Govt. of A.P. Vs. G.
Venkata Ratnam  INSC 1189 (21 July 2008)
IN THE SUPREME COURT
OF INDIA CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION CIVIL APPEAL NO. OF 2008 [Arising out of
SLP) No.5654/07] The Government of A. P. ... Appellant Versus G. Venkata Ratnam
... Respondent ORDER Leave granted.
Heard learned counsel
for the parties.
The respondent is a
Technical Assistant in the Department of Archaeology and Museums, Government of
Andhra Pradesh. He was posted in the Office of Director, Archaeology and
Museums, Hyderabad, where he was able to stay, since his appointment in the
year 1985, uninterruptedly for a period of 20 years. He was transferred from
Hyderabad and posted in the Office of the Assistant Director (Technical),
Archaeology and Museums, Kakinada by an order issued by the Director on 2 29
June, 2005. He challenged his transfer order before the Andhra Pradesh
Administrative Tribunal in O. A. No. 3050 of 2005. At that time his appeal
filed before the departmental authorities was pending. Hence, the Tribunal
disposed of the application by order dated 4 July, 2005 with a direction to the
concerned departmental authority to dispose of the appeal within four weeks.
The departmental appeal was finally dismissed by order dated 3 August, 2005.
The respondent once again approached the Tribunal in O. A.
No. 4048 of 2005 but
the Tribunal declined to interfere in the matter and dismissed the O.A. by
order dated 27 December, 2005.
The respondent took
the challenge to his transfer order to the Andhra Pradesh High Court in Writ
Petition No.2886 of 2006. The High Court allowed the writ petition and set
aside the order of the respondent's transfer by judgment and order dated 23
February, 2007. The State has come in appeal against the judgment and order
passed by the High Court.
The High Court
judgment is wholly untenable and, we regret to say, it is rather unusual and
strange. The judgment was apparently delivered in anger. The anger might have
been caused by the Government Pleader or the Director (the second respondent
before the High Court) but as a result the Court not only lost the judicial
poise and restraint but also arrived at completely unfounded conclusions. The
judgment quotes a passage from William Dalrymple's book, `The Last Mughal'
about how the Red Fort at 3 Delhi was vandalized by the British and how the
damages of the colonial times are perpetuated by the Archaeological Survey Of
India . One fails to see how the Red Fort, the maintenance of which the
Government of Andhra Pradesh is not even remotely connected with, comes into
all this. The reference to the plight of the Red Fort is followed by the
observation that the ancient monuments and archaeological sites in Andhra
Pradesh too are in no better state. In this way the Court declares that the agencies
and the people entrusted with the responsibility to preserve and maintain the
country's historical heritage are quite incapable and inefficient in the
discharge of the responsibility. But once again we fail to see the relevance of
all this to the simple issue before the Court. Unfortunately this is not the
only incongruity. The judgment makes, at more than one place, highly caustic
comments about Government Officers, especially the members of the Central Civil
Service, which in the facts and circumstances of the case appear to us to be
completely uncalled for.
The Court seems to
have been completely taken in by the ipse dixit of the respondent and his tall
claims about his own ability and virtually allowed him to choose his own place
of posting. The judgment at its beginning recounts the respondent's
qualifications that include two Master's degrees, one in Sanskrit and the other
in Archaeology, a B. Ed. degree in Sanskrit and the degree of Sahitya Shiromani
from Sri 4 Venkateswara University. The judgment then proceeds to observe as
as it appears from the pleadings is a highly qualified man. The confidence with
which he made assertion in the affidavit dated 13.3.2006 to the effect that `if
any other employee has my skill, knowledge, expertise and experience I forego
my job' makes this Court examine this matter in depth and not treat the
impugned order as a mere order of transfer in the course of
It further observes
as follows:- "The petitioner asserted in his affidavit dated 13.3.2006
that he has expertise in deciphering early Rock and Stone and Copper Plates
inscriptions in Brahmi, early Telugu and Kannada, Nagari, Tamil and Tamil
Grandha. He further asserted that other than the petitioner that no other employee
in the entire Archaeology Department with the expertise, knowledge or
experience in these matter and that his services are required more at the head
The Court then
purports to remind itself that transfer is an incidence of service and is not
to be lightly interfered with. It proceeds to elaborate that this judicial
policy is based on two reasons, one the continuance of an employee of the State
Government at one particular place for a long time is likely to create
undesirable consequences like creation of vested interests and misuse of the
power that comes with the employment under the State and the other being the
exigencies of the administration requiring the 5 service of a particular
person at a particular place. It then proceeds to explain away that the first
reason, that is, the undesirability of stay at anyone place for a long time
should not apply to the case of the respondent because in Archaeology, in any
event one worked in ancient times and dealt with `the dry bones of history'.
The Court then went
on to hold that the respondent's transfer was also not made in administrative
exigencies. For arriving at this finding the Court refers to the catalogues of
manuscripts, in different languages that are kept in Hyderabad and in Kakinada and
accepts the petitioner's assertion that with his knowledge and ability he is
most suited to work at the head office in Hyderabad than in any other place in
the State. The Court refers to the respondent's assertion in his affidavit that
in the entire Archaeology Department there is no other employee equaling him in
expertise, knowledge and experience in these matters and that his services are
required more at the head office and points out that in the counter affidavit
filed by the Director there was no express contradiction of the assertion. It
is observed as follows:- "She is conspicuously silent about the nature of
the work that is required to be carried at the State Museum at Hyderabad and
also whether there is any other person who is qualified to carry on the said
6 Lastly, the Court
finds that in the original proposal for transfer made by the Director the
respondent's place of posting was shown as Kurnool.
The Court observes
that there was no explanation why the respondent was finally transferred to
Kakinada in place of Kurnool. On these materials, the Court came to the
conclusion that the transfer of the respondent was clearly not bona fide, to
say the least.
We are surprised to
see the High Court castigating the respondent's transfer order as lacking in
bona fide on such flimsy and fanciful pleas advanced by the respondent. We are
more than satisfied that the High Court's finding regarding lack of bona fide
in the matter on the part of the State Government is completely unfounded and
untenable. The legal position regarding interference by Courts in the matter of
transfer is too well established to be repeated here. The respondent's transfer
neither suffers from violation of any statutory rules nor can it be described
as mala fide by any stretch of imagination. We are, accordingly, unable to
sustain the High Court's order. In the result this appeal is allowed, the order
coming under challenge is set aside and the writ petition filed by the
respondent in the High Court is dismissed.
At the conclusion of
the hearing of the case, counsel for the respondent stated that the Government
had reconsidered the matter. It was 7 willing to bring back the respondent to
Hyderabad and an order to that effect was likely to be issued. We have got
nothing to say in the matter.