Parshotam Lal Dhingra v. Union of India

In the Parshotam Dhingra case, the interpretation of Articles 310 and 311 of the Constitution is been discussed. The case revolved under the Service law section, where the civil servant or permanent servant serving under Union or the State holds the post with given protection and tenure under Article 310 and 311 of the constitution. The underlying principle embodied in Article 310 is based on Doctrine of pleasure adopted from English Common law system.

In the Supreme Court of India

Name of the Case – Parshotam Lal Dhingra v. Union of India
Citation – AIR 1958 SC 36
Year of the Case – 1958
Appellant – Parshotam Lal Dhingra
Respondent – Union of India
Bench/Judges- Das, Sudhi Ranjan (Cj), Aiyyar, T.L. Venkatarama, Das, S.K., Sarkar, A.K., Bose, Vivian
Acts Involved – Union Service Employee Protection under Indian Constitution, 1950
Important Sections – Articles 310 and 311

Background

The Parshotam Lal Dhingra case is related to Service law Jurisprudence of India. The case covers the interpretation of Articles 310 and 311 of the Indian Constitution related to persons serving under the Union or State. In the instant case, the Appellant ranking was reduced from Class II post to Class III due to the adverse remarks contained in the report were revealed. Later, the question evolved was whether Article 311(2) provides safeguards to employees in case of reduction in ranking or not. 

Facts

  • In 1924 the appellant joined the railway services as a Signaller. As a result of selection, he was promoted as Section Controller in 1942 and then as Deputy Chief Controller in 1950, all the three post belongs to III Class Railway Services. Later, appellant Mr. Parshotam Lal as Officiating Chief controller was appointed for II Class Railway service category and took charge of the post from Shri Ram. 
  • Later, Sri Gauri Shankar, S.S.T.E.I. Head Quarters, made an adverse remark in Sri Dingra’s secret character book which was endorsed by one high Officer on the basis of which General Manager (Railway) Sri. Karnail Singh had reduced the appellant rank to its previous post which was under Class III category and said his reduction would not affect his further promotion.
  • Further, Appellant made an appeal to the General Manager for reconsideration of his order but his appeal was dismissed.
  • In the meantime, the appellant filed a writ petition under article 226 in the Punjab High Court. Where court held that, reduction in rank of applicant is a kind of punishment and he was not given proper opportunity of being heard, hence his appeal was admitted and his reduction in rank was declared illegal. Against the judgment of High Court, respondent made an appeal before the bench Divisional who dissented with the decree and said such reduction is permissible. Later, the appeal in for SLP was presented before Supreme Court for reconsideration of the decision made by the Punjab High Court.

 

Issue Involved

  1. Whether the reduction in rank of Parshotam Lal Dhingra was according to the provisions of Article 310 and 311 of the Constitution?
  2. Whether the appellant was competent person for the post?

Related Provisions

Article 310 of the Indian Constitution- Tenure of office of a person serving the Union or the State

 Article 311 of the Indian Constitution- Dismissal, removal or reduction in rank of persons employed in civil capacities under the Union or the State 

Article 311(1)-  No civil servant is to be dismissed or removed by an authority by which he was appointed.[i]

Article 3112)- Provides, that no civil servant can be dismissed, removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and must be given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

Related Cases

  • Lucas v. Lucas and High Commissioner[ii]
  • State of Bihar v. Abdul Majid[iii]
  • Jayanti Prasad v. The State of Uttar Pradesh[iv]
  • Gopi Kishore Prasad v. The State of Bihar[v]
  • State of Punjab v. S. Sukhbans Singh[vi]
  • Shrinivas Ganesh v. Union of India[vii]
  • R. Venkata Rao v. secretary of State[viii]
  • S. A. Venkataraman v. Union of India[ix]

Judgment

  • In accordance with the opinion of the majority, court held that although Parshotam Dhingra was working as an officiating Assistant Controller Railway Telegraph, hence he is not entitled to get the protection of Article 311 because the provisions are for the civil servants who are permanently employed in certain posts[x]. Thus, protection is not for officiating post who just perform the prescribe duty. Moreover, the appellant had no right to continue in that post, as the term of such appointment was based on terminable notice given by the government; therefore, his reduction did not operate as there is no forfeiture of any right and could be prescribed a reduction in rank by way of punishment. Also, his reduction does not amount to dismissal as the chance of promotion was asserted by the General Manager. Thus, it is concluded that appellant was not reduced in rank by way of punishment and therefore, the protection of Article 311(2) does not apply in the case.
  • In the minority opinion stated that the protection given under Article 311 should not be limited within some rules and regulation but it should be seen that such reduction in rank is due to some punishment and should come under the protection clause.
  • As a result, the appeal was dismissed.

Ratio decidendi

  • The appointment of a Government servant to a permanent post may be substantive or on officiating basis and must be entitled to hold a lien on the post conferred.
  • Article 310 covers only those persons who are permanent members of the specified services or who do not hold permanent post therein, do not hold their respective offices during the pleasure of the President and the Governor, as the case may be. Article 310(1), has adopted the English Common law rule called Doctrine of Pleasure.
  • Further, Article 311 is limited to persons who are permanent members of the service or who hold permanent civil post, then the constitutional protection given by clause (1) and (2) will not extend to persons who officiate in a permanent post or in a temporary post and consequently such person will be liable to be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to which they were appointed. Further, people who are merely officiating in the posts cannot be said to ‘hold’ the post, as they only perform the duties of those posts. Also, Article 311 is a restriction on doctrine of pleasure.

Concepts Highlighted

  • The English ‘doctrine of pleasure’ adopted from common law principle is limited by provisions of Article 311 of the Constitution
  • Articles 310 and 311 of the Constitution apply to permanent service holder of the post and for an officiating post. 
  • To seek the protection of Article 311 it is an essential condition that the person must be competent person of the post and must hold the post as specified. 

References

[i] Moti Ram Deka v. General Manager, doctrine of pleasure is not absolute

[ii] Lucas v. Lucas and High Commissioner ,LR 1943 68.

[iii] State of Bihar v. Abdul majid, AIR 1954 SC 245.

[iv] Jayanti Prasad v. The State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1951 All 793.

[v] Gopi Kishore Prasad v. The State of Bihar, AIR 1955 Pat 372.

[vi] State of Punjab v. S. Sukhbans Singh, AIR 1957 P H 191.

[vii] Shrinivas Ganesh v. Union of India, AIR 1956 Bom 455.

[viii] R. Venkata Rao v. secretary of State, 1913 24 MLJ 80.

[ix] S. A. Venkataraman v. Union of India, AIR 1954 SC 375.

[x] G.P. Oak v. The State of Bombat, AIR 1957 Bom 175.

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