10 Sep 2022 1:47 PM GMT
While dismissing a challenge against the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee, the Madras High Court observed that the formation of the Internal Complaints Committee was under the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965. The challenge would therefore fall within the scope of the Administrative Tribunals Act 1985 and could not be dealt with by...
While dismissing a challenge against the formation of an Internal Complaints Committee, the Madras High Court observed that the formation of the Internal Complaints Committee was under the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965. The challenge would therefore fall within the scope of the Administrative Tribunals Act 1985 and could not be dealt with by the High Court under Article 226 of the constitution.
Justice Abdul Quddhose opined that the petitioner should have taken up the matter with the Administrative Tribunal dealing with service matters and not approach the High Court in the first instance.
No Government servant will be entitled to approach the High Court as a Court of first instance challenging an order passed by the Government regarding a service matter. Infact, the Honourable Supreme Court has held that even in a case where the vires of a statute is challenged, it will not be open for the litigants to directly approach the High Courts.
The petitioner, who was a Principal Commissioner of Customs, had challenged the constitution of the ICC which had been constituted upon a complaint by an IRS Officer. The petitioner challenged the constitution as being an abuse of process of law. He submitted that the complaint suffers from malafides and was a counter blast to an investigation conducted in a scam. Further, Rule 7 of the Sexual Harassment of women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 had been violated.
The petitioner also challenged the application of the Act as the petitioner and the complainant never shared a same workplace. The petitioner also contended that the committee consisted of members who were biased against the petitioner and that the complaint was barred by limitation as per Section 9 of the Act.
The Court discussed in detail the contentions put forward by the petitioner. The court observed that the POSH Act 2013 does not restrict its applicability to an employee alone. Section 2(a) of the Act makes it clear that the complainant does not have to be an employee. Thus, it is not necessary that both the petitioner and the respondent have to work in the same department.
The court noted that the committee was constituted properly in accordance with the Act by the CBIC under whom both the petitioner and the fourth respondent (complainants) are employed which is a Central Government Department. Further, the veracity of the allegations made by the complainant had to be investigated into by the committee and any interference by the Court would have been premature.
The court also held that the petitioner's allegations of bias and malafides against some of the members in the committee was not supported by any evidence. The mere fact that the members were working in the same department as the petitioner and the complainant cannot be a reason for alleging bias against them, unless it is proved through conclusive evidence. The petitioner had also contented that the entire complaint was made maliciously in response to an investigation. These facts however had to be looked into by the committee.
The court thus held that the matters needed adjudication by the Administrative Tribunals and warranted no interference of High Court.
Thus the subject matter of the writ petition deals with the action of the respondent department with regard to a "Misconduct" under the service rules and the constitution and the conduct of the Internal Complaints Committee under the Service Rules. Undoubtedly, this falls within the definition of Section 3(q)(iv) of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, which is excluded from the purview of the writ jurisdiction.
The court also observed that the petitioner's case did not fall under any of the extraordinary circumstances for the court to entertain the petition under Article 226 of the constitution. Thus, finding the petition to be not maintainable, the court dismissed the same.
Case Title: S.Ravi Selvan v. Central Board of Indirect Taxes & customs and others
Case No: WP No17798 of 2022
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Mad) 397
Counsel for the Petitioner: Mr.M.Ravi
Counsel for the Respondent: Mr.Sankaranarayanan, Additional Solicitor General Assisted by Ms.R.Hemalatha, CGSC, Ms.R.Vaigai, Senior Advocate, for M/s.Anna Mathew
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