A.K. Jayasankaran Nambiar, J.
1. As both these Writ Appeals involve a common issue, they are taken up together for consideration and disposed by this common judgment.
2. W.A.No.898 of 2021 impugns the judgment of a learned Single Judge dated 30.03.2021 in WP(C).No.25859 of 2020. The said Writ Petition was preferred by Smt.Sivakumari, who was working as a Principal of the Sankara Menon Memorial Higher Secondary School, Palakkad. It would appear that on 23.09.2020, she was served with a suspension order in connection with certain alleged acts of misconduct on her part. As per the said suspension order, she was to be suspended initially for a period of 15 days and subject to approval by the Regional Deputy Director, the suspension was to continue even thereafter. By an order dated 06.10.2020 (Ext.P20), the suspension of Smt.Sivakumari was approved by the Regional Deputy Director of Higher Secondary Education, and permission was also given to the Manager to continue the suspension beyond the initial period of 15 days. Smt.Sivakumari, on receipt of Ext.P20 order, challenged the same before this Court through WP(C).No.25859 of 2020. The learned Single Judge, who considered the matter, found that Ext.P18 suspension order was in fact, issued by a person other than the Manager, and therefore, could not be acted upon. He also found that the Regional Deputy Director could not have issued the approval order (Ext.P20) since only an officer authorized by the Government in that behalf could have done so, and in the instant case, it was found that there was no such authorization by the Government. It was further found that the suspension order itself was bad in law inasmuch as it was admittedly issued on the dictates of the Regional Deputy Director of Higher Secondary Education. The impugned order of the Regional Deputy Director approving the suspension was, therefore, set aside by the learned Single Judge, who reserved the liberty in the Manager to issue a fresh suspension order after getting the approval from the Director of Higher Secondary Education.
3. The Manager of the school, thereafter, proceeded to issue a fresh suspension order on 07.04.2021. The said suspension of Smt.Sivakumari was to operate with effect from 08.04.2021. On receipt of the suspension order, Smt.Sivakumari moved this Court through a Contempt of Court Case No.788 of 2021, which was disposed by this Court directing Smt.Sivakumari to approach the Director of Higher Secondary Education with her grievance. In the meanwhile, the Manager who had approached the Director with a request for approval of the suspension imposed on Smt.Sivakumari, together with a request for permission to continue the suspension beyond the initial period of 15 days, also moved this Court through WP(C).No10368 of 2021. The said Writ Petition was disposed by this Court with a direction to the Director to consider the request of the Manager and pass orders thereon. By Ext.P7 order dated 06.09.2021 that was thereafter passed by the Director, it was found that the Manager of the school had not reinstated Smt.Sivakumari after the initial order of suspension had been set aside by this Court, and further, after the expiry of the initial period of 15 days pursuant to the second suspension order dated 07.04.2021. The Director, therefore, directed the Manager to forthwith reinstate Smt.Sivakumari as the Principal of the school, the post she was holding at the time of her initial suspension. It is aggrieved by the said order dated 06.09.2021 of the Director that the Manager of the school has preferred WP(C).No.25859 of 2020, the judgment rendered in which is the subject matter of W.A.No.633 of 2022.
4. We have heard Sri.Kodoth Sreidharan, the learned counsel for the appellants in both these Writ Appeals and Sri.P.C.Sasidharan, the learned counsel for Smt.Sivakumari in both these Writ Appeals. We have also heard the learned Government Pleader for the official respondents of the State in these Writ Appeals.
5. On a consideration of the rival submissions, we find that although Smt.Sivakumari was initially suspended by an order dated 23.09.2020, the proceedings pursuant to the said suspension culminated in the judgment of the learned Single Judge dated 30.03 2021 in WP(C).No.25859 of 2020, setting aside the said suspension order, inter alia, on the contention that it was issued by a person who was not authorised to do so. The approval granted to the said suspension order together with the approval for continuing the suspension was also set aside by the learned Single Judge for the reason that the Regional Deputy Director was not authorised by the Government to issue orders of approval on the suspension order. We also note that, acting on the liberty reserved in the Manager of the school to issue a fresh suspension order in accordance with the Rules, the Manager proceeded to issue a fresh suspension order on 07.04.2021. In the light of the fresh suspension order issued based on the liberty reserved in the Manager by this Court, the contentions raised in W.A.No.898 of 2021 against the judgment of the learned Single Judge in WP(C).No.25859 of 2020 do not really arise for consideration. We feel that the contentions raised in the said Writ Appeal no longer survive in view of the positive act of the appellant/Manager, in issuing a fresh suspension order in connection with the disciplinary proceedings initiated against Smt.Sivakumari. We therefore dismiss the said Writ Appeal as infructuous.
6. We now turn to the contentions in W.A.No.633 of 2022, which impugns the judgment of the learned Single Judge dated 18.05.2022 in WP(C).No.19714 of 2021. As already noticed, the said Writ Petition was filed challenging the order of the Director of Higher Secondary Education dated 06.09.2021 that directed the Manager of the school to reinstate Smt.Sivakumari pursuant to the finding that her suspension could not be continued beyond the initial period of 15 days. The learned Single Judge while disposing the Writ Petition found that the contention of the learned counsel for the Manager, that the provisions of Chapter XIVA of the Kerala Education Rules (KER for short) would not apply to Higher Secondary Schools, could not be countenanced in view of the amendments brought about to the Proviso to Rule 67(7) of the KER, read with the executive orders passed by the State Government thereafter. It was further found that the power to extend the period of suspension could only be granted by an officer authorised by the Government, and inasmuch as the Director was not authorised by the Government, the power could be exercised only by the Government itself. Finding that, there was no irregularity or illegality in the direction issued by the Director in the order dated 06.09.2021 that was impugned in the Writ Petition, the learned Single Judge found that the direction to reinstate Smt.Sivakumari in service did not require any interference, more so, in the absence of any order extending the period of suspension imposed by the Manager.
7. In the appeal it is the submission of Sri.Kodoth Sridharan, the learned counsel for the appellant/ Manager that the provisions of Chapter XIVA of the KER would have no application to disciplinary proceedings initiated against the teachers of Higher Secondary Schools in the State. It is also his contention that, at any rate, the Director did not have the power to extend the period of suspension beyond the initial period of 15 days. Even as we consider the said submission of the learned counsel for the appellant, we cannot ignore the fact that it was the appellant/Manager himself, who had approached the Director, based on the liberty reserved to him by the learned Single Judge in the judgment in W.P(C).No.25859 of 2020. Thereafter, it was pursuant to the application preferred by the Manager before the Director and the directions issued from this Court to the Director to consider the said application, that the Director proceeded to pass the order dated 06.09.2021 impugned in W.P(C).No.19714 of 2021. For the peculiar predicament that the Manager finds himself in today, he has none but himself to blame. On the facts of the instant case, what remains is only the fate of the disciplinary proceedings that have been initiated against Smt.Sivakumari. In this connection we find that the direction for reinstatement cannot be found fault with, more so when the initial order of suspension by the Manager on 07.04.2021 itself was limited to only a period of 15 days, and there was no permission granted to continue the suspension thereafter. We feel that the appropriate course of action to be followed would be to direct the appellant Manager to continue and complete the d
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isciplinary proceedings initiated against Smt.Sivakumari through the issuance of a charge memo and statement of allegations in accordance with a procedure established by law. The said proceedings shall be culminated within an outer period of six months from the date of receipt of a copy of this judgment. We make it clear that during the pendency of the disciplinary proceedings against her Smt.Sivakumari shall be permitted to discharge the functions of the Principal to which post she has been pursuant to an interim direction of this Court in this Writ Appeal. She shall also be paid the salary and other allowances due to her for the period she was kept out of service, other than the period covered by valid orders of suspension, We also make it clear that such payment would be without prejudice to the right of the Government to proceed against the Manager of the school for recoveries of such amounts as pertain to any improper/illegal act in relation to Smt.Sivakumari.