Secretary, Ministry of Works & Anr Vs. Shri Mohinder Singh Jagdev & Ors
 INSC 963 (16
K.Ramaswamy, K.G.B. Pattanaik (J)
JT 1996 (8) 46
O R D
have heard learned Counsel on both sides.
appeal by special leave arises from the judgment and order dated March 22, 1994
made by the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court in RFA (OS) No. 27/94. The
admitted facts are that the respondent came to be appointed on March 7, 1956 as Section officer in the Central
Public Works Department. Thereafter, the Executive Engineer discovered on October 6, 1956 that he had the appointment on
producing false certificates. Consequently, a report was laid under Section
420, 468 and 127, Indian Penal Code and he was kept under suspension.
Independent thereof, exercising the power under Rule 5 of the Central
Government Services (Temporary) Service Rules 1949, his services were
terminated by order dated September 10, 1957. The respondent after his acquittal by the criminal court laid the suit
in forma pauperis on August 13, 1965 seeking declaration that the termination
of his service was wrong, unconstitutional, that he should be deemed to have
continued in service and that he was entitled to Rs.84,000/- by way salary and
damages by way of expenses incurred by him to defend the criminal cases etc.
The trial Judge (single Judge of the High Court) by his judgement dated March 22, 1994, though held that the termination
order was unconstitutional, since he was terminated without compliance of
Article 311(2) of the Constitution, dismissed the suit as barred by limitation.
On appeal, the Division Bench held that the suit was not barred by limitation
for the reason that he had laid the suit after the rejection of his application
for reinstatement and consequent to the acquittal by the criminal court on May 8, 1964 and that, therefore, it was within limitation. The
suit was decreed.
Tamta, learned counsel for the Union of India, contended that the Division
Bench has committed grievous error of law in decreeing the suit. According to
the learned counsel, cause of action for the suit had arisen on September 10, 1957; the limitation for the declaration
of the suit is 3 years from the date of the dismissal. Since the suit was filed
on August 13, 1965, it was clearly barred by
limitation. In support thereof she placed reliance on a decision of this Court
in State of Punjab & Ors. vs Gurdev Singh [JT 1991 (3) SC 465] The learned
counsel also contended that this is not a case of dismissal on the basis of
misconduct an criminal charge but is independent thereof and that, therefore,
the acquittal does not furnish any cause of action to lay the suit as emphasised
by the respondent - plaintiff. The High Court was wrong in laying emphasis in
dayal, learned senior counsel for the respondent, on the other hand, contended
that the order of suspension does indicate that the respondent was kept under
suspension pending criminal proceedings; he was ultimately acquitted.
Thereafter, he made a representation for reinstatement; on its rejection, the
suit came to be laid and, therefore, the suit was not barred by limitation. In
support thereof he placed reliance on two judgments of this Court, viz., Babulal
vs. State of Haryana & Ors [(1991) 2 SCC 335] and State of M.P. vs Syed Qamarali [1967 SLR 228].
also contended that the appeal was incompetent since the respondent had impleaded
the Union of India as the first party- defendant and the aggrieved person would
be only the Union of India and not the Secretary. The Special Leave Petition
also was barred by limitation. He also contends that on the peculiar facts and
circumstances, since the respondent was under suspension right from 1957 and he
had the relief from the Division Bench in 1994 with all consequential benefits,
it may not warrant interference under Article 136 of the Constitution.
given due consideration to the contentions of the counsel and having gone
through the facts and circumstances of the case, first question that arises is:
the appeal has been competently laid? It is not disputed and cannot be disputed
that the Union of India can lay the suit and be sued under Article 300 of the
Constitution in relation to its affairs. Under Section 79 read with Order 27
Rule 1, Code of Civil Procedure, in a suit, by or against the Central
Government, the authority to be named as plaintiff/defendant shall be Union of
India. The Secretary, Ministry of Works and Housing is a limb of the Union of
India transacting its functions on behalf of the Government under the concerned
Department as per the business rules framed under Article 77 of the
the appeal came to be filed by the Secretary, though wrongly described. The
nomenclature given in the cause title as Secretary instead of Union of India,
is not conclusive. The meat of the matter is that the Secretary representing
the Government of India had filed the appeal obviously on behalf of Union of
India. Accordingly, we reject the first contention.
question then is: whether the delay has been properly explained in filing the
special leave petition. The appellants have sufficiently stated the
circumstances in which they came to file the special leave petition after the
expiry of limitation. It is not in dispute that the counsel who appeared for
the Union of India in the High Court had sent his record and intimation of the
result after the expiry of limitation. Therefore, the blame has to be laid on
the counsel who was irresponsible is not informing the Government, after the
appeal was allowed by the High Court.
Government acts only through its officers at diverse stage. The advocate who
appeared for the Union of India had forsaken his responsibility without
informing the Government of the action to be taken on the result of the
decision given by the High Court. Admittedly, after the receipt of the copy of
the judgment from the advocate on September 1, 1994 Several steps have been taken till filing the special leave
petition on 23.1.1995. Proper explanation for 217 days has accordingly been
given in the affidavit filed in support of the SLP. We find that the
explanation offered by the appellant is well acceptable and is accepted.
Accordingly, the delay is not in our view a bar to consider the matter on
merits. Accordingly, the delay is condoned.
crucial question is: whether the suit is barred by limitation? Section 3 of the
Limitation Act, 1963 [for short, the "act"] postulates that the
limitation can be pleaded. If any proceedings have been laid after the expiry
of the period of limitation, the court is bound to take note thereof and grant
appropriate relief and has to dismiss the suit, if it is barred by limitation.
In this case, the relief in the plaint, as stated earlier, is one of
declaration. The declaration is clearly governed by Article 58 of the Schedule
to the Act which envisages that to obtain "any other" declaration the
limitation of three years begins to run from the period when the right to sue "first
accrues". The right to sue had first accrued to the respondent on September 10, 1957 when the respondent's services came
to be terminated. Once limitation starts running, until its running of
limitation has been stopped by an order of the competent civil court or any
other competent authority, it cannot stop. On expiry of three years from the
date of dismissal of the respondent from service, the respondent had lost his
right to sue for the above declaration.
contention of Shri Keshav Dayal is that the order of suspension has been made
pending investigation into the offence. It would contemplate that respondent
has got a right to take action consequent to the result of the criminal case.
Since he was acquitted of the charge on May 8, 1964, cause of action had on that day,
first arisen to the respondent. We find no force in the contention. Three
courses are open to the employer. Firstly to take action in terms of the order
of appointment; Secondly, according to the conduct rules; and thirdly as a
result of criminal case.
this case, the employer had exercised the first option, namely, termination of
service in terms of order of appointment.
of the Rule contemplates that Service can be terminated in terms of
appointment. The terms of appointment clearly mentions that it can be
terminated at any time without notice. Under those circumstances, the
termination is in exercise of the statutory under Rule 5 of the Rules.
decision of this Court in Babulal's case (supra) has no application in this
case. Therein, the foundation of cause of action was the misconduct punishable
under Section 420, IPC, Having been suspended and dismissed from service for these
misconduct, after acquittal he had filed the suit within the limitation.
Therefore, the ratio therein is clearly inapplicable to the facts in the case.
Equally, the decision of the Constitution Bench in Syed Qamarali's case (supra)
is inapplicable. Therein, the suit was filed for declaration that he was
wrongfully dismissed. Therefore, the dismissal order was the foundation for
cause of action.
dismissal of the Departmental's appeal he laid the suit Accordingly, the suit
came to be filed within limitation. It was held that once the dismissal order
was found to be unconstitutional in the eye of law, there is no valid order of
termination, As proposition of law, there cannot be any dispute in that behalf,
But the question is:
the above ratio is applicable to the facts in this case. As already stated, the
employer is entitled to terminate the services of its employee in terms of the
order of appointment which confers power to take action in terms thereof. As
seen, Rule 5 of Rules clearly gives power to terminate the services of the
temporary servant in terms of the order of appointment. Until the temporary
service matures into a permanent, he has no right to the post. At any point of
time before that right accrues, it is open to the employer to terminate the
service in terms of the order of appointment. This question was elaborately
considered by a Bench of three judges of this Court in Gurdev Singh's case
(supra). We respectfully agree with the ratio therein. The High Court wrongly
applied the principle of dismissal followed by conviction for misconduct and
appeal is accordingly allowed and the judgement and order of the Division Bench
is set aside, but, in the circumstances, without costs.