26 Sep 2010

No PIL in 'service law matters': Supreme Court

In a recent decision [Hari Bansh Lal v. Sahodar Prasad Mahto] the Supreme Court has declared that the law to this regard is settled that the Courts will not entertain a public interest litigation in a matter relating to service law. The only exception to this rule, the Court pointed out, was when the writ of 'quo warranto' was sought wherein the Courts may require the respondents to justify as to why they should not be removed from the post they occupied. 

This decision, which succinctly explains the law to this aspect, notes inter alia as under;
6) About maintainability of the Public Interest Litigation in service matters except for a writ of quo warranto, there are series of decisions of this Court laying down the principles to be followed. It is not seriously contended that the matter in issue is not a service matter. In fact, such objection was not raised and agitated before the High Court. Even otherwise, in view of the fact that the appellant herein was initially appointed and served in the State Electricity Board as a Member in terms of Section 5(4) and from among the Members of the Board, considering the qualifications specified in sub-section (4), the State Government, after getting a report from the vigilance department, appointed him as Chairman of the Board, it is impermissible to claim that the issue cannot be agitated under service jurisprudence. We have already pointed out that the person who approached the High Court by way of a Public Interest Litigation is not a competitor or eligible to be considered as a Member or Chairman of the Board but according to him, he is a Vidyut Shramik Leader. Either before the High Court or in this Court, he has not placed any material or highlighted on what way he is suitable and eligible for that post.
7) In Dr. Duryodhan Sahu and Others vs. Jitendra Kumar Mishra and Others, (1998) 7 SCC 273, a three- Judge Bench of this Court held “if public interest litigations at the instance of strangers are allowed to be entertained by the Tribunal, the very object of speedy disposal of service matters would get defeated”. In para 21, this Court reiterated as under:
“21. In the result, we answer the first question in the negative and hold that the Administrative Tribunal constituted under the Act cannot entertain a public interest litigation at the instance of a total stranger.” 
8) In Ashok Kumar Pandey vs. State of W.B., (2004) 3 SCC 349, this Court held thus:
“16. As noted supra, a time has come to weed out the petitions, which though titled as public interest litigations are in essence something else. It is shocking to note that courts are flooded with a large number of so-called public interest litigations where even a minuscule percentage can legitimately be called public interest litigations. Though the parameters of public interest litigation have been indicated by this Court in a large number of cases, yet unmindful of the real intentions and objectives, courts are entertaining such petitions and wasting valuable judicial time which, as noted above, could be otherwise utilized for disposal of genuine cases. Though in Duryodhan Sahu (Dr) v. Jitendra Kumar Mishra this Court held that in service matters PILs should not be entertained, the inflow of so-called PILs involving service matters continues unabated in the courts and strangely are entertained. The least the High Courts could do is to throw them out on the basis of the said decision. The other interesting aspect is that in the PILs, official documents are being annexed without even indicating as to how the petitioner came to possess them. In one case, it was noticed that an interesting answer was given as to its possession. It was stated that a packet was lying on the road and when out of curiosity the  petitioner opened it, he found copies of the official documents. Whenever such frivolous pleas are taken to explain possession, the courts should do well not only to dismiss the petitions but also to impose exemplary costs. It would be desirable for the courts to filter out the frivolous petitions and dismiss them with costs as aforestated so that the message goes in the right direction that petitions filed with oblique motive do not have the approval of the courts.”
9) The same principles have been reiterated in the subsequent decisions, namely, Dr. B. Singh vs. Union of India and Others, (2004) 3 SCC 363, Dattaraj Nathuji Thaware vs. State of Maharashtra and Others, (2005) 1 SCC 590 and Gurpal Singh vs. State of Punjab and Others, (2005) 5 SCC 136. The above principles make it clear that except for a writ of quo warranto, Public Interest Litigation is not maintainable in service matters. 
Writ of Quo Warranto
10) Writ of quo warranto lies only when appointment is contrary to a statutory provision. In High Court of Gujarat and Another vs. Gujarat Kishan Mazdoor Panchayat and Others, (2003) 4 SCC 712, (three-Judges Bench) Hon’ble S.B. Sinha, J. concurring with the majority view held:
“22. The High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction in a matter of this nature is required to determine at the outset as to whether a case has been made out for issuance of a writ of certiorari or a writ of quo warranto. The jurisdiction of the High Court to issue a writ of quo warranto is a limited one. While issuing such a writ, the Court merely makes a public declaration but will not consider the respective impact of the candidates or other factors which may be relevant for issuance of a writ of certiorari. (See R.K. Jain v. Union of India 2, SCC para 74.)
23. A writ of quo warranto can only be issued when the appointment is contrary to the statutory rules. (See Mor Modern Coop. Transport Society Ltd. v. Financial Commr. & Secy. to Govt. of Haryana)”
11) In Mor Modern Cooperative Transport Society Ltd. vs. Financial Commissioner & Secretary to Govt. of Haryana and Another, (2002) 6 SCC 269, the following conclusion in para 11 is relevant.
“11. … …. The High Court did not exercise its writ jurisdiction in the absence of any averment to the effect that the aforesaid officers had misused their authority and acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the appellants. In our view the High Court should have considered the challenge to the appointment of the officials concerned as members of the Regional Transport Authority on the ground of breach of statutory provisions. The mere fact that they had not acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the appellant could not lend validity to their appointment, if otherwise, the appointment was in breach of statutory provisions of a mandatory nature. It has, therefore, become necessary for us to consider the validity of the impugned notification said to have been issued in breach of statutory provision.”
12) In B. Srinivasa Reddy vs. Karnataka Urban Water Supply & Drainage Board Employees’ Assn. and Others, (2006) 11 SCC 731, this Court held:
“49. The law is well settled. The High Court in exercise of its writ jurisdiction in a matter of this nature is required to determine, at the outset, as to whether a case has been made out for issuance of a writ of quo warranto. The jurisdiction of the High Court to issue a writ of quo warranto is a limited one which can only be issued when the appointment is contrary to the statutory rules.”
It is clear from the above decisions that even for issuance of writ of quo warranto, the High Court has to satisfy that the appointment is contrary to the statutory rules.

1 comment:

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Professional Legal Network