The Madras High Court on Thursday set aside the recent orders of the Tamil Nadu Director of Medical Education (DME) suspending Dr Subbiah Shanmugam, former national president of the ABVP and an Oncologist attached to the Government Stanley Medical College and Hospital.
Justice D Krishnakumar, who quashed the suspension orders while allowing two writ petitions from Dr Subbiah, also directed the government to reinstate him in service with all monetary benefits as per the rules.
Dr Subbiah, who was arrested on March 19 in connection with a case registered against him by the police in July 2020, was granted regular bail by the Madras High Court last week. The charge against him was that he had thrown a used mask inside the gate of a woman’s residence and urinated outside her house.
The court said departmental disciplinary proceedings could be conducted by following the procedure as contemplated under the Tamil Nadu Civil Services (Discipline & Appeal) Rules, 1955 and conclude the same within 12 weeks from the date of issuance of the charge memo.
The judge made it clear that in that event, the petitioner shall extend his cooperation for expeditious conclusion of the disciplinary proceedings.
Dr Subbiah’s senior counsel Vijay Narayan submitted that the petitioner was the national president of a non-political organisation called ABVP from 2017-2020 and the membership expired in 2021. Hence, he is not a member of the movement. He had not involved himself in any political activities and he had never made any propaganda expressing disloyal sentiments.
The order of suspension dated February 17 is tainted with malafide motives, illegalities and based on vague allegations, he added.
Advocate-General R Shanmugasundaram submitted that Rule 17(e) of the 1955 Rules was rightly invoked by the DME, as the petitioner has violated Rule 14 of the TN Government Servants Conduct Rules, 1973 and therefore, he was kept under suspension for the grave charges and complaints levelled against him and the charges will be enquired in detail during the domestic enquiry.
The order of suspension passed by the DME was not punitive and hence, the present writ petition itself was not maintainable. Though Rule 17(e) of the 1955 Rules did not confer power on the DME to pass the suspension order, the State Health Secretary subsequently ratified the action of the DME. Hence, the suspension order was perfectly valid in law.
Rejecting AG’s submissions, the judge said that the petitioner, being the Professor of Surgical Oncology, was placed under suspension by the DME.
Rule 13 of the 1955 Rules clearly envisages that up to the level of Assistant Surgeons, the DME is the competent authority and for other members of the State services like the petitioner, the State government is the competent authority to issue the order of suspension. When the Act prescribes the particular body to exercise a power, it must be exercised only by that body. It cannot be exercised by others unless it is delegated.
“Therefore, this Court has no hesitation to hold that the impugned order of suspension has been passed by an incompetent authority/second respondent and its subsequent ratification by the first respondent are unsustainable in law and are liable to be quashed,” the judge said and accordingly quashed them.