Bombay HC: Cancellation by new govt of members’ appointment to SC/ST Commission, not discriminatory | India News

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court held that an order by the chief minister Eknath Shinde’s government, cancelling the appointments of individuals to the posts of Chairman and Members of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Commission, cannot be deemed illegal. The High Court dismissed a petition filed by a trio who alleged that the new regime had arbitrarily and unlawfully changed appointments made by the former CM Uddhav Thackeray-led regime.
“No fundamental right to continue in the posts is vested in the petitioners,” said the High Court bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale, holding that “Nomination of the petitioners to their posts without following any competitive process and solely at the discretion and subjective satisfaction of the earlier government does not create or grant any right or entitlement to continue in their posts.”
“The order dated 2nd December 2022, cancelling their appointment, cannot be deemed arbitrary or discriminatory,” said the High Court judgment authored by Justice Gokhale. Ramdhari Shinde, 68, Jagannath Abhyankar, 74, and Kishor Medhe, 62, all pensioners from Mumbai and Thane, had filed the petition this year challenging the December order affecting them. Abhyankar had been appointed chairperson in October 2021 of the Maharashtra State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, while the other two were appointed as members.
Shinde was sworn in as CM on June 30, 2022. The commission was established in March 2005 by the Social Justice Department.
S.B. Talekar, their counsel, argued that they were “perturbed by changes in administration in the State, reversal of various government policies, which usually occur with a change in the government,” and hence aggrieved by the “abrupt” cancellation, without any hearing, of 197 Presidents and non-official members appointed on 29 Project Level (Planning Review) Committees in the Tribal Sub-plan Projects, as well as various appointments of Members of the Statutory Boards, Committees, Commissions, etc.
Maharashtra Advocate General Birendra Saraf, defending the State’s decision, said it was not illegal as the appointments were not for civil posts and “members serve at the pleasure of the government.”
The trio alleged that such changes were made solely to accommodate supporters and workers of the ruling party and cited several instances of a series of decisions taken by the CM and Dy CM to discontinue decisions made by the previous government, which they claimed were “against public interest.” Saraf said the Commission was not a statutory commission (established under an Act). The High Court held that since the members and chairperson were nominated solely at the discretion of the government, without following any selection procedure or inviting applications from the general public, it is not a statutory appointment.
“In fact, the existence of the Commission itself is at the pleasure of the Government. The very establishment of the Commission is through an executive order and can also be dissolved by an executive order. The nomination of the petitioners to the posts in question was also through an executive order of the Government; it can likewise be revoked by an executive order of the Government,” held the High Court, adding that “a change in social policy following a change in government is part of the democratic process, and a change in the implementation of policies and programs per se cannot be regarded as arbitrary or malicious.”
Talekar argued that their three-year tenure had not expired. The High Court said that such contention cannot be sustained as there was nothing in the appointment order indicating that it had to be a “minimum” tenure of three years. When the Advocate General pointed out another existing petition by the petitioners, the High Court said such “practice has to be denounced.” “It is unacceptable for the petitioners to file multiple petitions seeking similar reliefs on the same grounds,” said the judgment.

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