Madras HC suggests restricting overtime pay to ensure police take their weekly off

CHENNAI, JUL 13: In a bid to boost the morale of the police in Tamil Nadu, the Madras High Court has suggested that measures be taken to ensure that police officers take at least three days off a month from work.
To this end, Justice N Kirubakaran has posed a query to the government if it is possible to restrict the payment of overtime remuneration in lieu of days off to once a month.
Reports of rampant absenteeism, desertion, and suicides among police officers had prompted Justice Kirubakaran to look into the general welfare of the police in the state, in a case that has been pending since 2012. A series of interim orders were subsequently passed to address continuing concerns in this area.
Notably, the Court has emphasized time and again the urgent need to constitute a committee headed by a retired judge of the High Court, to look into the grievances of police personnel. A recommendation to this effect made as far back as July 2012 in the case of G Anandan v State of Tamil Nadu is yet to be implemented. As noted in an order passed last March in the case before Justice Kirubakaran,
“The Necessity to take decision (to constitute a police grievance redressal committee) at the earliest is due to the fact that many cases of policemen committing suicides due to work pressure are being reported every day.
Moreover, the responsibilities of the police force have become multifaceted and it has become a habit to blame the police for anything and everything that happens in society. To keep the morale of the Police at a higher level, it is very importance to see that their grievances are addressed properly.”
The latest orders passed in the case are concerned with whether policemen are given enough days off work.
In response to queries posed by the Court, the Government on Thursday submitted that each police officer is given one day off in a calendar week, as per a Standing Order.
However, in case of emergency, if any officer is not given a day off, a sum of R 200 is paid as remuneration for the extra time duty. Hence, in a month, the officers are given four weekly off days and those not willing to avail the weekly off are paid Rs 800 for the month.
The Court however took the view that this was not sufficient to ensure that police officers are given enough time off. Justice Kirubakaran, therefore, suggested that there be a prohibition on the number of times the official can be given extra remuneration in lieu of their off day. As noted in the order,
“If extra time remuneration of Rs. 200 per day is paid, definitely the police personnel will be sacrificing their weekly off and therefore, there should be some rule prohibiting the payment of extra remuneration of s 200 more than once in a month.
Unless such prohibition is made, the police personnel will tend to attend the work without availing their weekly off and fail to spend time with their family. It is the duty of the Government to ensure that every police personnel gets their weekly off.”
Additional Advocate General, PH Arvind Pandian has undertaken to obtain instruction on this aspect. The matter will be taken up next on July 19.
In the course of hearing, the Court had earlier also taken cognizance of reports that police personnel were being employed as orderlies in the houses of higher officials. This was despite an express bar on the practice through a Government Order passed in 1979. Coming down heavily on its continuing prevalence, Justice Kirubakaran had observed,
“The policemen are being paid from public exchequer and they are supposed to do public service as a police and not individual work in the houses of either the higher police officials or retired officials. If they want, the officials can appoint OAs, house maids for their domestic work or they could be sent through the Public Works Department. There should not be any policeman in the name of Orderly.”