BHILAI STEEL PLANT, BHILAI vs MAHESH KUMAR GONNADE & ORS - Supreme Court Case

BHILAI STEEL PLANT, BHILAI  vs MAHESH KUMAR GONNADE & ORS - Supreme Court Case 

Landmark Cases of India / सुप्रीम कोर्ट के ऐतिहासिक फैसले


[REPORTABLE]
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO._4990 OF 2021
THE CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER,
BHILAI STEEL PLANT, BHILAI APPELLANT(S)
VERSUS
MAHESH KUMAR GONNADE & ORS. RESPONDENT(S)
J U D G M E N T
Hrishikesh Roy, J.
1. Heard Mr. Maninder Singh, the learned Senior Counsel
appearing on behalf of the appellant. Also heard Mr.
Anupam Lal Das, the learned Senior Counsel representing
the respondent no. 1. The State of Chhattisgarh is
represented by Mr. Sumir Sodhi, the learned counsel.
2. The challenge in this appeal is to the judgment and
order dated 09.01.2017 in the WP No. 675/2016 whereby
the Division Bench has interfered with the order passed
Page 1 of 15
by the Central Administrative Tribunal (for short
“CAT”) and granted relief to the writ petitioner
(respondent no. 1) whose termination order dated
24.10.2015 was set aside with the declaration that he
would be entitled to all the consequential benefits,
including seniority and back wages.
RELEVANT FACTS
3. On 11.09.1987, the respondent no.1 obtained a Caste
Certificate showing him to be “Halba” Scheduled Tribe
(hereinafter “ST”) from the Deputy Collector, Durg and
on the basis of the said certificate, the respondent
no.1 on 18.09.1995, joined service as a Management
Trainee (Technical) against a Schedule Tribe quota
vacancy at the Bhillai Steel Plant of the Steel
Authority of India Limited (SAIL). In 2008, questions
were raised on the caste status of the respondent no.1,
and his entitlement to the benefits meant for the
Scheduled Tribe category, and accordingly, his caste
certificate was forwarded to the High-Level Caste
Scrutiny Committee, Raipur to determine whether he
Page 2 of 15
belonged to Halba Scheduled Tribe community or
“Halba/Koshti” the Other Backward Class (hereinafter
“OBC”) community. The Committee, after due inquiry, on
15.07.2015 submitted a report stating that respondent
no.1 belongs to Halba/Koshti community, which is
categorized as OBC in the State of Chhattisgarh, and
thus, he does not belong to Halba Scheduled Tribe
community. Accordingly, the respondent no.1’s Halba ST
Certificate dated 11.09.1987 was cancelled with the
observation that the respondent no.1 failed to produce
documents prior to the year 1950 showing him as Halba.
Following the cancellation of the ST Certificate, the
Vigilance Department of the State of Chhattisgarh, on
23.07.2015, issued communication to the employer i.e.,
Bhillai Steel Plant for necessary action. In
consequence thereof, and the adverse finding of the
Committee, order for termination of the respondent
no.1’s service was issued on 24.10.2015. The Bhillai
Steel Plant also ordered for forfeiture of all the
Page 3 of 15
service benefits of the respondent no.1 such as CPF,
Gratuity, Pension, Leave Encashment etc.
4. The respondent no.1 moved the Central
Administrative Tribunal (CAT), to challenge the
termination but his OA 1115/2015 came to be dismissed
in limine because he had not challenged the adverse
finding (15.07.2015) of the High-Level Caste Scrutiny
Committee, Raipur.
5. Thereafter, the respondent no.1 filed a writ
petition before the High Court of Chhattisgarh
challenging the CAT’s decision and seeking protection
of his service. The Division Bench of the High Court by
placing reliance on State of Maharashtra Vs. Milind and
Ors.1 (hereinafter “Milind”) through the impugned
judgment granted relief to the writ petitioner. In the
process, the High Court overlooked that the writ
petitioner opted to abstain from the proceedings of the
High-Level Caste Scrutiny Committee. Moreover, by this
time it was made clear that Halba/Koshti is not a sub1 (2001) 1 SCC 4
Page 4 of 15
caste of Halba. Therefore, the respondent no.1 being an
OBC (Halba/Koshti) could not have claimed recognition
and employment benefits reserved for members of the
Halba ST community under the Milind’s ratio.
ARGUMENTS BY THE COUNSELS
6.1 Assailing the impugned judgment, Mr. Maninder
Singh, the learned Senior Counsel firstly argues that
the High Court erroneously relied on the ratio in
Milind (supra) and also conspicuously missed the point
that the relief in the cited case was restricted to the
concerned litigant and the ratio was not intended to be
of universal application. Placing strong reliance on
Union of India vs. Dattatray & Ors.2 (hereinafter
“Dattatray”), the appellant’s counsel then argues that
the Milind’s judgment was made applicable only for the
doctor litigant in the larger interest of the society
and the ratio thereof, cannot be indiscriminately
applied in cases of persons who undeservingly secure
public appointments to reserved category jobs.
2 (2008) 4 SCC 612
Page 5 of 15
6.2 It is the submission of the Senior Counsel for the
appellant that the judgment in Milind (supra) was
clarified by this Court in Dattatray (supra) that
Milind does not propound retention of any person in
service who secured employment in a ST category
vacancy, on the basis of a false caste certificate. For
this reason, the earlier Government Circular dated
1.10.2011 (which on account of Milind’s judgment
granted protection to the pre 28.11.2000 appointees
recruited wrongly under the ST category), was cancelled
by the latter circular dated 11.1.2016 issued by the
Secretary, GAD, Chhattisgarh with the specific
observation that the judgment in Milind was clarified
by this Court in Dattatray. Mr. Maninder Singh,
therefore, argues that consequential action was rightly
taken in view of the cancellation of earlier circular
(1.10.2011).
6.3 The High Court according to the appellant,
erroneously granted relief to the respondent no.1 as he
neither challenged the circular dated 11.1.2016 nor the
Page 6 of 15
adverse conclusion of the Caste Scrutiny Committee.
Therefore, in view of the undisturbed finding that he
does not belong to the ST category and the unchallenged
Circular (11.1.2016), relief could not have been
granted by the High Court. Furthermore, the respondent
no.1 never tried to establish the validity of his caste
certificate before the High-Power Caste Scrutiny
Committee, although, opportunity was afforded to him
through a notice, to project his version.
7.1 Per contra, Mr. Anupam Lal Das, the learned Senior
Counsel would contend that the respondent no.1 had
obtained his caste certificate on 11.09.1987 and joined
service as far back as on 18.09.1995 and as such, his
service could not have been terminated without issuing
him a show cause notice.
7.2 Adverting next to the adverse finding as given by
the High-Power Caste Scrutiny Committee to the effect
that the respondent no.1 does not belong to the Halba
ST community, Mr. Das would argue that the adverse
conclusion was drawn mainly because the respondent no.1
Page 7 of 15
failed to produce any pre 1950 document, showing his
caste as Halba. But since the respondent no.1’s
appointment became final prior to 28.11.2000 i.e., the
date on which this Court decided the C.A. No.2294/1986
(State of Maharashtra vs. Milind), the appointed person
even with the adverse finding of the Caste Scrutiny
Committee against him, is entitled to retain his job.
Furthermore, the Central Government vide its circular
dated 10.8.2010 had ordered for protection of
employment of those belonging to the Halba/Koshti
community. Thus, according to the learned Senior
Counsel, the High Court, rightly granted relief to the
respondent no.1 in his Writ Petition and the same
should not be disturbed in this appeal.
8. The stand of the State of Chhattisgarh (respondent
nos.2 and 3) as pleaded in their counter affidavit is
that respondent no.1 (not being a ST category person)
is disentitled to continue in service, as he secured
employment to a post earmarked for the ST category.
Moreover, since the respondent no.1 does not belong to
Page 8 of 15
the reserved category and secured employment on the
basis of a false caste certificate, he was disentitled
to any relief in view of the law laid down in Chairman
and Managing Director, Food Corporation of India & Ors.
vs. Jagdish Balaram Bahira & Ors.
3 (hereinafter
“Jagdish”).
THE DISCUSSION AND THE DECISION
9. At the outset, given that the Jagdish (supra) as
relied on by respondent nos.2 & 3 was pronounced on
06.07.2017, almost 6 months after the impugned judgment
on 09.01.2017, the same could not have been considered
by the High Court. With this prefatory clarification,
the issue to be answered in this matter is whether the
High Court had correctly relied on the ratio in Milind
(supra) in granting relief to the writ petitioner
(respondent no.1), and whether the impugned decision of
the High Court is sustainable in view of the
clarification of the Milind by the subsequent judgment
in Dattatray (supra).
3 (2017) 8 SCC 670
Page 9 of 15
10. As can be seen, the High Court granted relief to
the respondent no.1 by referring to the decision in
Milind (supra) with the following words: -
“15. For the aforesaid, we are of the considered
view that the impugned judgment rendered by the
Central Administrative Tribunal, refusing to extend
benefit of Milind’s judgment to the petitioners
deserves to be and is hereby set-aside.
Consequently, the petitioner’s termination vide
order dated 24.10.2015 is also set-aside. The
petitioner would be entitled to all the
consequential benefits on or after 24.10.2015
including seniority and back wages. However, the
petitioner shall not be entitled to any interest on
the arrears of salary nor any further benefit on
the basis of certificate which has been cancelled
by the High Power Caste Scrutiny Committee.”
11. While applying the ratio of Milind as above, the
High Court, however, failed to take note of the
following clarification given in Dattatray (supra),
regarding the ratio in Milind: -
“5. ………But the said decision has no application to
a case which does not relate to an admission to an
educational institution, but relates to securing
employment by wrongly claiming the benefit of
reservation meant for Scheduled Tribes. When a person
secures employment by making a false claim regarding
caste/tribe, he deprives a legitimate candidate
belonging to Scheduled Caste/Tribe, of employment. In
such a situation, the proper course is to cancel the
employment obtained on the basis of the false
certificate so that the post may be filled up by a
Page 10 of 15
candidate who is entitled to the benefit of
reservation.”
12. The pronouncement in Dattatray clearly suggests
that the High Court misapplied the ratio in Milind,
since the appointment of the respondent no. 1 as
Management Trainee (Technical), cannot be compared to
the education and appointment of a medical doctor.
13. It must also be borne in mind that the Division
Bench of the Chhattisgarh High Court in the common
judgment in Writ Appeal No.531 of 2016 (State of
Chhattisgarh & Ors. vs. Dinesh Kumar Sonkusre) had made
the following observations: -
“40. It would be pertinent to mention that the State
of Chhattisgarh was formed w.e.f. 01.11.2000 and the
judgment in Milind (supra) was rendered on 28.11.2000
and the protection can only be given to those who were
actually “Halba-Koshti” or “Koshti” for the State of
Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh prior to 28.11.2000
and were therefore treated as “Halbas”.
41. Having held so, we want to clarify that the
notification dated 11.1.2016 is not bad in law. It
will however have to be read in the context of the law
laid down by the Apex Court in various judgements as
explained by us above. This notification may not apply
to those petitioners who have obtained jobs prior to
28.11.2000 provided they have obtained Scheduled Tribe
Page 11 of 15
certificate “bona fide” and without suppression or
misrepresentation of any facts. In case, a person is
not a “Halba Koshti” in relation to State of Madhya
Pradesh, then that person is not entitled to any
protection of law. If a person has obtained a false
certificate by misrepresentation of facts or providing
wrong information, then that the person is also not
entitled to any protection. It is only those who were
actually “Halba Koshti” or “Koshti” believed that they
were members of “Halba”, a Scheduled Tribe and who got
jobs prior to 28.11.2000, are entitled to such
protection. This protection cannot be extended to all
and sundry. To give an example if “Halba Koshti” from
the State of Maharashtra had shifted to State of
Madhya Pradesh, then he would not be “Halba Koshti”
belonging to Madhya Pradesh and as such, his
certificate would be totally false and such a person
would not be entitled to any protection.”
14. As we notice, the High Court disregarded the
Government’s circular dated 11.01.2016 whereby the
previous circular (01.10.2011) was cancelled with the
specific observation that Milind’s judgment was
clarified subsequently in Dattatray, by declaring that
when a person secures appointment on the basis of a
false certificate, he cannot be permitted to retain the
benefit of wrongful appointment. In fact, necessary
actions were expected to be taken against those who
secured unmerited appointment on the basis of false
caste certificate. Pertinently, the respondent no.1
Page 12 of 15
could have (but never did) challenge, the circular
dated 11.01.2016 which required the Government to
cancel such unmerited appointment.
15. As noted earlier, the respondent no.1 secured
employment to a post earmarked for the reserved
category, and there is a clear finding by the Caste
Scrutiny Committee that the respondent no.1 does not
belong to the Halba ST category. The Halba ST
certificate (11.09.1987) on the basis of which the
respondent No.1 secured employment was cancelled by the
Committee on 15.07.2015, and such finding of the Caste
Scrutiny Committee remain unchallenged till date. As a
consequence, the respondent no.1 is disentitled to
claim any equitable relief by virtue of his long
service, particularly when he, despite the notice,
avoided the proceedings of the Caste Scrutiny
Committee. Also conspicuously, he does not challenge
the adverse finding against him. Moreover, it is not
the claim of the Respondent no.1 that he belongs to the
ST category nor did he ever challenge the clarificatory
Page 13 of 15
circular (11.01.2016) which cancels the earlier
circular (01.10.2011). In such circumstances, an
opportunity to the respondent no.1 would be futile
because he could not have claimed that he belongs to
the ST category since his Halba caste certificate
(issued on 11.09.1987) stood cancelled by the
Committee. Consequently, as an OBC person, the
respondent no.1 could not have been permitted to
continue in a post meant for the ST category. The High
Court, therefore, should not have granted relief by
invoking the principles of natural justice, and by
adverting to the ratio in Milind (supra) which was not
applicable to the respondent no.1, and which eventually
was clarified in Dattatray (supra).
16. The above would show that the High Court clearly
fell into an error by granting relief to the respondent
no.1 who is disentitled to claim any right to continue
in a post earmarked for the ST category. The ratio in
Milind (supra) was incorrectly applied in the impugned
judgment since it is not the case of the respondent
Page 14 of 15
no.1 that he belongs to the ST category. According to
our understanding of the circumstances, the High Court
instead of granting equitable relief to the Respondent
no. 1, should have held that he cannot continue to
usurp the benefits meant for a ST category person.
Indeed the Division Bench should have said “the game is
up” as was pronounced by Shakespeare in the play
Cymbeline when the character stood exposed for what he
actually was. Consequently we are of the opinion that
the Respondent no. 1 being an OBC cannot be retained in
a ST category post. However the emoluments paid to him
should not be recovered. It is further held that the
respondent no.1 is disentitled to any pensionary
benefit by virtue of his wrongful appointment. It is
ordered accordingly. The appeal therefore stands
allowed, leaving the parties to bear their own costs.
………………………………………………………J.
 [SANJAY KISHAN KAUL]
………………………………………………………J.
 [HRISHIKESH ROY]
NEW DELHI
JULY 11, 2022
Page 15 of 15

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

100 Questions on Indian Constitution for UPSC 2020 Pre Exam

संविधान की प्रमुख विशेषताओं का उल्लेख | Characteristics of the Constitution of India

भारतीय संविधान से संबंधित 100 महत्वपूर्ण प्रश्न उतर