Friday, September 3, 2010

Service matters don’t come within PIL ambit: cour

The Supreme Court has reiterated that a public interest litigation (PIL) petition is not maintainable in service matters, viz challenging the appointment of a person to a particular post.

A Bench of Justices P. Sathasivam and B.S. Chauhan said that in service matters only a writ of quo warranto was maintainable. “For issuance of a writ of quo warranto, the High Court has to satisfy that the appointment is contrary to the statutory rules. Suitability or otherwise for appointment to a post in government service is the function of the appointing authority and not of the court unless the appointment is contrary to statutory provisions/rules.”

Justice Sathasivam, who wrote the judgment, quoting an earlier decision, said: “If PILs at the instance of strangers are allowed to be entertained by the Tribunal, the very object of speedy disposal of service matters would be defeated. Though the parameters of PIL have been indicated by this court in a large number of cases, unmindful of the real intentions and objectives, courts are entertaining such petitions and wasting valuable judicial time which could be otherwise utilised for disposal of genuine cases.”

In the present case, on a PIL petition from Sahodar Prasad Mahto, the Jharkhand High Court set aside the appointment of Hari Bansh Lal as Chairman of the State Electricity Board. The State justified the appointment, saying he had the required qualification and he possessed a number of Indian and foreign degrees. Mr. Lal filed a special leave petition against the High Court order.

Quashing the High Court order, the Supreme Court said: “it is not anybody’s case that the appellant’s appointment was contrary to any of the statutory provisions. His appointment was in terms of the provisions of the Act and the Rules and as on the date when this court issued notice, he was the Chairman.”

The Bench pointed that the appellant could not continue in the post as the State had appointed another person Chairman subject to the result of his appeal. Admittedly, there was no age limit prescribed in the rules for appointment, the Bench said and directed that the appellant be permitted to join duty forthwith and continue as Chairman of the board.

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