It was recently observed by The Tripura High Court that the right to freedom and expression would include the freedom of being critical of the public administration or authority.
The bench consisted of Chief Justice AkilKureshi who further said in this matter that “any inroad into such freedom howsoever stealthily made, constitutional court will step in”. A woman constable filed a petition challenging the order of her transfer dated 15th September 2020. By virtue of this order, she was transferred to join the establishment of Superintendent of Police, Gomati from her present place of posting of Procurement Division in West Tripura, Agartala.
She made detailed averments alleging mala fides on part of the administration in passing the main order in the petition. On 13th September 2020, her husband who is an advocate was reported to have made statements critical about the Government hospital facilities when admitted as a Covid patient. The petitioner alleged that by way of punishment, she was transferred from her present place of working immediately on 15th September 2020. She also stated that she is a sportsperson and represents Tripura Police invaluable events nationally. All sportspersons are invariably kept at Agartala and transferring her was just a ground to establish mala fides. Mr. Debalaya Bhattacharjee who was the Government Advocate opposed the petition contending this was her first transfer and as a person holding a transferable post and she had a liability to serve anywhere in the State. In his defense, he also stated that 8 other staff members are also transferred to various places. The court was of the view that a government servant cannot complain about such transfer which is otherwise passed for administrative reasons. However, the court said that the facts of the case require further consideration and a hearing on this case would be done on 18th December 2020. The Court further noted, “The petitioner has made serious allegations why the order of transfer is not based on the requirement of the administration but because her husband was critical of the facilities at the Government Hospital, which statement he refused to withdraw.” The Court recorded that it was acutely concerned about the order of transfer being passed in close proximity to the statement of the husband of the petitioner criticizing the Government facilities being published in the newspaper. The Court persued the original transfer file and noted that it contained no paper, no proposal, no background of the transfer of the petitioner earlier than 15th September 2020 as claimed that, “It can thus be seen that the entire proposal of transfer of the petitioner originated and culminated into the order of transfer on 15tth September 2020 itself. Proposal for this transfer, therefore, does not date back to a period prior to 13th September 2020.” All these aspects were taken into consideration and it made a strong prima facie case in favor of the petitioner for staying the order of transfer. The court said, “The close proximity between the publication of the statement of the husband of the petitioner criticizing Government hospital facilities and the order of transfer of the petitioner would persuade me to stay the same till the final disposal of the petition.” By way of interim relief, impugned order dated 15th September 2020 in so far as the petitioner was concerned, was stayed. It was directed to allow the discharge of her duties at Agartala in the Procurement Division where she was posted.