When the Writ Petition is barred by delay and laches, the merits of the case are not required to be considered: Supreme Court

The learned Single Judge ought not to   have   entertained   the   writ   petition on the ground of delay and laches alone as held by the Hon’ble Supreme Court through the learned bench of Justice M. R. Shah in the case of The State of Rajasthan & Ors. v. Surji Devi (CIVIL APPEAL NO.6205 OF 2021)

Brief facts of the case are that the late husband of the respondent herein late Shri Rameshwar   Lal   was   serving as Gram   Sevak.   He   was suspended from service vide order dated 08.01.1996 on the ground of willful absence from duty and not completing the audit.   The   administrative   committee   of   Panchayat   Samiti Nokha in its meting dated 26.02.1996 took a decision to remove him from service. That thereafter a public notice was published whereby Rameshwar Lal was directed to join his duties within a period of 15 days with explanation. Even after the completion of 15 days he did not join his duties. Thereafter the services of late husband of the respondent   were   terminated   vide   order   dated   16.12.1996 invoking the provisions of Section 91 (3) of the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 and Rule 86 of Rajasthan Services Rules, 1951. The late husband of the respondent preferred an appeal against the order of termination before   the   District   Establishment Committee, Zila Parishad, Bikaner. During the pendency of the said appeal the employee – Rameshwar Lal passed away on   18.09.2009.  

Thereafter   the   respondent   herein preferred a writ petition before the High Court challenging   the dismissal/termination order dated 16.12.1996. By judgment and   order   dated   17.01.2017,   the   learned   Single   Judge allowed the said writ petition and quashed and set aside the order   of   termination   dated   16.12.1996   and   directed   the appellants   to   give   all   consequential   benefits   to   the respondent treating her husband to be superannuated on 16.12.1996. The judgment and order passed by the learned Single Judge has been confirmed by the Division Bench, by the impugned judgment and order. Hence the present appeal.

After hearing the learned counsels for the respective parties at length the Hon’ble Court noted that considering   the   aforesaid   facts   and circumstances, as such, the learned Single Judge ought not to   have   entertained   the   writ   petition   in   the   year   2012, challenging the order of termination passed on 16.12.1996, on the ground of delay and laches alone. The Court held that “The impugned judgment and order dated 01.03.2019 passed by the Division Bench of the High Court as well as the judgment and order dated 17.01.2017 passed by the learned Single Judge are hereby quashed and set aside. In the facts and circumstances of the case, there shall be no order as to costs.”

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Judgment reviewed by Vandana Ragwani

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