A two-judge Bench of Justice MR Shah and Justice AS Bopanna has held that once the Writ Petition is barred by delay and laches, thereafter the merits are not required to be considered. The Court held that the Single Judge and Division Bench of the High Court had erred in entertaining the petition in 2012 that challenged the termination order passed in 1996.
An appeal was preferred by the State of Rajasthan assailing the order of the Division Bench of the Rajasthan High Court at Jodhpur which had dismissed the appeal of the Appellant and upheld the judgment of the Single Bench of the High Court which had quashed and set aside the termination order of late husband of the Respondent.
In this case, the husband of the Respondent who was serving as a Gram Sevak was suspended from his services on the ground of willful absence from duty and not completing the audit. Thereafter, he was called upon to join his duties within 15 days, however, he failed to join. This lead to a termination order being issued in his name on 16th December, 1996 under Section 91 (3) of the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Act, 1994 and Rule 86 of Rajasthan Services Rules, 1951.
While an appeal against the termination order was pending before the District Establishment Committee, Zila Parishad, Bikaner, the husband of the Respondent died. A Writ Petition was filed before the High Court in the year 2012 by the Respondent challenging the termination order of 1996.
The Apex Court observed that if the service of the late husband of the Respondent would not have been terminated, he would have attained the age of superannuation in the year 1999.
The Bench also considered the fact that by the time the Respondent filed a Writ Petition before the High Court, 15 years had passed from the date of termination and 13 years from the date on which the employee would have attained the age of superannuation.
The Court held, "The learned Single Judge ought not to have entertained the writ petition in the year 2012, challenging the order of termination passed on 16.12.1996 on the ground of delay and laches alone."
Additionally, the Court opined, "It is required to be noted that even despite the fact that it was specifically prayed by the respondent in writ petition before the learned Single Judge to direct the authority to decide the appeal preferred by her husband, the learned Single Judge despite the above prayer and the pending appeal, entered into the merits of the case and quashed and set aside the order of termination dated 16.12.1996."
In the light of these observations, the Court set aside and quashed the impugned judgment of the High Court and allowed the appeal.