UNION OF INDIA VERSUS SANJIV CHATURVEDI & ORS.
DATE OF ORDER:
M.R.Shah, B.V. Nagarathna
Petitioner:Union of India
Respondent:Sanjiv Chaturvedi & Ors
The Supreme Court referred the question of whether a High Court has the authority to hear a challenge to an order issued by a Tribunal that is located outside of its territorial jurisdiction to a larger bench in a case involving Indian Forest Service whistleblower Sanjiv Chaturvedi.
The matter came up in a petition by Sanjiv Chaturvedi challenging an order made by the Central Administrative Tribunal's Principal Bench in New Delhi, which was dismissed by the Uttarakhand High Court. The Union Government appealed that decision. According to Chaturvedi, the High Court might consider the challenge under Article 226(2) of the Constitution because a portion of the cause of action originated in the State of Uttarakhand. The Union argued that the case could only be heard by the High Court, which had territorial jurisdiction over the Tribunal's location.
- Before the Nainital Circuit Bench of the Central Administrative Tribunal, Chaturvedi submitted a plea asking for the suspension of the current 360-degree appraisal system for the appointment of officers at the level of Joint Secretary and above in the Central Government. Additionally, he asked for instructions to prevent the Government from in the future filling positions above Joint Secretary through the contract system. The Union Government submitted a request asking for the matter to be transferred to the Principal Court in New Delhi.
- By order dated 04.12.2020, the Principal Bench approved the transfer after observing that the challenged empanelment process would affect how the Central Government operates. Chaturvedi challenged the transfer order in a writ case before the Uttarakhand High Court. The petitioner challenged the transfer decision because the Union Government's justification for it was flawed. The petitioner had contested a policy choice that would have "nationwide repercussions," according to the government, hence the transfer was necessary.
- The petitioner had claimed before the Uttarakhand High Court that if the Parliament had meant for only the Principal Bench to deliberate on matters of national importance, it would have made that intention clear in the legislation or might have prohibited other Benches from hearing such matters. In actuality, however, there is no such barrier preventing benches other than the Principal Bench from rendering judgments on central government policy.
- The territorial authority of the Uttarakhand High Court to hear the writ petition was contested by the Union Government. It argued that the case should be moved to New Delhi because there were no missing files and the cause of action hadn't started in Uttarakhand but rather Delhi. It was unequivocally stated that New Delhi is where the policy was drafted, where candidates were solicited for consideration, and where the selection process starts and finishes.
- The petitioner refuted this claim regarding the cause of action and claimed that a portion of the cause of action had arisen in Uttarakhand because the names of the qualified candidates for the position of Joint Secretary were called from the State, names are recommended from the State, the qualified candidates' service records are with the State and the service records are forwarded by the States, and finally, the impact of the policy decision is also felt in the State.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT
- claimed that the Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court had ruled in L. Chandra Kumar v. Union of India that "all decisions of Tribunals created under Article 323A and Article 323B of the Constitution will be subject to the scrutiny before a Division Bench of the High Court within whose jurisdiction the concerned Tribunal falls" He then turned to the Supreme Court's ruling in Union of India v. Alapan Bandyopadhyay. He said that it was determined in the aforementioned ruling that the Calcutta High Court lacked the authority to hear an appeal of an order made by the CAT Principal Bench in New Delhi.
ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT
- Speaking on behalf of Chaturvedi, he argued that under Article 226(2) of the Indian Constitution, any High Court may exercise its Article 226 jurisdiction if a portion of the cause of action has arisen there. This is true even if the body or government that issued the order is not located within the said High Court's jurisdiction. According to him, it would be against the spirit of the Constitution to interpret the L. Chandra Kumar decision in a way that limits the authority of other High Courts under Article 226(2).
- It was argued that the statement made in L. Chandra Kumar, which stated that all decisions of tribunals would be subject to scrutiny before a Division Bench of the High Court within whose jurisdiction the tribunal in question falls, did not exclude the jurisdiction of other high courts that may have it, particularly under Article 226(2) of the Constitution of India.
- He added that the ruling in Alapan Bandyopadhyay could need to be reevaluated in light of the current situation. Mr. Divan also referred to the backdrop of Article 226's growth over time, as well as the Constitution (Fifteenth Amendment) Act of 1963's objectives and justifications, as well as the comments made by the Law Minister at the time.
ANALYSIS BY THE COURT
- Regarding the significant issue raised by Shri Shyam Divan, learned Senior Advocate appearing on behalf of Respondent No. 1, as well as the arguments put forth by Shri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General, and after reviewing the judgment(s) and order(s) issued by this Court in L. Chandra Kumar (supra) and Alapan Bandyopadhyay (supra), and given that the issue relates to the territorial jurisdiction of the High Courts and the impact introduction of Article 226(2) of the Indian Constitution and the Law Minister's remarks during Article 226 (2) We believe it is appropriate for the matter involving the question of territorial jurisdiction of the concerned High Court to decide a challenge to an order passed by the Chairman, CAT, Principal Bench, New Delhi to be considered by a Larger Bench because it involves the provisions of the Constitution referred to above, affects numerous employees, and is of public importance.
- The High Court granted the petition, noting that there is no legal requirement that a policy decision must, necessarily, be challenged before the Principal Bench and that there is no provision under the Act, 1985, that a challenge to a policy decision can be heard only by the Principal Bench, taking into consideration the Apex Court's ruling in L. Chandra Kumar v. UoI.
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