The officer, Hema Suneetha, 49, an Indian Railway Accounts Service (IRAS) cadre officer, is presently posted as a financial advisor and chief accounts officer (FA & CAO) in Southern Railway. On May 13, she was given an order transferring her to Hubli in South-Western Railway based on a new transfer policy, which mandates moving senior officers working in a particular location for 10-15 years to other parts of the country.
Suneetha challenged the order in CAT, arguing that the transfer was discriminatory. The order was set aside based on three arguments made by her counsel. Firstly, the policy mandated that the transfer should have been issued between January-March and that the order given to her in May was not justified.
Secondly, Hema produced documents in court which showed that she paid the annual school fees and donation of Rs2.6 lakh for her twin girls aged five on April 1, which the judge noted was well before the transfer order was given and that there was no attempt to preempt any transfer. “These days, parents find it difficult to get their children admitted in good schools at the lowest level. It is common knowledge that once payments are made, it cannot be refunded,” the Judge noted. The argument of Railways counsel that Suneetha could have gotten her children admitted in Kendriya Vidyalaya was rejected by the bench on these grounds.
Since her husband, an officer with the Reserve Bank, had been posted to Bengaluru, she was alone in parenting her children and ailing mother-in-law. The order, her counsel argued, had not relied on department of personnel and training’s (DoPT) orders to place the husband and wife in the same location.
Thirdly, her counsel argued that procedures mandated by the Supreme Court were not followed. The counsel for railways argued that the transfer was carried out due to an ‘administrative exigency’, which the tribunal refused to accept.