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Monday, November 29, 2021

Calcutta HC verdict setting aside CAT order ‘disturbing’: Centre to SC

The government told a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar that the October 29 order of the high court was “disturbing”, both on the question of territorial jurisdiction as well as some observations made in the order.

By: PTI | New Delhi |
Updated: November 15, 2021 9:40:22 pm
Calcutta HCThe court directed the WBBSE president to submit an affidavit stating to clear the air by 3.30 pm Monday. (File)

The Centre told the Supreme Court on Monday that the Calcutta High Court has passed a “disturbing order” while setting aside an order of the principal bench of CAT to transfer an application by former West Bengal chief secretary Alapan Bandopadhyay, challenging the proceedings initiated against him by the Centre, from Kolkata to New Delhi.

The government told a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and C T Ravikumar that the October 29 order of the high court was “disturbing”, both on the question of territorial jurisdiction as well as some observations made in the order.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that issue pertaining to territorial jurisdiction in matters where an officer, after retirement, can petition any high court to challenge an order of the principal bench of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) on the ground that he resides in that particular state, has wider ramifications.

“This has wider ramification and can be abused. A person, merely by claiming that I ordinarily stay there, can confer jurisdiction to the high court, though territorially, the high court would not have jurisdiction.” Mehta told the bench.

“This is a disturbing order, both on the question of territorial jurisdiction of the high court and some observations which are made. It’s really disturbing,” he said at the outset.

The top court was hearing a plea filed by the Centre against the high court order, which had also directed the Kolkata bench of CAT to expedite the hearing of Bandopadhyay’s application and dispose of it at the earliest.

Bandopadhyay had moved the Kolkata bench of CAT, challenging the proceedings initiated against him by the Ministry of Personnel and Public Grievance and Pensions in a matter relating to attending a meeting on May 28 at the Kalaikunda Air Force station that was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the effects of cyclone Yaas.

Mehta told the apex court that Bandopadhyay had challenged the initiation of departmental action against him by the Centre before the Calcutta bench of CAT.

Referring to the high court order, the law officer said some “very disturbing” remarks have been made against the principal bench of CAT.

“We can say that the disturbing remarks will be expunged,” the bench observed.

Mehta said the Calcutta High Court would have no jurisdiction in an order passed by the principal bench of CAT in Delhi.

“The question is can Calcutta High Court take up that matter and set it aside.” he said, adding, “The Delhi High Court may have set it aside.”

The bench observed that the proceeding, which were likely to be impacted by the order of the CAT’s principal bench, was filed in Calcutta.

It said the main proceeding is filed in Kolkata by Bandhopadhyay and the order passed by the CAT principal bench will impact those proceedings, so part of the action arose in Kolkata which is within the jurisdiction of the Calcutta High Court.

The apex court said the high court has proceeded on the basis that since the officer is not in service now, he can file the plea at the place where he resides.

The solicitor general said the observations made by the high court are disturbing and when constitutional courts made such remarks, it become significant.

“As the highest court of the country, I urge your lordships to take cognisance of this,” he said, adding that he would assist the apex court on the issue of territorial jurisdiction as well as on the use of language.

He said an officer can file a petition in the Sikkim High Court saying he ordinarily stays there and get the order passed by CAT’s principal bench set aside.

When Mehta said that the apex court should examine this aspect, the bench said it will keep that question open.

The bench posted the matter for hearing on November 22 and granted liberty to the counsel appearing for the parties to file written note, accompanying reported decision on which they will rely during the arguments.

Bandopadhyay, who was not released by the state government, chose to retire on May 31, his original date of superannuation prior to having been given an extension of three months from that date.

Proceedings were initiated against Bandopadhyay by the Union government and an inquiry authority was appointed in this regard, which fixed a preliminary hearing on October 18 in New Delhi.

The petitioner then moved the Kolkata bench of the CAT, challenging the proceedings against him.

The Union government had filed a transfer petition before the principal bench of CAT, which on October 22 allowed the transfer of Bandopadhyay’s application to itself in New Delhi.

This order was challenged by Bandopadhyay before the Calcutta High Court.

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