SC appoints new inquiry officer, suspension to continue

The Supreme Court, in a recent order, has appointed Justice (Retd) K K Baam a retired Bombay High Court judge to conduct a fresh inquiry with respect to allegations that former Sidhharth College vice-principal Chitra Salunkhe had obtained a fake BA degree.

The order comes one month after the Bombay High Court directed the management of the college to reinstate Salunkhe. The High Court had observed that the inquiry against her was a "clear breach of the principles of natural justice."

The Supreme Court appointed Justice Baam as an inquiry officer and asked her to submit a report to the court by July 31. It said that since the High Court has set aside Salunke's order of termination, she would be restored to the position she held prior to the termination order, and continue to remain under suspension.

A division bench of Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice Anil Dave said in its order, "In the facts and circumstances of this case, it would not be appropriate to order the reinstatement of respondent no 1 (Salunkhe) at this stage. At the same time, it is desirable that an enquiry is conducted and concluded as expeditiously as possible."

The Bench has directed the college management to pay Salunkhe the suspension allowance from February 1 and the subsistence allowance arrears within two weeks. The arrears are to be paid from the time she was terminated by the college on May 21, 2009.

The college has alleged that Salunkhe had obtained a fake BA degree from Kakatia University in Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. It also said that she used the fake degree to secure admission in a law course in the Mumbai University. Salunkhe claims that she had obtained the degree in the academic year 1988-89. She was dismissed from service by the college on May 21, 2009.

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