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A person cannot be said to hold a “civil post” under the State merely because the State exercises a certain amount of control over the post: High Court of Delhi

Merely because Manipur University is financed by or there is an element of control with the Central Government, it cannot be said that the employees of Manipur University hold a ‘civil post’ under the Union and are entitled to protection under Article 311 of the Constitution. Protection of Article 311 can only be claimed by the members of a civil service of the Union or of all- India service or of a civil service of a State or by persons who hold a civil post under the Union or a State. This was held in PROF. ADYA PRASAD PANDEY v. UNION OF INDIA & ANR. [LPA No. 157/2021] in the High Court of Delhi by division bench consisting of JUSTICE RAJIV SAHAI ENDLAW and MR. JUSTICE AMIT BANSAL.

The facts are that the appellant was appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Manipur University for a period of 5 years. There were allegations against the appellant of gross financial and administrative irregularities in the management of the affairs of the university. A committee was constituted to Inquire the same comprising of former Acting Chief Justice of the High Court of Meghalaya, as Chairperson. The appellant assailed the before the Manipur High Court which was dismissed. He has filed an appeal against the same.

The counsel for the appellant submitted that being the Vice-Chancellor, the appointment of the appellant was for a period of five years or till he attains the age of 70 and that he enjoyed the protection of Article 311 of the Constitution of India and curtailment of his term can only be in accordance with the law.

The counsel for the respondents submitted that the Vice-Chancellor of Manipur University, appointed for a specific term, cannot be said to be a government servant holding a civil position and is, therefore, not entitled to protection under Article 311 of the Constitution of India.

The court made reference to the judgment of Apex court in the case of  S.L. Agarwal (Dr.) v. G.M., Hindustan Steel Ltd, wherein it was held that “ Admittedly, the employees of any authority which is a legal entity separate from the State, cannot claim to be holders of civil posts under the State in order to attract the protection of Article 311. There is also no master and servant relationship between the State and an employee of PGIMER, which is a separate legal entity in itself. It is a settled position that a person cannot be said to have the status of holding a “civil post” under the State merely because his salary is paid from the State fund or that the State exercises a certain amount of control over the post”.

The court also made reference to the apex court judgment in JS.L. Agarwal (Dr.) v. G.M., Hindustan Steel Ltd., wherein it was held that, “Hindustan Steel Limited is not a department of the government and its employees are not holding posts under the State. It has its independent existence under the Companies Act and therefore, its employees are not holders of ‘a civil post under the Union’ as stated in the Article 311”.

Considering the facts of the case and the legal precedents, the court observed that even though the Central Government may have a role in the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor of the Manipur University, he will not be entitled to protection under Article 311 as he does not hold a ‘civil post’ under the Union. Therefore, the elaborate inquiry as envisaged under Article 311 before terminating the services of a Government servant is not applicable in the case of the appellant.

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