Trust deficit is an incurable ailment, says HC while confirming punishment imposed on postmaster for misappropriating villagers’ money

The issue is not about money but the damage to postal department’s reputation, says Central government senior panel counsel

The issue is not about money but the damage to postal department’s reputation, says Central government senior panel counsel
| Photo Credit: File Photo

Trust deficit is an incurable ailment. In rural areas, the money saved by the villagers may be smaller in quantum but the trust they repose on banks and post offices is very high. Therefore, the Department of Posts is well within its rights to remove from service a postmaster who had misappropriated small amounts of money and thereby brought disrepute to the institution of post office, the Madras High Court has held.

Justices V.M. Velumani and R. Hemalatha wrote that, before the advent of technology, “postmen were considered like messengers of God. They were considered one amongst the villagers. They used to deliver letters which used to carry good news and sad news. They used to carry money too. Their responsibility in terms of their mode of travel, promptness, reliability and hard work were always adored by the people.”

Now, the dependence on them had come down to a great extent pursuant to the development of telecommunications. “Nevertheless, when a postman himself commands so much respect, a postmaster who is in charge of the office ought to have acted in a more responsible manner earning respect for his integrity and devotion,” the Bench said while dismissing the writ petition filed by the ousted postmaster M. Kannan.

During his tenure as postmaster at Sembianatham post office near Kulithalai in Karur district in 2011, he was accused of withdrawing ₹1,000 from the savings bank account of a woman without her consent. The second charge was that he received ₹960 towards premium for Rural Life Insurance Policy taken by another villager but had not credited the amount. Thirdly, he was accused of misappropriating ₹3,146 deposited by a woman.

A departmental inquiry was initiated in 2012 and he was found guilty of all three charges in 2013 on the basis of documentary as well as oral evidence. The Superintendent of Post Offices, Karur Division passed an order removing him from service and it was confirmed by the appellate authority. A revision petition was rejected in 2014. Aggrieved over it, he moved the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), challenging the punishment, in 2015.

After seven years, the CAT dismissed his application on June 21, 2022 leading to the present writ petition. The petitioner’s counsel contended that the Department of Posts had not suffered any monetary loss at all since his client had already deposited the entire amount alleged to have been misappropriated. However, Central Government senior panel counsel K. Gunasekar argued that the issue was not about money but the damage to postal department’s reputation.

Concurring with him, the judges held there was overwhelming evidence to prove the guilt of the petitioner and therefore, they do not find any need to interfere with the order removing him from service.

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