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Writ Jurisdiction Can Be Exercised Only When Either The Person Or Authority To Which Writ Issued, Or Cause Of Action Is Within Its Territory: Delhi HC

Awstika Das
8 Sep 2022 5:15 AM GMT
Writ Jurisdiction Can Be Exercised Only When Either The Person Or Authority To Which Writ Issued, Or Cause Of Action Is Within Its Territory: Delhi HC
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The Delhi High Court has observed that it can exercise its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India either when the person or authority to which the writ is to be issued is located within its territory, or the cause of action, in part or whole, arises within its territory. Thus, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh dismissed the plea of H.S. Rai, an aggrieved employee of Projects...

The Delhi High Court has observed that it can exercise its power under Article 226 of the Constitution of India either when the person or authority to which the writ is to be issued is located within its territory, or the cause of action, in part or whole, arises within its territory.

Thus, Justice Chandra Dhari Singh dismissed the plea of H.S. Rai, an aggrieved employee of Projects and Development India Limited (PDIL), who had moved the Court to set aside the penalties imposed on him during a disciplinary enquiry for allegedly misappropriating company funds.

The Court held that since both the original authority and the appellate authority under the Conduct, Discipline and Appeal Rules (CDA Rules) of the organisation were constituted and made their respective orders in Jharkhand, the petitioner could not have approached the Delhi High Court merely because he was a resident of Delhi.

The instant case did not fall within the ambit of either of the two situations envisioned by Article 226, because neither did PDIL have its office, must less its registered office, in Delhi, nor did any part of the cause of action arise there.

Conspectus of Facts

The petitioner is an employee of the government-owned engineering service provider, Projects and Development India Limited (PDIL). This undertaking is controlled by the Ministry of Chemical and Fertilizer, Government of India. In 2002, the petitioner was accused of misappropriating the company's money by requesting reimbursement of medical expenses for abnormally large amounts by submitting false and fictitious medical claims for himself and his family members. The charges against him were found to have been proved in a departmental enquiry, and on the basis of the enquiry report, the petitioner was demoted to a subordinate post and lower pay scale by the competent authority. After the petitioner unsuccessfully appealed against the order of the Disciplinary Authority to the Chairman and Director of the PDIL, Noida, the Delhi High Court was moved to activate its writ jurisdiction under Article 226 and set aside the impugned order and direct PDIL to reimburse the petitioner to the extent of his entitlement.

Summary of Arguments

A number of grounds were urged on behalf of the petitioner to establish the illegality of the impugned order, including, inter alia, the violation of principles of natural justice, and the lack of proportionality between the charges framed and the punishment meted out to the petitioner. The counsel for PDIL engaged with the various allegations of unfairness and illegality levelled against the disciplinary proceedings. However, the most important issue raised by him was that of maintainability.

Senior Advocate Raj Birbal, appearing on behalf of the government undertaking, vehemently argued that the petition ought to be dismissed in limine because the petitioner had never worked in Delhi and was posted at Sindri, Jharkhand. Further, it was when he was posted at Sindri, that the charges of misappropriation were levelled against him. Subsequently, the charge-sheet was issued, enquiry conducted, and penalty imposed upon him from Sindri. Moreover, PDIL only had an office in Noida, and not in Delhi. Therefore, Mr. Birbal argued, the Delhi High Court did not have the necessary territorial jurisdiction to adjudicate on the matter. He placed reliance on Meenu Rani Jain v. Projects & Development of India Ltd. [CWP No. 446/2003] to submit that the petition was liable to be dismissed on the ground of the lack of jurisdiction itself.

Decision of the Court

The Court observed that the original authority as well as the appellate authority both were constituted and made their respective reports and orders at Jharkhand. For that reason, the petitioner could not have approached the Delhi High Court merely on the ground of being a resident of Delhi.

The Court relied on the decision in Meenu Rani Jain [CWP No. 446/2003] where a similar petition was dismissed by a Coordinate Bench of the Delhi High Court on the ground that PDIL did not have an office in Delhi, much less its registered corporate office. The Court had also noted that the dispute related to administrative decisions taken by the government undertaking, and the controlling ministry had nothing to do with it. Therefore, it rejected the argument of the petitioner that since the Ministry of Chemical Fertilizer was in Delhi, the Court would have territorial jurisdiction.

The Court also relied on the observations of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in Nirman Sarkar v. Canara bank and Ors. [WP No.11116/2021] which followed the ratio laid down by the Supreme Court in Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd v. Union Of India [(2004) 6 SCC 254]. In Kusum Ingots, the apex court had explained that when an order is passed by a Court or Tribunal or an executive authority whether under provisions of a statute or otherwise, a part of the cause of action arises at that place. When the original authority is constituted at one place and the appellate authority is constituted at another, a writ petition would be maintainable in both places. The Supreme Court considered several decisions, including the one in Lieutenant Colonel Khajoor Singh v. Union of India [AIR 1961 SC 532], where it was held that the jurisdiction of the High Court did not depend on the residence or location of the person. In Nirman Sarkar [WP No.11116/2021], on the strength of these authoritative rulings, it was held that no part of the cause of action had arisen in the state, and merely being a resident of Jabalpur did not extend any right to the petitioner to approach the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

The Court reiterated that the power to exercise writ jurisdiction under Article 226 had its own limitations. It also explained the two situations under which the Court could exercise such jurisdiction. The first condition is given in Article 226(1) and refers to a situation where the person or authority to which the writ is to be issued, falls within the territory of the concerned High Court. The second condition under Article 226 (2) extended the writ jurisdiction of the High Court to matters where the cause of action has arisen within the territory of this Court. The Court then observed:

"The petitioner herein is seeking issuance of writ against an authority, that is, the PDIL, which does not have any office, much less its registered office, in Delhi. The order of penalty which has been assailed before this Court was passed in Jharkhand after enquiry proceedings and the report thereto was made in Sindri, Jharkhand. Hence, the respondent no. 2 and 3, as representatives of the PDIL, are not amenable to the jurisdiction of this Court. Therefore, the instant matter does not satisfy the condition under Article 226 (1) of the Constitution of India…All of the necessary cause of action arose within the territory of Jharkhand and not Delhi. The second alternative condition for exercise of writ jurisdiction under Article 226 also does not arise in favour of the petitioner and with this Court."

Thus, the Court concluded that it did not possess the necessary territorial jurisdiction to adjudicate upon the challenge against the impugned order and dismissed the petition without going into the merits of the case.

Case Title : H.S. RAI v UOI & ORS

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Del) 847

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