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Orissa High Court rules that PILs cannot be involved in disputes involving matters of service.

In the case of, Hansmina Kumari Das & Ors. v. State of Odisha & Ors. (Case No.: W.P.(C) No. 1966 of 2017, Judgment Dated: 5th August 2022), the Orissa High Court has ruled that cases involving “service matters” cannot be the subject of public interest litigation (PIL). A Division Bench composed of Chief Justice Dr. S. Muralidhar and Justice Radha Krishna Pattanaik applied the aforementioned rule when deciding a case involving alleged irregularities in the appointment of primary school teachers. This rule has been established and reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in numerous cases.

Facts: According to a PIL filed by four people of the Jagatsinghpur District on March 12, 1996, the School and Mass Education Department (S&ME), Government of Odisha, committed numerous irregularities in the appointment of teachers for primary schools. Particularly, it was claimed that fewer deserving individuals were bypassed in favour of those who received higher marks during the screening process when compiling the merit list of qualified teachers for recruitment as primary teachers in Jagatsinghpur. It was claimed that the S&ME Department independently recognised its error and released a new selection list in 2006. The petitioners claimed that many people on this list as well had appointments invalidated since they received lower grades than those who were overlooked and that some of them had also provided fraudulent certificates. The order dated July 13, 2015 by the S&ME Department permitting these people to benefit from the Revised Assured Career Progression (RACP) Scheme served as the immediate impetus for the current petition. They prayed for the court to step in and order the opposing parties “to take immediate steps to remove the disqualified Primary School Teachers from Jagatsinghpur Education District” because it was alleged that the government tried to regularise the employment of some of these illegally appointed Teachers. The second request was for the CBI to conduct an investigation.

Judgement: The Court noted that because the petitioners’ requests concern the legitimacy of various primary school teachers’ employment in Jagatsinghpur as a result of a procedure that started in 1996, they fall under the purview of service law. Sometime in 2006, the select list was published, and appointments were made. However, the petitioners choose to hold off on filing this petition to contest the appointments for more than 11 years. The Madhya Pradesh Panchayat Contractual Teachers (Conditions of Appointment and Services) Rules, 2001 were allegedly broken when contractual teachers were appointed, according to Girjesh Shrivastava (supra), which was a case before the Supreme Court. The reason for the challenge was that there were no accommodations made for former service members, and members of the selection committee had close relatives running for office. In the aforementioned case, the Apex Court cited its prior rulings in Duryodhan Sahoo v. Jitendra Kumar Mishra Association (2006), Dattaraj Nathuji Dr. (1998), B. Srinivasa Reddy v. Karnataka Urban Water Supply & Drainage Board Employees Thaware v. State of Maharashtra (2004), and other cases where it had categorically held that PILs filed while an employee was still the order of the High Court interfering with the PILs was thus thrown aside, and the aforementioned principle was restated in that instance. The Court’s interference with the PILS has been overturned. The Court also pointed out that in the case Central Electricity Supply Utility of Odisha v. Dhobei Sahoo (supra), which was cited by the petitioners’ attorney, the Supreme Court had actually allowed the CESU to appeal and overturned the High Court’s decision to intervene in a PIL based on the alleged claim that the incumbent was ineligible and issue a writ of quo warranto. In actuality, the High Court’s order was overturned. According to the court, the current case does not include a quo warranto issue. It also stated that the word “quo warranto” is not even mentioned in the prayers. As a result, it indicated reluctance to regard the PIL as an attempt to obtain a writ of quo warranto. Second, the Court noted that Opposition Party No. 9 was only one private person who was purportedly disqualified for being hired as a primary school teacher. Even though a number of names are named in Paragraph 4 of the writ petition, the other individuals are not listed as the opposing parties. There was no logical justification offered for this. Additionally, the petitioners’ approach to the Court regarding the allegedly improper appointments was excessively delayed. The selection occurred in 1996, a new selection list was issued in 2006, but the current writ petition was not submitted until February 2nd, 2017. The Bench determined that the petitioners failed to provide a credible justification for their excessive delay in approaching the Court to contest the aforementioned appointments, which were made back in 2006, which lasted approximately 11 years. The Court determined that the writ petition cannot be considered a PIL for the reasons listed above and dismissed it as a result.

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY SNIGDHA DUBEY.

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