In the case of V. SENTHUR AND ANOTHER versus M. VIJAYAKUMAR, IAS, SECRETARY, TAMIL NADU PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION AND ANOTHER (CONTEMPT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 638 OF 2017), a divisional bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India comprising of HON'BLE MR. JUSTICE B.R. GAVAI and HON'BLE MR. L. NAGESWARA RAO] delivered a judgment on 1 October 2021 directing the respondents to publish the seniority list on basis of merit and not roster points within 12 weeks from the date of this order i.e. 1 October 2021. The Hon’ble Supreme Court of India also asked the contemnors to be present on 10 January 2022 to hear their quantum of punishment. MR. KARUNAKAR MAHALIK learned Counsel, and Shri Prashant Bhushan learned counsel, have appeared on behalf of the petitioner. TNPSC was represented by Shri C.S. Vaidyanathan, learned Senior Counsel. On behalf of the rest of the respondents Shri Mukul Rohatgi, Shri V. Giri, and Shri P. Wilson learned Senior Counsel, had appeared.
This case V. SENTHUR AND ANOTHER versus M. VIJAYAKUMAR, IAS, SECRETARY, TAMIL NADU PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION AND ANOTHER (CONTEMPT PETITION (CIVIL) NO. 638 OF 2017), contempt petitions were filed by the petitioners V. SENTHUR AND ANOTHER praying for initiation of contempt proceedings against the contemnors TAMIL NADU PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION for disobeying the order passed by this Court dated 22nd January 2016 in SLP(C) Nos. 2890¬2894 of 2016 and SLP(C) No. 2886 of 2016. The highlight of their submission was that in the case of Bimlesh Tanwar v. the State of Haryana [(2003) 5 SCC 604], this Hon'ble Supreme Court had said that list made on basis of roster point is not valid in law as the list of seniority has to prepared on the basis of merit list of selection. The petitioners have also contended that the respondent authorities have also committed perjury along with aggravated contempt of court.
The respondents had made contentions that:
I] Relief was granted to individual petitioners by Divisional Bench of Madras High Court, according to which a fresh seniority list was prepared.
ii] As per the first judgment of Madras High Court, individuals who were not petitioners were not entitled to seniority.
iii] Amongst the employees in the cadre, great heartburn will be caused as the rights of parties have been crystallized for almost two decades.
iv] The exercise of redoing the seniority cannot be done entirely as some employees have accepted the seniority list.
v] The non-compliance of directions should not be treated as deliberate contempt of court as even officials respondents could only understand that the Madras High court has directed this for individuals.
The Respondents relied on a number of precedents to propose that in proceedings for contempt, the court will not travel beyond the original judgment or direction. They also proposed that incidental or supplementary directions cannot be issued by a court if it was not a part of the original judgment as this is not permissible.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India had observed that the first judgment of the Hon'ble Madras High Court was not individualistic in nature as the most fundamental question which arose then was the principle of law to be applied in the matters of seniority.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court had emphasized that the writ petitions were accepted by High Court because of the judgment of this Hon'ble Supreme Court in Bimlesh Tanwar v. the State of Haryana [(2003) 5 SCC 604]. This Court had therefore dismissed the appeal mad of those SLPs as there was no merit and the Hon'ble High Court had applied the law laid down in Bimlesh Tanwar v. the State of Haryana [(2003) 5 SCC 604] aptly.
The case of Bimlesh Tanwar v. the State of Haryana [(2003) 5 SCC 604] had established that the fundamental principle in drawing the seniority list is the merit list of selection. Seniority list based on roster points will not be permissible in law.
The Hon'ble Court while declaring the person mentioned in the judgment on 11 February 2021 as guilty stated that the seniority list which was published was in breach of directions of this Court. The Hon'ble Court emphasized that if one takes a glance at the seniority list then one would clearly see that persons receiving low marks were placed above persons receiving higher marks.
The Hon'ble Supreme Court has directed TNPSC to publish the seniority list strictly on basis of merit within 12 weeks from the date of this judgment. The contemnors who have been held guilty of contempt, in this case, are directed to be present on 10th January 2022 to hear their quantum of punishment.