Misappropriation to cost govt job: SC

The Supreme Court has reiterated its view that a government servant, who is found to have misappropriated public money – no matter how big or small – has no place in the government service.

An SC division bench, comprising Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sayyed Mazahar Ali Akbar Naqvi, issued a three-page order after hearing an appeal filed against the orders of the Federal Services Tribunal (FST) to restore services of two post office employees, Siddique Ahmed and Jhandy Khan

Siddique Ahmed and Jhandy Khan – both postmen – were accused of misappropriating money orders amounting to Rs50,000 and Rs15,000 respectively by forging signatures of the payees and showing the same to have been paid to the rightful owners.

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During the course of investigation, they confessed to their guilt, which led to issuance of show cause notices to them by the competent authority on account of inefficiency, misconduct and corruption.

The postmen submitted their explanations before the authorized officer in which they admitted their guilt. After giving an opportunity of personal hearing, the competent authority dismissed them from service on November 6, 2015.

The officials preferred departmental appeals which were dismissed on January 18, 2016 and January 22, 2016. They later filed service appeals before the FST, which converted the major penalty of dismissal from service into withholding of one increment for two years.

Later, The Postal Services divisional superintendent in Jhang approached the apex court, which set aside the FST decision and restored the order for respondents’ dismissal from service.

While authoring the verdict, Justice Naqvi reproduced the apex court’s recent verdict in a similar case in which a postman had misappropriated an amount of Rs36,400.

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“A government servant who is found to have misappropriated public money, notwithstanding its amount, breaches the trust and confidence reposed in [him] who is charged with the responsibility of handling public money,” the previous order said.

It noted that misappropriation of money –whether temporary or permanent – and irrespective of the amount constitutes dishonesty and misconduct.

“Such an employee/individual has no place in government service because he breaks the trust and proves himself to be unworthy of the confidence that the state reposes in him.

“It is a fundamentally important requirement of his job that rules and regulations are followed and violations be dealt with strictly,” the judgment had said.

Justice Naqvi while authoring the ruling noted that in the present case, the fact of misappropriation of the money orders amount is not disputed.

"The respondents, who appeared in person, have admitted before us that instead of delivering the said amount to the payees, they kept the same with them for 10/15 days. However, they have stated that it was on the asking of the payees, who according to them were out of town.”

The verdict said when the bench asked them if they were not supposed to handover the money orders back to the post office if the payees were not available they admitted that they ought to have done so.

“According to the law officer, the respondents did not take this stance in their written statements, which they had submitted before the authorized officer.

“Although, the said written statements are not annexed with these appeals, the respondents did not join this issue before us, which shows their implied admission," said the judgment.

The court noted that in paragraph 7 of the FST judgment it is stated that the respondents had used the money orders’ amount for their own purposes and they were in the habit of committing temporary misappropriation of money orders.

“[However,] despite that it [FST] took a lenient view, which was not warranted in law because misappropriation of the amount either meager or huge results in breach of trust which is reposed in a government servant and the delinquent has no right to be retained in service,” it said.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)