The Kerala High Court on 6th July 2021, dealt with the question of quashing the suspension of a teacher accused of sexual assault.
The appellant in the case, P. Muralidharan was the manager of an aided school. The second respondent, K. Vijaykumar was working in the post of Higher Secondary School Teacher.
He was accused of sexual abuse against a girl who appeared for an exam he was invigilating. When the appellant found out about the registration of this crime, he immediately gave an order of suspension against the respondent. The only reason for the suspension was the registration of a criminal case.
In 2019, the accused filed to quash the entire criminal proceedings initiated against him upon the premise that the victim and her family had come forward with her statement that the complaint of sexual harassment was given upon a misunderstanding. They did not want to pursue the case any further. The court thus quashed the proceedings.
This quashing was appraised by the State and a direction for reinstatement to the service was given. It is this order that was challenged in this petition. However, the learned single judge found that while the disciplinary proceedings may not be dependent upon the quashing of the criminal proceedings, the accused can be reinstated in service.
The Kerala Education Rules, 1959 were checked and it was found that a manager of an aided school can place a teacher under suspension on the registration of a criminal case. However, to extend this suspension over 15 days, permission of educational authorities is needed. The question before the court was whether an order of suspension issued on the basis of registration of a criminal case ought to be revoked on the termination of such criminal proceedings.
The counsel for the petitioner stated that there should not be any reliance placed on the fact that the complaint was quashed. This had been settled in a precedent where offences under the POCSO Act couldn’t be quashed on the basis of settlement.
On the other hand, the respondent’s counsel was adamant that an order of suspension cannot be continued for an unlimited time. Considering that the petitioner was a subordinate authority to the State, the state must review the continuation of suspension.
Justice A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar & Justice Gopinath P. reviewed the Kerala Education Rules as well as the precedents set before the court. Reviewing these, the court stated that quashing the suspension order by the court itself would be binding on that of the manager of the aided school.
This was in compliance with the law as well. It stated that the suspension was based only on the fact that a criminal complaint was registered. When such a complaint ceases to exist, so should the suspension. Thus, the petition was dismissed and the suspension stood quashed.