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Rakesh Kumar Pandey v. State Of U.P. & Anr. - SPECIAL APPEAL No. 825 of 2004  RD-AH 1743 (17 December 2004)
SPECIAL APPEAL NO. (825) OF 2004
Rakesh Kumar Pandey .......... Petitioner
State of U.P.& anr. ............ Respondents
Hon'ble Dr. B.S. Chauhan, J.
Hon'ble Dilip Gupta, J.
(By Hon'ble Dr. B.S. Chauhan,J)
Heard learned counsel for the appellant and learned Standing Counsel for the respondents.
This special appeal has been filed against the judgment and order of the learned Single Judge dated 7/5/2004 dismissing the writ petition of the appellant/petitioner.
The facts and circumstances giving rise to this case are that the petitioner-appellant, who had been a Roller Cleaner/Driver, was appointed on 17/4/1978. His grievances had been that he had been regularized subsequent to the date persons junior to him had been regularized. Petitioner-appellant had been regularized with effect from 25/2/1997, though three persons namely Awadh Narain, Shri Ram Bahadur and Ramesh Kumar Shukla who had been much junior to him had been regularized with effect from 24/12/1988, 1/7/1990 and 6/12/1990. Being aggrieved he filed the writ petition which had been dismissed on the ground of availability of alternative remedy before the Uttar Pradesh Public Service Commission. Hence, this appeal.
Without entering into the merits of the case, as to whether appellant should have been relegated to the appropriate forum, we are of the opinion that the petition should not be entertained at such a belated stage, as the persons junior to him had been regularized in 1988-1990 and petitioner-appellant did not challenge their regularization for such a long period. More so, none of them has been impleaded either in the writ petition or in the special appeal. In fact, appellant-petitioner is fighting for seniority, indirectly which cannot be granted to him in absence of the parties, who had been regularized before him, as they are necessary parties. (Vide Prabodh Verma Vs. State of U.P., AIR 1985, SC 167; Ishar Singh Vs. Kuldeep Singh 1995 (Supp) 1, SCC 179; Bhagwati & Ors. Vs. Subordinate Service Selection Board, Haryana & Ors., 1995 (Supp) 2 SCC 663; Central Bank of India Vs. S. Satyam & Ors., (1996) 6 SCC 419; J. Jose Dhanapaul Vs. S. Thomas & Ors., (1996) 3 SCC 587; Arun Tiwari & Ors. Vs. Zila Manasavi Shikshak Sangh & Ors., AIR 1998 SC 331; Azar Hasan & Ors. Vs. District Judge, Saharanpur 1998, 3 SCC 246; Ram Swarup & Ors. Vs. S.N. Maira & Ors., (1999) 1 SCC 738; Chandra Kishore Singh Vs. State of Manipur & Ors., (1999) 8 S.C.C. 287; Mohd. Riazul Usman Gani & Ors. Vs. District & Sessions Judge, Nagpur & Ors., (2000) 2 SCC 606; Nirmala Anand Vs. Advent Corporation (P) Ltd. & Ors., (2002) 5 SCC 481 and M.P. Rajya Sahkari Bank Maryadit Vs. Indian Coffee Workers' Cooperative Society Ltd. & Ors (2002) 9 SCC 204; and Ramrao & Ors. Vs. All India Backward Class Bank Employees Welfare Association & Ors., (2004) 2 SCC 1976).
Even otherwise, the appellant-petitioner has not challenged the seniority list issued about a decade ago, in which all the three persons had been placed over and above to him. Learned counsel for the appellant has suggested that he be given time to file applications for impleadment as well as amendment, challenging the said seniority list. However, we do not consider it necessary for the reason that, it is not permissible for him in law, to challenge the seniority list at such a belated stage.
A Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court, in Ramchandra Shanker Deodhar & ors. Vs. State of Maharashtra & ors., AIR 1974 SC 259, considered the effect of delay in challenging the seniority list and held that any claim for seniority at a belated stage should be rejected inasmuch as it seeks to disturb the vested rights of other persons regarding seniority, rank and promotion which have accrued to them during the intervening period. While deciding the said case, the Apex Court placed reliance upon its earlier judgments, particularly in Tilokchand Motichand Vs. H.B. Munshi, AIR 1970 SC 898, wherein it has been observed that the principle, on which the Court proceeds in refusing relief to the petitioner on the ground of laches or delay, is that the rights, which have accrued to others by reasons of delay in filing the writ petition should not be allowed to be disturbed unless there is a reasonable explanation for delay. The Court further observed as under:-
"A party claiming fundamental rights must move the Court before others' rights come out into existence. The action of the courts cannot harm innocent parties if their rights emerge by reason of delay on the part of person moving the court."
The Apex Court also placed reliance upon its earlier judgment in R.N. Bose Vs. Union of India & ors., AIR 1970 SC 470, wherein it has been observed as under:-
"It would be unjust to deprive the respondents of the rights which have accrued to them. Each person ought to be entitled to sit back and consider that his appointment and promotion effected a long time ago would not be defeated after the number of years."
In R.S. Makashi Vs. I.M. Menon & ors., AIR 1982 SC 101, the Apex Court considered the entire aspect of limitation, delay and laches in filing the writ petition. The Court also referred to its earlier judgment in State of Madhya Pradesh & Anr. Vs. Bhailal Bhai etc. etc., AIR 1964 SC 1006, wherein it has been observed that the maximum period fixed by the Legislature as the time within which the relief by a suit in a civil court must be brought, may ordinarily be taken to be a reasonable standard by which delay in seeking the remedy under Article 226 of the Constitution can be measured. The Court further considered the issue and held as under:-
"We must administer justice in accordance with law and principle of equity, justice and good conscience. It would be unjust to deprive the respondents of the rights which have accrued to them. Each person ought to be entitled to sit back and consider that his appointment and promotion effected a long time ago would not be set-aside after the lapse of a number of years...... The petitioners have not furnished any valid explanation whatever for the inordinate delay on their part in approaching the court with the challenge against the seniority principles laid down in the Government Resolution of 1968..... We would accordingly hold that the challenge raised by the petitioners against the seniority principles laid down in the Government Resolution of March 2, 1968 ought to have been rejected by the High Court on the ground of delay and laches and the writ petition, in so far as it related to the prayer for quashing the said Government Resolution, should have been dismissed."
The issue of challenging the existing seniority list, which continued to be in existence for a long time, was again considered by the Hon'ble Apex Court in K.R. Mudgal & ors. Vs. R.P. Singh & ors., AIR 1986 SC 2086 and the Apex Court held as under:-
"Satisfactory service conditions postulate that there shall be no sense of uncertainty amongst the Government servants created by writ petitions filed after several years as in this case. It is essential that any one who feels aggrieved by the seniority assigned to him, should approach the Court as early as possible otherwise in addition to creation of sense of insecurity in the mind of Government servants, there shall also be administrative complication and difficulties.......In these circumstances we consider that the High Court was wrong in rejecting the preliminary objection raised on behalf of the respondents to the writ petition on the ground of laches."
While deciding the case, the Apex Court placed reliance upon its earlier judgment in Melcom Lawrance Cecil D'Souza Vs. Union of India & ors., AIR 1975 SC 1269, wherein it had been observed as under:-
"Although security of service cannot be used as a shield against the administrative action for lapse of a public servant, by and large one of the essential requirement of contentment and efficiency in public services is a feeling of security. It is difficult no doubt to guarantee such security in all its varied aspects, it should at least be possible to ensure that matters like one's position in the seniority list after having been settled for once should not be liable to be re-opened after lapse of many years in the instance of a party who has itself intervening party chosen to keep quiet. Raking up old matters like seniority after a long time is likely to resort in administrative complications and difficulties. It would, therefore, appear to be in the interest of smoothness and efficiency of service that such matters should be given a quietus after lapse of some time."
In B.S. Bajwa Vs. State of Punjab & ors., (1998) 2 SCC 523, the Hon'ble Apex Court has taken the same view, observing as under:-
"It is well settled that in service matters, the question of seniority should not be re-opened in such situations after the lapse of reasonable period because that results in disturbing the settled position which is not justifiable. There was inordinate delay in the present case for making such a grievance. This along was sufficient to decline interference under Article 226 and to reject the writ petition."
In Dinikar Anna Patil & Anr. Vs. State of Maharashtra, (1999) 1 SCC 353, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that delay and laches in challenging the seniority is always fatal, but in case the party satisfies the court regarding delay, the case may be considered.
In K.A. Abdul Majeed Vs. State of Kerala & ors., (2001) 6 SCC 294, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that seniority assigned to any employee could not be challenged after a lapse of seven years; though even on merit it was found that seniority of the petitioner therein had correctly been fixed.
Thus, in view of the above, the settled legal proposition that emerges is that once the seniority had been fixed and it remains in existence for a reasonable period, it cannot be challenged and changed on any ground whatsoever.
It is settled law that fence-sitters cannot be allowed to raise the dispute or challenge the validity of the order after its conclusion. (Vide Aflatoon & ors. Vs. Lt. Governor, Delhi & ors., AIR 1974 SC 2077; State of Mysore Vs. V.K. Kangan & ors., AIR 1975 SC 2190; Pt. Girdharan Prasad Missir Vs. State of Bihar & ors., (1980) 2 SCC 83; H.D. Vora Vs. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1984 SC 866; Bhoop Singh Vs. Union ofIndia, AIR 1992 SC 1414; The Ramjas Foundation & ors. Vs. Union of India & ors., AIR 1993 SC 852; Ram Chand Vs. Union of India, (1994) 1 SCC 44; State of Maharashtra Vs. Digambar, AIR 1995 SC 1991; Municipal Corporation of Greater Bombay Vs. Industrial Development Investment Co. (P) Ltd. & ors., (1996) 11 SCC 501; Padma Vs. Dy. Secy. to the Govt. of Tamil Nadu, (1997) 2 SCC 627; Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd. Vs. Dolly Das, (1999) 4 SCC 450; Life Insurance Corporation of India Vs. Jyotish Chandra Biswas, (2000) 6 SCC 562; L. Muthu Kumar & Anr. Vs. State of Tamil Nadu & ors., (2000) 7 SCC 618; Municipal Council, Ahmednagar & Anr. Vs. Shah Hyder Beig & ors., AIR 2000 SC 671; and Inder Jit Gupta Vs. Union of India & ors., (2001) 6 SCC 637.
The issue of delay in filing the writ petition was considered by the Hon'ble Apex Court in Smt. Sudama Devi Vs. Commissioner & ors., (1983) 2 SCC 1, wherein the Apex Court has observed as under:-
"There is no period of limitation prescribed by any law for filing the writ petition under Article 226 of the Constitution. It is, in fact, doubtful whether any such period of limitation can be prescribed by law. In any event, one thing is clear and beyond doubt that no such period of limitation can be laid down either under the rules made by the High Court or by practice. For every case, it would have to be decided on the facts and circumstances whether the petitioner is guilty of laches and that would have to be done without taking into account any specific period as period of limitation. There may be cases where even short delay may be fatal while there may be cases where even a long delay may not be evidence of laches on the part of the petitioner."
Similarly, in State of U.P. Vs. Raj Bahadur Singh & Anr., (1998) 8 SCC 685; the Hon'ble Apex Court held that "there is no time limit for filing the writ petition. All that the Court has to see is whether the laches on the part of the petitioner are such as to disentitle him to the relief claimed by him."
In S.K. Mastanee Bee Vs. General Manager, South Central Railways & ors., (2003) 1 SCC 184, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that entitlement of a particular right guaranteed under hapness condition of a party may be a ground to entertain a petition even at a belated stage. But that was a case where third party's interest had not crystallized.
In Northern Indian Glass Industries Vs. Jaswant Singh & ors., (2003) 1 SCC 335, the Hon'ble Apex Court held that the High Court cannot ignore the delay and laches in approaching the writ court and there must be satisfactory explanation by the petitioner as how he could not come to the Court well in time.
In view of the above, petition suffers from delay and laches as well as for non-joinder of parties.
We therefore uphold the judgment of the learned Judge to the extent that the petition should be dismissed but set aside that part which permits the petitioner to seek the alternative remedy. Subject to the aforesaid, the appeal is dismissed. There shall be no orders as to costs.
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