Govt employees’ presence in rallies not in violation of service conduct rules, rules Tripura High Court

Debraj Deb

Asked about the issue, Advocate General Arun Kanti Bhowmik said the government is studying the Court order but is yet to decide whether it will be challenged through an appeal or not.

Responding to a petition, Tripura High Court ruled Friday that the participation of government employees in political rallies cannot be treated as political activity or be seen as a violation of service conduct rules.

The Court order came in response to a petition by Lipika Paul, an Upper Division Clerk in the state government's Department of Fisheries, who was suspended and put under departmental enquiry for joining a Left political rally on December 31, 2017. Her enquiry order came four days before her retirement, leaving her stranded without benefits, even after her service tenure expired.

Speaking to indianexpress.com, Advocate Purushottam Roy Barman, who moved the petition on behalf of Paul, said that the High Court order has 'expanded' the scope of democratic rights of government employees and is a very welcome decision.

"The High Court has ruled that mere presence in political programmes can't be treated as political activity. It also stated that citizens, including students, journalists, common people or government employees hold the right to form their opinion," Barman said.

Paul was put under departmental enquiry as per section 5 of Tripura Service Conduct Rules. Rejecting the government's stand, the High Court has ordered it to drop departmental enquiry on Paul immediately and pay her dues and other benefits within two months.

Sources in the law department said that that the government counsel, who conducted arguments on this petition, has recommended it to be challenged in a higher court.

Asked about the issue, Advocate General Arun Kanti Bhowmik said the government is studying the Court order but is yet to decide whether it will be challenged through an appeal or not.

Earlier in October last year, an Assistant Professor of Agartala Government Medical College (AGMC) was suspended for writing on social media against the Citizenship Amendment Bill.

“I’m a proud Indian citizen from #Tripura & oppose #CitizenshipAmendmentBill as it would alter vulnerable demography in NE India & create unwanted tensions betwn many communities. On this issue I m with @PradyotManikya to protect interests of legal citizens over illegal immigrants”, Dr. Kaushik Chakraborty, the suspended medical college teacher had written on Twitter. A departmental disciplinary proceeding was also ordered against him.