Though Dismissal Of SLP Will Not Result In Merger, Action For Contempt Will Lie Before SC As Reasoned Order Attracts Applicability Of Article 141
A two-judge Bench of Justice L Nageswara Rao and Justice BR Gavai has held that even if the order of dismissal of an SLP is supported by reasons, the doctrine of merger would not be attracted. But the reasons stated by the court would attract the applicability of Article 141 of the Constitution of India and the law declared would be binding on the parties thereto.
Contempt Petitions were filed by the Petitioners before the Supreme Court for the initiation of contempt proceedings against the Contemnors-Respondents over alleged willful disobedience of the order passed by the Supreme Court on 22 January 2016 dismissing an SLP.
The Petitioners were appointed by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) in the public works department of the State of Tamil Nadu. After 4 years from the date of joining, the seniority list was notified.
One of the Petitioners contended that though he was a more meritorious candidate belonging to the backward class category, he was put below candidates who belonged to the same class as his and were less meritorious, in the seniority list.
The TNPSC however rejected his claim and held that the seniority was determined on the basis of roster point.
The Petitioners' Writ Petition before the Madras High Court was dismissed by a single-judge Bench on the ground of delays and laches.
Aggrieved, appeal was preferred before the Division Bench of the Madras High Court, which allowed the appeal and directed the Respondents to take the rank assigned by TNPSC to the selectees, as the basis of their seniority.
This judgment was appealed by the TNPSC before the Supreme Court, which dismissed the SLP by a speaking order.
The Petitioners contended that when the said order was passed dismissing the SLP, it had relied upon the judgment passed in the case of Bimlesh Tanwar v. State of Haryana and Others, according to which, the seniority list was to be prepared on the basis of merit list of selection and that the list drawn on roster point would not be valid in law.
It was argued that the revised seniority list which was prepared thereafter was in total breach of the order passed by the Court.
The Counsel for Petitioner, Prashant Bhushan contended that the Respondent had not only committed aggravated contempt of court, but also have committed perjury.
While the Respondents contended that the relief granted was restricted to individual Petitioners. The individuals who were not Petitioners in the first round were not entitled to seniority as per the judgment of the Madras High Court.
The Apex Court after making an observation of the judgment passed by the Division Bench of the Madras High Court held that the case of the Petitioners was not individualistic in nature, depending upon individual dates, facts, and sequences of events.
The Court further held that the judgment arose out of the most fundamental question as to the principle of law to be applied in the matter of fixation of seniority.
The Bench observed, "It is thus clear that this Court in unequivocal terms has held that if the order of dismissal of SLPs is supported by reasons, then also the doctrine of merger would not be attracted. Still the reasons stated by the court would attract applicability of Article 141 of the Constitution of India, if there is a law declared by this Court which obviously would be binding on all the courts and the tribunals in India and certainly, the parties thereto. It has been held that no court, tribunal or party would have the liberty of taking or canvassing."
The Court held that the revised seniority list which was notified was in total breach of directions of the Court issued earlier.
The Court directed the Respondents to revise and publish the seniority list strictly in accordance with the merit determined during the selection process of the selectees and not on the basis of roster point.
The Court adjourned the matter to 22nd January 2022 for pronouncing the quantum of punishment to be imposed upon the contemnors and directed them to remain present before the Court on that date.