that although the High Court had occasionally issued rulings in response to his petition, it has now scheduled the case for January 2023.
The Centre, he said, has been holding up the case for the past year and hasn’t even submitted a counter-affidavit. “Result was that petition could not be heard. I must have my say at some stage.”
The bench then questioned Sibal over his contention that the dismissal order will likewise stand despite their challenge to the charges.
“Can you avoid charges? For whatever reason it may be, it has been passed. You filed SLP, but is order already passed,” the Bench said.
Despite the aforementioned, Verma must be given the chance to be heard, Sibal retorted. “I may not succeed. But if I do, it will go. I have 35 years of service.”
The bench then informed Sibal that there are further channels for contesting termination decisions. “How can he go before HC without exhausting remedy before Tribunal?”
It further mentioned,
“Challenge to charge memo is pending. Meanwhile, dismissal order got the approval of the High Court. Either he can challenge dismissal order or you can hold back dismissal order on orders of court – subject to High Court proceedings, dismissal orders can still be passed.”