The Bombay High Court dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the decision of the State of Maharashtra extending the age of retirement of private respondents by three years.
Uday P. Warunjikar, the counsel for the petitioner, submitted that the petitioner is a socio-legal organisation. The petitioner, who verified the PIL petition, claims to be the vice-president of the organisation and a social and RTI activist. The counsel submitted the petitioner had earlier filed writ petition in 2022. The Division Bench of the High Court, under order dated December 19, 2022, did not entertain the same on the ground that the petitioner cannot be said to be prejudiced and that the petitioner is not related to the University, nor is prejudicially affected because of the extension of age granted to private respondents. In view of that present PIL petition is filed.
The counsel for the petitioner argued the extension granted to private respondents up to the age of 65 years is without following proper procedure as enumerated in the Government Resolution dated March 5, 2011.
According to the counsel, before granting extension, it is incumbent upon the institution to publish an advertisement inviting applications for filling in the post.
The said procedure has not been adhered to. In an application filed by the petitioner under Right to Information Act, the information has been supplied that the said procedure of issuing advertisement has to be complied with and the same is mandatory. The petitioner has no personal interest but is trying to bring on record the illegalities committed by the respondent no.1 (State of Maharashtra) in granting extension of service to private respondents. The counsel further submitted that private respondents are principals in different colleges respectively.
The counsel for the petitioner contended the present PIL petition is perfectly maintainable. Reliance is placed on the decision of the Division Bench of the Court in the case of National Association of Blind vs. Bombay Municipal Corporation, Through its Commissioner & Anr., reported in 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 2032. The counsel further submitted the said decision has been relied upon by another Division Bench of this Court, to which one of us (Acting Chief Justice) was party in the case of High Court of Bombay, Bench at Aurangabad, through Registrar (Judicial) vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors., reported in 2021 (6) Mh.L.J. 221.
While considering the PIL, the Division Bench of Acting Chief Justice S.V. Gangapurwala and Justice Sandeep V. Marne observed that in the case of High Court of Bombay, Bench at Aurangabad, through Registrar (Judicial) (Supra), the Suo Motu cognizance was taken by the Division Bench of the Court at Aurangabad about the policy framed by the MSRTC. Under the said policy, the employees who were terminated from service on the ground of proved misconduct were sought to be reinstated.
The Division Bench of this Court found that the said scheme is against the public policy and public interest.
In the case of National Association of Blind (Supra), the Court was concerned with dealing with challenge to the circular issued by the General Administrative Department of the Brihan Mumbai Mahanagar Palika whereby benefit extended to physically disabled employees of the Corporation were sought to be withdrawn with retrospective effect, leaving such employees high and dry. In that context, while deciding the objection regarding maintainability of the PIL, this Court had observed as under: –
“47. Having read all the authorities and the tests laid down therein for entertaining a PIL petition, we can safely hold as follows:
(a) that, this PIL petition is not a camouflage to foster personal disputes;
(b) that, behind the beautiful veil of public interest, an ugly private malice, vested interest and/or publicity seeking is not lurking;
(c) that, this PIL petition is not intended to besmirch the character of others;
(d) that, the information given in the PIL petition is sufficient to show the gravity and seriousness involved; and
(e) that, this PIL petition is not mischievous seeking to assail an executive action for oblique motives.”
In the present case, the petitioner is not seeking writ of quo warranto. It is not the case of the petitioner that private respondents are ineligible and/or incompetent to hold the post of Principals. The private respondents were working as Principals and extension of age of retirement up to 65 years is permissible.
The only submission is that the procedure as laid down under the Government Resolution dated 5th March, 2011 is not adhered to, the Bench observed.
The Division Bench of the High Court in the case of National Association of Blind (Supra), relied upon by the counsel for the petitioner, has also observed that the underlying idea seems to be that the mechanism of public interest litigation having been conceived for the greater public good, the main relief claimed in a PIL petition must not be intended for securing any benefit for an individual holding a public office or for depriving an individual holding a public office of any benefit that has accrued to him, at the instance of the appointee’s competitors or even at the instance of a stranger, since no public interest is served thereby. The Court further observed that an exception to this rule is carved out by the Apex Court. If an appointment of an ineligible candidate is made to a public office, a stranger cannot apply before the Administrative Tribunal to have such appointment set aside, but a writ for quo warranto might lie.
In the present case, the respondent no.1 seeks to deprive an individual holding a office of the principals on the ground that the extension of age has been irregularly granted. In such a case, at the instance of a stranger, the same cannot be entertained as it is not a case of the petitioner that the private respondents are ineligible or incompetent to officiate as Principals of the colleges. In fact, they were officiating as Principals of the colleges and were granted extension of age of retirement relying upon the Government Resolution. The extension till the age of 65 years is permissible. The only objection is that the appropriate procedure is not followed.
The counsel for the petitioner submits that as the High Court has held that the present PIL petition on behalf of a stranger, is not tenable, the Court may suo motu take cognizance of it. The said argument deserves to be rejected in as much as there is no public cause involved in the matter and so also it is not a case of illegality committed, nor that the private respondents are incompetent to hold the post, but only irregularity is alleged, the Court said.