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Government rapped for inaction on court orders
Slamming the State for not framing rules for the promotion of librarians for 17 years long years, the Madras High Court, on comparing the State to the mythical Kumbakarnan, has sought to wake it up from its deep slumber at least in future and follow the directions issued by the courts and tribunals without any delay to avoid litigations resulting in waste of court hours.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the State’s handling of the issue pertaining to librarians, the division bench comprising Justice KK Sasidharan and Justice R Subramanian said, “A policy decision to provisionalise the service of the local library authorities and to bring them into one single unit was taken by the government as early as December 11, 1989. But the ad hoc rules were framed only in 2006 i.e., after a lapse of nearly 17 years. This exhibits the callous indifference shown by the State government officials resulting in the appellants running from pillar to post right from 2007 to till date.”
The petitioners were appointed as district library officers as per the amendment brought by the government on June 27, 1981, which paved the way for grade I librarians working in the local library authorities to apply for direct recruitment as District Library Officers (DLOs) under the education service. Based on the amendment issued in 1981, they were appointed as District Library Officers in 2002, 2003 and 2005.
Subsequently, the government introduced Single Unit System and a GO was passed to that effect. Accordingly, seniority list was prepared as per the new system and the DLOs were reverted to the rank of librarian grade- II and grade - III. This was challenged before the tribunal, which directed the State to frame rules for the implementation of the GO. Even the SLP filed by the State against the tribunal’s order was dismissed.
However, the bench on allowing the writ petitions and writ appeals moved by the aggrieved, said, “Once it is found that the appellants’ appointment as District Library Officers was pursuant to direct recruitment, the appellants cannot be reverted to the rank of librarian grade - II and grade - III since they had ceased to be the members of service of local library authorities on their appointment as District Library Officers under the Education Department.”
“We are therefore of the considered opinion that the appellants cannot be penalised and reverted as per the orders of reversion dated 12.01.2015 impugned in the writ petitions,” the bench added.
‘Fix time limit for government to file counter affidavits’
Raising concern over pending writ petitions owing to the government failure in filing counters, the Madras High Court directed its Registrar General to fix an outer time limit for filing counter affidavits and related documents to the parties in the writ petitions.
While hearing a plea pertaining to grant of patta filed in 2016, Justice SM Subramaniam said, “It is frequently noticed that the counter affidavits and related documents are not filed in a large number of writ petitions now pending before the High Court.
The State officials and the competent authorities, who all are the respondents in the writ petitions, are not initiating any effective steps to file counter affidavits and the related documents and produce files, wherever necessary within a reasonable period of time.”
However, observing that a rule imposing a time limit of three months to file counter affidavits in writ petitions was already in existence as per Rule 3-A of Rules to Regulate Proceedings under Article 226 of the Constitution, Justice Subramaniam wondered as to why this rule was suspended by the High Court through a notification in July 2013.
Noting that the Code of Civil Procedure prescribes a 90-day limitation for filing written statements even in civil cases, he said the writ petitions should also have a timeline for filing counter affidavits.
Stressing that this was required for effective hearings of writ petitions under Article 226 of the Constitution, the court directed the Registrar General to initiate actions to enable the parties to file their counter affidavits within the time to be stipulated by the High Court.
The court also noted that counsels were in the habit of seeking adjournments and how writ petitions were adjourned for filing counter in a routine manner. But when such measures to stall court proceedings are resorted to by the State, it would also entail a failure of its duties under the Constitution. “When the State is not representing its case, then it is to be construed that the “State” fails in its duty to protect the Constitutional mandates and perspectives,” said the judge.