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'No Estoppel Against Statute' : SC Upholds Cancellation Of Fair Price Shop Vacancies In West Bengal To Implement Food Security Act

LIVELAW NEWS NETWORK
25 May 2022 12:07 PM GMT
No Estoppel Against Statute : SC Upholds Cancellation Of Fair Price Shop Vacancies In West Bengal To Implement Food Security Act
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The Supreme Court dismissed the challenge against cancelation of the declaration of Fair Price Shop vacancies in view of the implementation of National Food Security Act, 2013.

By recalling the vacancy notification, the State endeavored to enforce the statute and that there can be no estoppel against a statute, the bench comprising Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath observed.

A Gazette Notification dated 30.01.2014, the vacancy for FPS dealership was declared in the District of Alipurduar. The respondent participated in the selection process and was recommended as a first priority candidate in respect of the said vacancy. However, no final order appointing the respondent was issued by the State Authority. While the application of the respondent was pending, a notification dated 17.08.2015 was issued by the Food and Supplies Department of the State of West Bengal cancelling the declaration of vacancies. This notification was issued in the light of implementation of the 2013 Act. The respondent filed a writ petition before the High Court of Calcutta inter alia praying for quashing of the Notification dated 17.08.2015. The High Court single bench dismissed the writ petition. Allowing the intra court appeal, the Division bench of the High Court held that the State of West Bengal failed to justify the decision to recall the vacancies and that it has acted in an arbitrary and unreasonable manner, and hence, quashed the Notification dated 17.08.2015.

Before the Apex Court, the State contended that it was reposed with a responsibility for implementing the 2013 Act which, inter alia, entrusted a responsibility to reform the existing Targeted Distribution System. The respondent in an unfinalized selection process has no vested right in his favour to seek continuation of the notified vacancies. Hence, by recalling the vacancy notification, the State endeavored to enforce the statute and that there can be no estoppel against a statute, it was contended.

Agreeing with these contentions, the bench observed thus while allowing the appeal:

"The respondent herein being a mere applicant in an un­finalised selection process, has no vested right in his favour to seek continuation of the notified vacancies, when by recalling the vacancy notification, the appellants endeavored to enforce the statute. Moreover, as discussed above, there can be no estoppel against a statute. Even going by the observations of the Division Bench in the impugned judgment, that the State was aware of the 2013 Act while issuing the 30.01.2014 vacancy notification, the said notification cannot be sustained, being contrary to the mandate of the National Food Security Act, 2013, more importantly of Section 12 thereof."

Case details

State of West Bengal vs Gitashree Dutta (Dey) | 2022 LiveLaw (SC) 527 | CA 4254 OF 2022 | 20 April 2022

Coram: Justices S. Abdul Nazeer and Vikram Nath

Headnotes

Estoppel - There can be no estoppel against a statute - Plea of promissory estoppel would stand negated when the mandate of a statute is followed. (Para 25-29)

National Food Security Act, 2013 - There is a paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security from the current welfare approach to a right based approach. The Act confers legal right on the eligible beneficiaries to get the essential commodities through fair price shops at a highly subsidized price. The Act also envisages reforms necessary for distribution of essential commodities to the ration card holders - The Act is a social welfare legislation and its provisions are mandatory. (Para 15-20)

Doctrine of legitimate expectation- The doctrine of legitimate expectation ordinarily would not have any application when the legislature has enacted the statute. Further, the legitimate expectation cannot prevail over a policy introduced by the Government, which does not suffer from any perversity, unfairness or unreasonableness or which does not violate any fundamental or other enforceable rights vested in the respondent. When the decision of public body is in conformity with law or is in public interest, the plea of legitimate expectation cannot be sustained. (Para 10-13)

Constitution of India, 1950 ; Article 14 - Inter­play between the plea of legitimate expectation and Article 14 - For a decision to be non ­arbitrary, the reasonable/legitimate expectations of the claimant have to be considered. However, to decide whether the expectation of the claimant is reasonable or legitimate in the context, is a question of fact in each case. Whenever the question arises, it is to be determined not according to the claimant's perception but in larger public interest wherein other more important considerations may outweigh what would otherwise have been the legitimate expectation of the claimant - Referred to Food Corporation of India v. M/s Kamdhenu Cattle Feed Industries (1993) 1 SCC 71. (Para 14)

Summary: Supreme Court upheld cancelation of the declaration of Fair Price Shop vacancies by State of West Bengal in view of the implementation of National Food Security Act.

Click here to Read/Download Judgment



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