Despite CM’s repeated objections: 3 years after suspension, MAT reinstates Thane Jail superintendent

Srinath Rao
The tribunal noted that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had, in the past, thrice sent back proposals of the suspension review committee to revoke its earlier suspension orders.

The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) last week reinstated former Thane Jail superintendent, Hiralal Jadhav, nearly three years after he was placed under suspension following allegations of sexual harassment leveled against him by a woman jailor. The tribunal noted that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had, in the past, thrice sent back proposals of the suspension review committee to revoke its earlier suspension orders, leaving the committee with no choice but to recommend that Jadhav continue to remain suspended back then.

In an order issued on May 14, the tribunal gave the state government a fortnight to revoke Jadhav s suspension. The Maharashtra Civil Services (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1979 stipulate that if a departmental inquiry into the conduct of a suspended official is not completed within six months, he/she is entitled to be reinstated to a non-executive post.

The woman jailor in her complaint had alleged that in June 2016, she had written to Jadhav who then headed Thane Central Jail, for accommodation in the staff quarters. However, Jadhav is alleged to have asked the woman to meet him at Kalwa Bridge in August 2016 to discuss her case. In a subsequent complaint, the woman alleged that Jadhav paid her an unsolicited compliment, held her and asked to accompany him for a drive in his car. The woman refused. Jadhav is also alleged to have sent the woman sexually explicit photos and engaged in obscene conversation on WhatsApp. The woman brought the matter to the notice of Prison Department DIG Swati Sathe. Following Sathe s probe, Jadhav was placed under suspension in September.

In the same month, Jadhav was also booked for illegally barging into the Thane Jail accompanied by 15 men and again in November 2016, for leaking pictures of the woman to two daily newspapers in an attempt to malign her image, she alleged.

In the meantime, the state government s departmental inquiry came to a grinding halt in December 2018. Jadhav filed a Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court alleging irregularities in the way it was being conducted. The apex court ordered that the proceedings be stayed.

Jadhav also challenged his suspension before the MAT, claiming he had been framed by the woman in co-operation with four male jail employees who bore a grudge against him for transferring them internally from one cell to another. The government replied to the MAT, stating that the SC s stay meant that the departmental inquiry could not proceed.

Perusing through the case, the tribunal got the impression from the exchanges that Jadhav appeared to be a predator full of lust . But, the tribunal also noted that the woman was not a naive and innocuous prey and had the option to ending the conversation.

The suspension review committee wrote thrice to Fadnavis to revoke the order but each time it was returned for reconsideration since there were serious allegations against Jadhav. The fourth time the committee said it cannot recommend revocation.

… the supersonic speed with which the matter of suspension of the applicant was moved on the employee s complaint, and the decision was reached and suspension was effected, suggests that someone was keen on quick and punctual action, as well was operating as a controlling hand to have repelled the revocation in the offing (sic), the tribunal observed.

However, the tribunal noted that the CM s deliberations could have been motivated by two factors. The office of Chief Minister was constantly pursued to strive to take a decision unfavourable for revocation of suspension of the applicant. Or the office of Chief Minister was acting under the fear phychosis /phobia that if a person like the applicant, who is indicted as a predator full of lust, is allowed to enter the functional premises, it would create a catastrophic effect (sic), the MAT s order stated.

Tribunal Chairman A H Joshi said: It is most likely that due to either of the factors… the applicant s case/ file has made three trips from the Review Committee in Home department to the Chief Minister s office, and vice versa, until nothing containing unfavourable recommendation was made taking the feel / hint of the wishes of competent authority/ the office of the Hon ble Chief Minister.