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Supreme Court Upholds The Appellant's Right To Continue As A School Employee, Emphasizing Delay And Laches, While Directing Compensation To The Respondent Under Article 142 Of The Indian Constitution."

SUDHANGEE HANDOO ,
  17 October 2023       Share Bookmark

Court :
Supreme Court of India
Brief :

Citation :
CIVIL APPEAL No. OF 2023 (@ SPECIAL LEAVE PETITION (CIVIL) NO.16238 OF 2017)

Case title:

BICHITRANANDA BEHERA v. STATE OF ORISSA AND OTHERS

Date of Order:

OCTOBER 11, 2023

Bench:

HON’BLE JUSTICE VIKRAM NATH & HON’BLE JUSTICE AHSANUDDIN AMANULLAH

Parties: 

APPELLANT – BICHITRANANDA BEHERA

RESPONDENT - STATE OF ORISSA AND OTHERS

SUBJECT:

The case's focus to be on a disagreement over the hiring and retention of a physical education teacher (PET) in a school in the Indian state of Odisha. The respondent expressed concerns about the time period in which the appellant was allegedly not working in the school, and the case appears to revolve around the appellant's eligibility, tenure, and work history in the school. Delay and laches, as well as the idea of acquiescence, were legal issues that were applied in the context of service-related claims. The court ruled in the appellant's favour, allowing the appellant to keep her job as PET and granting her a number of additional benefits. In order to ensure that both parties received full justice, the case also involved the application of Article 142 of the Indian Constitution.

IMPORTANT PROVISIONS:

  1. Article 142 of Constitution of India, granting the Supreme Court discretionary power to do complete justice.
  2. Section 24-B of the Orissa Education Act, 1969, permit any person or body of persons to establish and maintain aided educational institution.

OVERVIEW:

In the case, there is a disagreement over the hiring and retention of a physical education teacher (PET) at a school in the Indian state of Odisha. In the context of service-related claims, legal issues like delay and laches as well as the idea of acquiescence are discussed.

BRIEF FACTS –

  1. The interim order of the High Court from 11.01.1993 allowed the Managing Committee, which was established on 15.12.1992, to continue for the remainder of its term.
  2. Since his appointment on May 14, 1994, the appellant had continued to perform his job duties, which were recorded in the school register and confirmed by the Inspector of Schools.
  3. The appellant was assigned to election duty three times, demonstrating his involvement in the process.
  4. Before 2005, there were no complaints made to any authority about the appellant's failure to report for duty or complete it, or the respondent's impediment to reporting for duty.
  5. Respondent No. 5 stated that he worked at another school during the relevant time period, and this conclusion was not refuted by convincing evidence.
  6. The concerned school, Sri Thakur Nigamananda High School, Terundia, received recognition in 2002 after obtaining permission in 2000.
  7. According to the competent authorities, Respondent No. 5 had employment between January 4, 1995, and August 18, 2002 at the Sri Thakur Nigamananda High School in Terundia.
  8. It was determined that Respondent No. 5 would not benefit from the High Court's Bibekananda Das (supra) Division Bench's ruling.
  9. According to the court, Respondent No. 5 should not have been sued due to delay and laches, particularly in service matters, as well as a sign of acquiescence.
  10. The court provided a thorough legal foundation for the judgement by citing numerous legal rules and precedents, such as Union of India v. Tarsem Singh (2008) 8 SCC 648 and other cases.
  11. In the end, the court decided in the appellant's favour, allowing the appellant to continue serving as PET and awarding various consequential benefits.
  12. The State of Odisha was ordered to award Respondent No. 5 a lump sum payment of INR 3 lakhs as a final measure of justice, and any money paid to Respondent No. 5 was not to be recouped.

ISSUES RAISED:

Whether the principle of delay and laches, along with the doctrine of acquiescence, should be applied in the context of the dispute regarding the appointment and continuation of the Physical Education Teacher (PET) in the Sri Thakur Nigamananda High School, Terundia, Odisha?

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE APPELLANT:

  1. The High Court's interim order from 11.01.1993 and its final decision on the case on 23.07.1999 allowed the Managing Committee, which was established on December 15, 1992, to continue for the duration of its term without any criticism of their deeds.
  2. Since his appointment on May 14, 1994, the appellant has continued to perform the responsibilities of the position, as shown in the school register and confirmed by the Inspector of Schools.
  3. The appellant was assigned to election duty three times, showing that he was actively performing his duties.
  4. No authority received a complaint regarding the appellant's failure to report for duty or perform other duties.
  5. It was not disputed that Respondent No. 5 had worked at another school during the time in question, and there was no evidence in the record to refute this claim.
  6. The factual circumstances surrounding the appellant's appointment, his continued employment, and the Respondent No. 5's employment at a different school during the pertinent period were supported by the State.

ARGUMENTS ADVANCED BY THE RESPONDENT:

  1. The Managing Committee's continued term did not follow the pertinent legal requirements, making their actions suspect.
  2. The appellant's documented appointment on May 14, 1994, does not imply that he has been performing the duties of the position continuously.
  3. The appellant's infrequent participation in election duties does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he was actively employed by the school.
  4. The absence of a complaint regarding the appellant's failure to join or perform his duties before any authority does not rule out the possibility of such occurrences.
  5. The fact that the Respondent No. 5's work during the relevant period was not explicitly contested should not be interpreted as an admission of the fact.
  6. The appellant's claims are supported by the State, but this is insufficient justification to ignore the delays and problems with the accuracy of the service records.

JUDGEMENT ANALYSIS:

  1. In service-related matters, the Court emphasised the significance of delay and laches and their bearing on the legitimacy of claims.
  2. It emphasised the lack of a formal complaint or objection from the parties in question, implying that there isn't much evidence to back up Respondent No. 5's claims.
  3. The Respondent No. 5's claims, particularly those related to his employment at another school during the relevant time period, were called into question by the Court, which found the evidence to be credible.
  4. Given that the issue of appointment eligibility was not being considered in the current case, it was determined that the decision in Bibekananda Das was irrelevant.
  5. The Court emphasised the importance of the school's operation before receiving official recognition, implying that the lack of official documentation does not always rule out the possibility of employment.
  6. The Supreme Court's rulings were cited, and it emphasised the significance of the delay, laches, and acquiescence principles in the context of equitable relief in service-related disputes.
  7. In the end, the Court ruled in the appellant's favour, allowing him to continue serving as a PET with service beginning on May 14, 1994, and entitling him to all ensuing benefits.
  8. In an act of absolute justice, the Court ordered the State of Odisha to give Respondent No. 5 a lump sum payment of INR 3 lakhs and said that any prior payments that Respondent No. 5 may have received should not be recouped.

 

CONCLUSION:

The Court granted the appellant's request to continue working as a physical education teacher (PET) beginning on May 14, 1994, with all associated benefits. The State of Odisha was also ordered by the Court to give Respondent No. 5 a lump sum payment of INR 3 lakhs, and any money paid to Respondent No. 5 was not to be recouped.

 

 
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