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Limitation does not strictly apply to proceedings under Article 32 & 226 of the constitution, ne

Chairman/Managing Director, U.P. Power Corporation Ltd. & others VERSUS Ram Gopal ., CIVIL APPEAL NO. 852 OF 2020 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 36253 of 2016] WITH CRIMINAL APPEAL NO. 204 OF 2020 [Arising out of Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 2014 of 2017]

Uttar Pradesh Power Corp. Ltd. Had conducted selection for certain Class IV positions and declared results on 31.08.1978. Subsequently, the Respondent emerged as a successful candidate. Later it was discovered that there were irregularities in selection process and the selections conducted were cancelled and the appointees were terminated. Shyam Behari Lal whose case is largely looked into, was a successful candidate and who was also terminated, promptly approached the Jurisdiction High court and filed a writ petition. Though the writ petition was liable to be dismissed on merits considering the peculiar circumstances wherein Shyam Behari Lal had already served the UPPCL for 17 years, rendering him jobless might be too harsh a consequence. The Respondent filed a writ petition in 1990, which was allowed in 2007 on the premise that the matter was “squarely covered” by the decision of the High Court in Shyam Behari Lal’s case. The aggrieved UPPCL preferred Special Appeal was dismissed by a Division Bench. And held that the case had similarities.

It was contented by UPPCL refuting the Respondent’s claim of illegal termination and urged that there is no correlation in law or any similarity in facts between the case of Shyam Behari Lal and the present case of Respondent. Whereas the Respondent counsel urged that what holds true for one candidate must necessarily also hold true for the other; and it would be iniquitous and unequal to give rise to a situation where similarly placed persons end up in vastly different situations.

The Court found that the impugned order of the High Court is legally untenable and cannot be sustained for at least three glaring reasons. Erroneous conclusion of termination order being non-speaking.  Lack of similarity between Shyam Behari Lal and Respondent. The High Court has erred in concluding that the Respondent’s claim fell squarely within the four corners of its previous decision in Shyam Behari Lal’s case.The fact­situation in Shyam Behari Lal’s case was unique and altogether different from that of Respondent, and there arises no reason to seek or grant parity. Even otherwise, it is a settled canon of common law that equity acts in personam and not in rem. Inordinate delay in filing writ petition. The prolonged delay of many years ought not to have been overlooked or condoned. It was held that, the Respondent has shown little concern to the settled legal tenets.

The distinction between operation of delay and laches to judgments delivered in­rem and in personam, lucidly captured in State of Uttar Pradesh v. Arvind Kumar Srivastava was cited.

On the referring the case of P.S. Sadasivaswamy v. State of Tamil Nadu, …It is not that there is any period of limitation for the Courts to exercise their powers under Article 226 nor is it that there can never be a case where the Courts cannot interfere in a matter after the passage of a certain length of time. But it would be a sound and wise exercise of discretion for the Courts to refuse to exercise their extraordinary powers under Article 226 in the case of persons who do not approach it expeditiously for relief and who stand by and allow things to happen and then approach the Court to put forward stale claims and try to unsettle settled matters……”

“Whilst it is true that limitation does not strictly apply to proceedings under Articles 32 or 226 of the Constitution of India, nevertheless, such rights cannot be enforced after an unreasonable lapse of time .Consideration of unexplained delays and inordinate laches would always be relevant in writ actions, and writ courts naturally ought to be reluctant in exercising their discretionary jurisdiction to protect those who have slept over wrongs and allowed illegalities to fester.”

Therefore it was held that the order passed by the High Court for retention of Shyam Behari Lal in service, does not possess any ingredient of a Judgment in­rem. The citied exception does not come to Respondent’s rescue. And mentioned that neither has it been pleaded nor is it apparent from the material on record that the Respondent was unable to approach the court-­of-­law in time on account of any social or financial disability. Had such been the case, he ought to have availed free legal aid and should have ventilated his grievances in a timely manner. Instead, he seems to be under the assumption that the termination order is illegal, that he consequently has a right to be reinstated, and that he can agitate the same at his own sweet­-will.

The appeals were allowed.

–  Saral. M




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