The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court recently dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) challenging the appointment of 58 law officers by the Tamil Nadu government in addition to seeking the removal of Advocate General Vijay Narayan from office (S Ramasubramanian v. State of Tamil Nadu and ors).
A Bench comprising Justices MM Sundresh and S Ananthi dismissed the case upon finding no merit in the plea.
“Suffice it to say that on mere surmise and apprehension, a writ petition cannot be entertained by a person, who is otherwise disqualified, alleging illegality in the selection process… looking from any perspective, we do not find any merit in this writ petition and the same deserves to be dismissed,” the order said.
The petitioner, S Ramasubramanian claimed that candidates without sufficient practice had been appointed and that there were malpractices involved in the selection.
Coupled with this, he also raised a grievance over not having been considered for appointment as a law officer. He contended before the Court that if the challenged selection is set aside, he would be eligible for the post.
He also claimed that there were serious allegations made against the Advocate General in the form of complaints. He thus sought Narayan’s removal from office, apart from the initiation of criminal action against the Chairman and the Selection Committee Members.
The State, through its Additional Advocate General (AAG), contended that the petitioner cannot be permitted to mix public and private interest litigation, in view of the submissions made with respect to his eligibility for appointment as a law officer.
The AAG added that the petitioner’s candidature for the law officer post is liable to be summarily rejected over failure to divulge his gross total professional income for the years 2015-16 and 2016-17.
Moreover, it was also argued that the office of the Advocate General is a Constitutional post, the appointment to which is made under Article 165 of the Constitution. As such, prayers cannot be made against the appointment by a person found disqualified in the selection process, the Court was told.
Expressing agreement with the State’s stance that the petition was not maintainable, the Court observed,
“… we find that the objections raised by the learned Additional Advocate General required to be sustained. The petitioner cannot combine two reliefs with respect to appointments made before his application and thereafter.”
The Court added that even if the petitioner’s private prayer for appointment as a law officer is considered, the petitioner would still have no locus (standing) to make his challenge.
“If it is a private interested litigation, the entitlement to be considered for the post will have to be made. Unfortunately, even as per the documents filed by the petitioner, he is disqualified from being considered,” the Court said.
Finally, the Court opined that the prayers made against the appointment of the Advocate General also deserve to be rejected.
“As rightly submitted by the learned Additional Advocate General, the post of the learned Advocate General derives from the Constitution and he holds the post on the will and pleasure of His Excellency The Hon’ble Governor of Tamil Nadu. We are not dealing with a Writ of Quo Warranto. Even in which case also, the scope is extremely limited with respect to disqualification per se. There is obviously a difference between a Writ of Certiorari and a Writ of Quo Warranto. We are dealing with neither of this situation. This prayer has been sought for on a mere apprehension that the Office of the learned Advocate General is also involved in the malpractice,” the Bench reasoned.
The Court dismissed the petition after noting that it is open to the petitioner to pursue his complaint in the matter which is pending before the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption.
Advocates N Subramaniyan and SS Madhavan appeared for the petitioner. Additional Advocate General Jayanth Muthu Raj, assisted by Government Pleader Jeyaprakash Narayanan, appeared for the State. Standing Counsel D Sivaraman appeared for the Registrars General of the two Benches of the Madras High Court.