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It is not permissible for the parties to re-open the concluded judgments: Supreme Court of India

Writ Petition cannot be filed collaterally to set aside the judgment of the same High Court rendered in an earlier round of litigation ignoring the principles of res-judicata and doctrine of finality. This was held by Hon’ble Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Hon’ble Justice Krishna Murari in the case of Neelima Srivastava Vs. The State of Uttar Pradesh and Ors. [CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4840 OF 2021] on the 17th of August before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India a New Delhi.

The brief facts of the case are, The appellant is a Post Graduate from Kanpur University and also holds the certificate of Sangit Prabhakar and Senior Diploma from the Prayag Sangit Samiti, Allahabad. On 23.07.1984, she was appointed as Assistant Music Teacher in Government Inter College on a leave vacancy as the regular incumbent went on leave without pay. The terms of the appointment order specified that the appointment was temporary and meant to last till the permanent incumbent re-joined the service. The educational qualifications of the appellant satisfied the requirements prescribed under the relevant service rules. Vide letter dated 16.05.1986, the terms of the appointment order dated 23.07.1984 was modified by providing that the appointment was to last till the regular incumbent joined back or 20.05.1986, whichever was earlier. A learned Single Judge vide order dated 20.05.1986 while issuing notice to the respondents stayed the operation of the order dated 16.05.1986 modifying the terms of the appointment order. It was further provided that the interim order shall automatically lapse on return of the permanent incumbent.  It is undisputed fact that the respondents never undertook any steps for filling up the post and the appellant was continued on the said post without any interruption till 2020. the appellant made a representation to the authorities seeking regularization in accordance with the said Rules. When no action was taken on a representation for a substantial period of time, she approached the High Court again by filing Writ Petitions. Vide order dated 31.10.2015, in terms of the judgment of the learned Single Judge dated 15.05.2014, the respondent regularized the services of the appellant and simultaneously also filed a Special Appeal before a Division Bench. Vide order dated 07.05.2018, impugned in this appeal the Division Bench allowed the Special Appeal preferred by the respondents herein and set aside the judgment of the learned Single Judge. The Division Bench was of the view that since the appellant herein was appointed in leave vacancy on 23.07.1984 and her services came to an end on 20.05.1986 and she continued on the post on the basis of the interim order passed by the High Court in earlier round of litigation and her appointment is litigious appointment and thus she has no enforceable right to hold this post legally in her favour. It is pertinent to point out at this stage that the aforesaid common judgment rendered in the two Writ Petitions filed by the appellant attained finality as it was not put to challenge before any higher forum.

The learned court heard the submissions of both the parties and observed that, The Division Bench of the High Court proceeded as if it was hearing an appeal against the judgment dated 23.01.2006 of the learned Single Judge which had already attained finality. Appeal filed under the Rules of the Court was filed against the judgment dated 15.05.2014 rendered in Writ Petition No. 8597 of 2010. It is a well settled principle of law that a Letters Patent Appeal which is in continuation of a Writ Petition cannot be filed collaterally to set aside the judgment of the same High Court rendered in an earlier round of litigation ignoring the principles of res-judicata and doctrine of finality. It also observed that nowhere has it been mentioned that hat service matters that stand concluded inter partes, ought to be re-opened. The court relied on the judgement in Naresh Shridhar Mirajkar & Ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr. [1967 AIR SC 1], wherein, “When a Judge deals with matters brought before him for his adjudication, he first decides questions, of fact on which the parties are at issue, and then applies the relevant law to the said facts. Whether the findings of fact recorded by the Judge are right or wrong, and whether the conclusion of law drawn by him suffers from any infirmity, can be considered and decided if the party aggrieved by the decision of the Judge takes the matter up before the appellate Court.” The court also leaned on the rationale in Union of India & Ors. Vs. Major S.P. Sharma & Ors. (2014) 6 SCC 351, wherein, “A decision rendered by a competent court cannot be challenged in collateral proceedings for the reason that if it is permitted to do so there would be “confusion and chaos and the finality of proceedings would cease to have any meaning.”

Thus, the appeal is allowed by setting aside the judgement passed by the division bench court holding that, “Thus, it is very well settled that it is not permissible for the parties to re-open the concluded judgments of the Court as the same may not only tantamount to an abuse of the process of the Court but would have far reaching adverse effect on the administration of justice.”

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