T.Ramaprasada Rao, J. -
(1.) THE petitioner, who is admittedly a ministerial railway servant and who entered such service before 31st March, 1938, complains that he was prematurely retired from service by an order made to that effect by the respondents and that, therefore, the said order compulsorily retiring him from service, dated 1st May, 1970, has to be quashed. The order impugned reads that the Financial Adviser and Chief Accounts Officer, Southern Railway, is of the opinion that it is in public interest that the petitioner should be directed to retire from service with effect from the forenoon of 6th August, 1970. This order apparently was issued in exercise of powers conferred upon the competent authorities under Clause (h) of Rule 2046 of the Indian Railway Establishment Code, Volume II. The petitioner's case is that he had a clean record of service and that there was no occasion for any complaint of misconduct or insubordination by the Administration against him at any time prior to the passing of the impugned order, and there is no justifiable ground, much less the power in the first respondent, to issue the order questioned herein. The learned Counsel for the petitioner says that no reasons are given in the order itself, and, therefore, such a non -speaking order ought not to be sustained. He also states before me that the words 'railway servant' appearing in Rule 2046 (h) cannot proprio vigore refer to a ministerial railway servant, to which category the petitioner belongs. By the order being non -speaking, it savours of arbitrariness and has to be set aside as one passed without any basis or evidence, or compendiously, as one which is perverse.
(2.) RULE 2046 of the Indian Railway Establishment Code, Volume II, was the subject matter of a catena of decisions of our High Court and the Supreme Court, and it is unnecessary for me to re -state the law excepting to refer to the salient features of the case -law which has developed earlier. A ministerial railway servant who entered Government service, on or before 31st March, 1938 and who held on that date a lien or a suspended lien on a permanent post is entitled to be retained in service till he attains the age of 60 years. The petitioner is a ministerial railway servant who was so appointed and who had a lien on a permanent post. But the rule contains a non obstante clause which is reflected in Rule 2046(h). This sub -rule reads as follows:
Notwithstanding anything contained in this rule, the appointing authority shall, if it is of the opinion that it is in the public interest tot do so, have the absolute right to retire any railway servant on attainment of the age of 55 years, or thereafter by giving him notice of not less than three months in writing.
What is sought to be made out by the learned Counsel for the petitioner, is that this sub -rule does not expressly refer to a ministerial railway servant. This argument is without any substance. The words deployed are ' any railway servant' and 'any' is of a wide connotation, and certainly it could in certain circumstances, refer to all railway servants. At any rate, in the instant case, it is all embracing in the context, and it takes into its fold even a ministerial railway servant as well.
(3.) AS regards the contention that the expression 'public interest' referred to in the sub -rule is one which has to stand the test of objectivity and has to be established by material, weighty or otherwise on record and it cannot be left entirely to the subjective satisfaction of the authorities concerned, here again, I am unable to agree. Public interest is an expression which is incapable of being the subject matter of any definition or explanation. It can be understood in a myriad number of ways, it has variegated shades of impact, depending upon the circumstances and facts of each case. Thus understood, the expression 'public interest' has to be interpreted according to the facts of each case. Learned Counsel for; the respondents fairly gave inspection of the records brought to this Court on the issue of the rule nisi to the Counsel for the petitioner and such records disclose that the petitioner was from time to time found to be inefficient and his confidential records do reflect "such ability" on the part of the petitioner. As a matter of fact, in spite of several opportunities given, he could only improve but he was not in a position to entirely eradicate the inefficiency presumably inhered in him. The result was that the Railway authorities, after having studied the progress annually made by the petitioner, came to the conclusion that the petitioner was a ministerial railway servant who has to retire on the attainment of the age of 55 years and that was in public interest. This is not a case in which there was absolutely no evidence or material before the railway authorities which prompted them to set and issue the impugned order. This is not even a case in which it could be said that the conclusion arrived at by the authorities was in any way perverse or manifestly unjust. In such circumstances, the only thing that is possible for the authorities to do, appears to be to see that there should be some positive or cogent material before them, for them to act and weigh and conclude. If on an overall appreciation of the material, they bona fide come to the conclusion that a particular railway servant has to be retired on the ground of superannuation within the meaning of Rule 2046(h) and if no extraneous or irrelevant material was taken into consideration by such tribunal, then it would be unreasonable to characterise such a conclusion or an order resulting from such a decision as perverse or manifestly unjust or prompted by mala fides. This Court is not exercising the jurisdiction of an appellate Court. To this effect is the decision of a Division Bench of our High Court in G. Savarinathan v. Director of Postal Service, Madras and Ors. : (1969) 1 MLJ 595 . There, Anantanarayanan, C.J. speaking for the Bench observed:
In the exercise of jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution, it will not be the function of the High Court to canvass the adequacy of that material or the extent to which it is credible, particularly where the right to retire is not being imposed in the form of a punishment but in the form of an option given to the authority under the statutory rules.;