Updated: April 15, 2021 7:34:49 am
Upholding a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) decision to set aside the dismissal of a Rajasthan cadre IPS officer, the Delhi High Court has ruled that an act of bigamy cannot always lead to removal of a government servant from service. It said that a lot of a family affairs which were earlier a matter of public debate are now confined to private domain.
“The concept, definition and standards of morality also have been changing, with the changes in appearance, dressing, language etc.; the behavior which shocked 50 years ago is now considered as normal and /or at best an aberration,” a division bench of Justices Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Amit Bansal said in its March 19 ruling.
The court also said that ethical standards have changed since the time the All India Services (Conduct) Rules were framed more than 50 years ago. What may have been unethical in 1968 is not necessarily unethical today and not necessarily unethical of such severity as in 1968, it said.
“Though living with another woman while having subsisting marriage may have been absolute no no till about 20 years back, in today’s time it is viewed differently,” read the judgment, which was made public this week.
In 2016, a memo under the rules was served on the 2009-batch IPS officer for having started living with a woman and having a son with her despite a subsisting marriage with another woman since December 2005. He was dismissed from service in February 2019 by the Disciplinary Authority in consultation with Union Public Service Commission. The proceedings against the 44-year-old officer were initiated following a complaint from his wife about him misusing his office by getting arrested the man with whom she allegedly was in a relationship.
In December 2020, the CAT set aside the Disciplinary Authority order following which the Rajasthan government approached the Delhi High Court, arguing that it did not desire to keep the officer “who has behaved so irresponsibly and in an ungentlemanly like fashion”.
The court in its ruling said undoubtedly the act committed by the officer is punishable under Section 494 IPC (the provision prohibiting a person from marrying another person during lifetime of a husband or wife). However, it added, the same is only on the complaint of some person aggrieved by the offence which in the case would have been his wife.
“It is nowhere on record that there was any such complaint. So was not even the charge against the [officer]. The ethical standard of an act of bigamy has to be viewed in this light and depending on the facts and circumstances of each case,” the court said.
It also said that the matrimonial relationship between the officer and his first wife was strained prior to the date of his joining IPS and they were staying separately although a daughter was born to them in 2008. “The root cause of matrimonial disharmony between [officer] and his wife being the caste to which the [officer] belongs and not the extramarital affair of [officer] or selection of [officer] in IPS, as was implied in the charge; it is thus not as if, the [officer], on making to the elite IPS, severed his matrimonial links formed when not a member of such elite service,” it noted.
The court also said it was not that after living separately from his wife he immediately got into a relationship with another woman. He did so after applying of divorce. It also noted that he gave the other woman “stature of wife and his name to the son begotten from this relationship”.
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