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Gov’t employee not devoid of right to free speech: Tripura HC

Court also observed that mere presence of a government employee at a political rally is not proof of participation

Sabrangindia 13 Jan 2020

Tripura HC

In a landmark judgment, the Tripura High Court has ruled that just because someone is a public servant, they cannot be denied their right to free speech. The court was hearing a petition filed by a government employee against home disciplinary charges were brought because of her Facebook posts and presence at a political rally.

The petitioner, one Lipika Paul who used to work for the Fisheries Department, was scheduled to retire last year on April 30. However, she was suspended just five days before the completion of her tenure and was subsequently denied her retirement benefits. Paul was accused of violating rule 5 of the Tripura Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1988.

She was accused of canvassing against a political party by making defamatory and indecent statements. She was also accused of attending a political rally that had taken place on December 31, 2017.

However, the HC did not find any merit in the allegations and observed, “There is a vital difference between attending a rally and participating in a rally. During election times as is well known, political parties and their leaders as well as nominated candidates take out rallies and address public gatherings. Every person who is present in the audience during such addresses cannot be stated to have participated in the rally. The presence of a person does not either establish his or her political affiliation. A student of politics, an enthusiastic young man, a reporter or just a curious bystander all are likely to be present in any political gathering. Even an opponent or a critic of a political party may also attend the gathering.”

Additionally, the court said, “As a Government servant the petitioner is not devoid of her right of free speech, a fundamental right which can be curtailed only by a valid law.”

The court has set aside the charge-sheet against Paul, thus invalidating the suspension order against her. Furthermore, it has directed that all retiral benefits that had been hitherto withheld from the petitioner be released to her within two months.

The entire order may be read here:

 

Gov’t employee not devoid of right to free speech: Tripura HC

Court also observed that mere presence of a government employee at a political rally is not proof of participation

Tripura HC

In a landmark judgment, the Tripura High Court has ruled that just because someone is a public servant, they cannot be denied their right to free speech. The court was hearing a petition filed by a government employee against home disciplinary charges were brought because of her Facebook posts and presence at a political rally.

The petitioner, one Lipika Paul who used to work for the Fisheries Department, was scheduled to retire last year on April 30. However, she was suspended just five days before the completion of her tenure and was subsequently denied her retirement benefits. Paul was accused of violating rule 5 of the Tripura Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1988.

She was accused of canvassing against a political party by making defamatory and indecent statements. She was also accused of attending a political rally that had taken place on December 31, 2017.

However, the HC did not find any merit in the allegations and observed, “There is a vital difference between attending a rally and participating in a rally. During election times as is well known, political parties and their leaders as well as nominated candidates take out rallies and address public gatherings. Every person who is present in the audience during such addresses cannot be stated to have participated in the rally. The presence of a person does not either establish his or her political affiliation. A student of politics, an enthusiastic young man, a reporter or just a curious bystander all are likely to be present in any political gathering. Even an opponent or a critic of a political party may also attend the gathering.”

Additionally, the court said, “As a Government servant the petitioner is not devoid of her right of free speech, a fundamental right which can be curtailed only by a valid law.”

The court has set aside the charge-sheet against Paul, thus invalidating the suspension order against her. Furthermore, it has directed that all retiral benefits that had been hitherto withheld from the petitioner be released to her within two months.

The entire order may be read here:

 

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