Tuesday 1 December 2015

Transfer of Sangeeta Kalia is both intemperate and illegal

The whole country watched the video of a brave, upright, young woman IPS officer, Sangeeta Kalia, standing up to a Haryana minister, Anil Vij, who behaved like a bully and tried to humiliate her publicly by his shrieking and tantrums. Very few bureaucrats and police officers nowadays have shown such courage and gumption as Kalia.

From the video, it was evident that the minister began yelling and shouting at Kalia in an ugly display of temper, while Kalia remained unperturbed and replied to him courteously.

Kautilya has said in the Arthashastra that a successful ruler is one who appoints good advisers, and listens to their advice. Of course, after listening to their advice, it is ultimately for the king to take the final decision, but the advisers should feel free to express their opinions fearlessly.

The same has been said in the Tirukkural, vide chapters 39 and 42. Thus in kural 389, it is says:  "' Sevikaippach solporukkum panpudai makkatku irainru vaikkap padum” – “The patience to bear with bitter truth and bold advice is the umbrella protecting the wise ruler.”

Historical precedents

In this connection it may be mentioned that Sardar Patel, the first Union Home Minister, told his secretaries that they should express their views freely. Even if their view was totally different from his own, he would never take offence. He also told them that if they did not express their views freely, they were of no use to him, and then he would turn them out. This was also the way Pandit Nehru and most of our leaders immediately after Independence, such as Dr BC Roy and Kamaraj, behaved.

But what is the position now? Unfortunately, nowadays most bureaucrats and police officers are afraid of speaking freely before political leaders for fear of victimisation. Sangeeta Kalia's case is a glaring example. Here was a young police officer speaking frankly before a minister. Did the minister have a right to insult her?

In RS Singh vs. UP Malaria Nirikshak Sangh, 2011, a bench of the Supreme Court consisting of myself and my sister Justice Gyansudha Misra observed: “The senior officials too have their self-respect, and if the Court gives them respect they in turn will respect the Court. Respect begets respect.”

Evidently, most politicians seem unable to understand this.

Not satisfied with humiliating the police officer, the minister got her transferred. But is such a transfer order valid?

In this connection, it was held by the Supreme Court in Somesh Tiwari vs. Union of india, 2008 :

"It is one thing to say that the employer is entitled to pass an order of transfer in administrative exigencies but it is another thing to say that the order of transfer is passed by way of or in lieu of punishment. When an order of transfer is passed in lieu of punishment, the same is liable to be set aside being wholly illegal."

Sangeeta Kalia was clearly transferred as a punishment for standing up to a minister's tantrums and misbehaviour. Hence the order is certainly illegal.

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