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PIL Can't Be Entertained In Disputes Relating To Service Matters: Orissa High Court

Jyoti Prakash Dutta
19 Aug 2022 4:53 AM GMT
PIL Cant Be Entertained In Disputes Relating To Service Matters: Orissa High Court
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The Orissa High Court has recently held that Public Interest Litigation (PIL) cannot be entertained in disputes pertaining to 'service matters'. While adjudicating a matter relating to alleged irregularities in the appointment of primary school teachers, a Division Bench of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Radha Krishna Pattanaik followed the above principle as has been laid down and reiterated by the Supreme Court in a number of cases.

Facts of the Case:

Four residents of Jagatsinghpur District filed this PIL, alleging a large number of irregularities committed in the appointment of Teachers for Primary Schools pursuant to a Resolution dated 12th March, 1996 of the School and Mass Education Department (S&ME), Government of Odisha. In particular, it was alleged that the merit list of eligible Teachers for appointment as Primary Teachers in Jagatsinghpur included less meritorious candidates by-passing those who had secured more marks in the selection process.

It was stated that on its own, the S&ME Department realized its mistake and published a revised selection list in 2006. The petitioners stated that this list too had numerous persons whose appointments were vitiated for having secured less marks than those overlooked and further that some of them had produced fake certificates.

The immediate provocation for the present petition was an order dated 13th July, 2015 of the S&ME Department allowing such persons to have the benefit of the Revised Assured Career Progression (RACP) Scheme. It was alleged that the Government tried to regularize the services of some of these illegally appointed Teachers and, therefore, they prayed the Court to intervene and direct the Opposite Parties "to take immediate steps to remove the disqualified Primary School Teachers from Jagatsinghpur Education District". The further prayer was that a CBI enquiry should be directed.

Contentions:

Mr. Ramakanta Sarangi, counsel for the petitioners, placed reliance on the decision of the Apex Court in Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha v. Dhobei Sahoo (2013) to argue that while the general rule is that in service matters, PIL will not be entertained, the exception is where a writ of quo warranto is sought to quash illegal appointments.

Per contra, Mr. B.A. Prusty, Standing Counsel for the School and Mass Education Department, placed reliance on the decision in Girjesh Shrivastava v. State of Madhya Pradesh (2010) to urge that PIL cannot be entertained in service related disputes.

Court's Observations:

The Court observed that reliefs sought by the present petitioners are in the realm of service law since the prayers concern the legality of the employment of several Primary School teachers in Jagatsinghpur pursuant to a process that began nearly three decades ago in 1996. The select list was published some time in 2006 and appointments were made. However, the petitioners chose to wait for over 11 years to file this petition challenging the appointments.

In Girjesh Shrivastava (supra), the Supreme Court was dealing with an appeal from the decision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court in two PILs alleging contravention of the Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Contractual Teachers (Conditions of Appointment and Services) Rules, 2001 in the appointment of contractual teachers. The ground for challenge was that no reservations was made for Ex-Servicemen and further the Members of the Selection Committee had their near relatives appearing as candidates in the selection.

In the above case, the Apex Court made reference to its earlier decisions in Dr. Duryodhan Sahoo v. Jitendra Kumar Mishra (1998), B. Srinivasa Reddy v. Karnataka Urban Water Supply & Drainage Board Employees' Association (2006) and Dattaraj Nathuji Thaware v. State of Maharashtra (2004), which had categorically held that PIL in service matters should not be entertained. Consequently, the above principle was reiterated in that case and the order of the High Court interfering in the PILs was set aside.

The Court further noted that in Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha v. Dhobei Sahoo (supra), which was relied upon by the counsel for the petitioners, the Supreme Court actually allowed the appeal of the CESU and set aside the order of the High Court interfering in a PIL on the alleged plea of disqualification of the incumbent and issuing a writ of quo warranto. The order of the High Court was in fact quashed.

The Court held that there is no issue of quo warranto involved in the present case. It further noted that the prayers, in fact, do not even mention the word 'quo warranto'. Thus, it expressed its reluctance to view the PIL as one seeking a writ of quo warranto.

Secondly, the Court observed that only one private individual, who was allegedly disqualified for being appointed as a primary school teacher, was impleaded as Opposite Party No. 9. Although several names have been mentioned in Para-4 of the writ petition, the others have not been made as Opposite Parties. There was no convincing explanation given for this.

Further, there was an inordinate delay on the part of the petitioners to approach the Court against the so-called illegal appointments. The selection took place in 1996, a revised selection list was published in 2006 and yet the present writ petition was filed only on 2nd February, 2017. The Bench held that the petitioners did not offer any convincing explanation for the inordinate delay of nearly 11 years in approaching the Court to challenge the said appointments made way back in 2006.

For all of the aforementioned reasons, the Court reached the conclusion that the writ petition cannot be entertained as a PIL and accordingly dismissed the same.

Case Title: Hansmina Kumari Das & Ors. v. State of Odisha & Ors.

Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 1966 of 2017

Judgment Dated: 5th August 2022

Coram: Dr. S. Muralidhar, CJ. & Radha Krishna Pattanaik, J.

Judgment Authored By: Dr. S. Muralidhar, CJ.

Counsel for the Petitioners: Mr. Ramakanta Sarangi, Advocate

Counsel for the Respondents: Mr. B.A. Prusty, Standing Counsel for S&ME Department

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ori) 125

Click Here To Read/Download Judgment



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