REBIKA SOIBAM CHANU Vs. STATE OF MANIPUR
HIGH COURT OF MANIPUR
Rebika Soibam Chanu
STATE OF MANIPUR
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KH.NOBIN SINGH,J. -
(1.) Heard Shri H. Tarunkumar, learned Advocate; Smt. G. Pushpa, learned Advocate and
Shri E. Premjit, learned Advocate appearing for the petitioners while Shri M.
Hemchandra, learned Sr. Advocate; Shri N. Ibotombi, learned Sr. Advocate; Shri
Kh. Samarjit, learned Advocate appearing for the private respondents and Shri
Lenin Hijam, learned Addl. AG appearing for the State respondents.
(2.) Since the above writ petitions have arisen out of a common set of facts, the same are being disposed of by this common judgment and order.
WP(C) No. 606 of 2020
(3.) 1. The validity and correctness of the final seniority list for the post of MFS Grade-II is under challenge in this writ petition and in addition thereto,
the petitioners have prayed for issuing a writ of mandamus or any other
appropriate writ to direct the respondents to issue a fresh final seniority list
and to convene a Class-I DPC for the post of MFS Grade-I.
3. 2. According the petitioners, they were appointed as the Assistant Conservator of Forest, MFS Grade-II on regular basis in the year, 2014 on the recommendation of the Manipur Public Service Commission (hereinafter referred to as "the MPSC") and they have been serving in that capacity till date. On 06.10.2020, the State Government issued a tentative seniority list for the post of the Assistant Conservator of Forest, MFS Grade-II inviting claims and objections to be submitted on or before 26.10.2020 and pursuant thereto, the petitioners submitted their written objections to the respondent No.1 on 24.10.2020. It may be noted that on 4.5.2018, a tentative seniority list was published by the Under Secretary (DP), Government of Manipur to which also the petitioners had submitted their written objection for the modification/ rectification of the tentative seniority list.
3.3. As per Rule 7(1) PART-IV of the Manipur Forest Service Rules, 1986 (hereinafter referred to as "the Rules, 1986") as amended from time to time, the post of MFS Grade-I is to be filled up by appointment on promotion from amongst the officers who had put in five years of service in the MFS Grade-II. However, in the tentative seniority list, the respondent No. 4 and 5 who were not eligible for consideration of promotion to the post of the Assistant Conservator of Forest, MFS Grade-II, have been included therein at Serial No. 1 & 2 which is illegal and not in consonance with the established rule. The respondent No.4 and 5 were not eligible for promotion even to the post of the MFS Grade-II in the vacancies for the year, 2013 as per their positions in the seniority list of the post of the Range Forest Officers who had undergone certificate course in forestry. They were not considered in the earlier DPC on the ground of non-fulfillment of the essential qualification of diploma certificate for the reason that the diploma certificate obtained by them fraudulently were not considered by the DPC. Their cases were considered by the recent review DPC purported to have been convened as per the direction of the Single Judge of this Court wherein the Single Judge had observed that in case they were selected and recommended by the review DPC, the official respondents were directed to appoint them. In other words, the respondent No.4 and 5 were appointed on promotion to the post of the MFS Grade-II vide order dated 31.08.2020 in a purported compliance with the Single Judge's order dated 20.12.2019 passed by him in WP(C) No.898 of 2018. The idea was that there should be a proper examination and consideration of the eligibility criteria before making any selection and recommendation by the DPC for appointment to the post of MFS Grade-II.
3.4. On 07.09.2020, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Manipur wrote a letter to the Under Secretary (Forests and Envn.,), Government of Manipur requesting him to expedite the notification of the inter-se seniority list of the MFS Grade-II at the earliest and to constitute a Screening Committee for promotion from the post of the MFS Grade-II to the post of the MFS Grade-I. To the utter shock and dismay, a final seniority list was published by the Joint Secretary to the Governor of Manipur vide his order dated 12.11.2020 which was issued without considering the objections filed by the petitioners on 23.10.2020. The said order was issued by the State Government in violation of the principle of natural justice. On 19.11.2020, the petitioners submitted a written objection to the Principal Secretary/ Commissioner (DP), Government of Manipur for modification/ rectification of the said final seniority list and in spite of that, the official respondents took appropriate steps to hold the proposed Class-I DPC for promotion to the post of the MFS Grade-I on the basis of final seniority list.
3.5. Being aggrieved by the said final seniority list, the instant writ petition has been filed by the petitioners on the inter-alia grounds that the diploma certificates on the basis of which the respondent No.4 and 5 had been considered, were obtained by them fraudulently for the reason that they were not eligible to undergo the said diploma course, as is evident from the letter dated 02.11.2006 issued by the Academic Officer that the Range Forest Officers are not eligible for undergoing the post-graduate diploma course. At the time of joining the course, the respondent No.4 and 5 were holding the post of the Range Forest Officer as reflected in the final seniority list published for the post of the Range Forest Officer on 18.12.2008. It is further evident from the letter dated 07.08.2010 issued by the Deputy Secretary (Forest and Environment), Government of Manipur that the Range Forest Officers are not eligible for 10 months advanced P.G. diploma programme/ Course and in addition thereto, the Director, Wildlife Institute of India vide its letter dated 21.7.2010 has clarified that the Range Forest Officers are not eligible for 10 months advanced diploma course. Since the respondent No.4 and 5 had undergone the said post-graduate diploma course in Wildlife Management in a fraudulent manner, any consequential order/ letter issued pursuant thereto is illegal, non-est and void ab initio. The respondent No.4 and 5 have been considered by the review DPC mechanically without proper application of mind and were given promotion to the post of the Assistant Conservator of Forest, MFS Grade-II without any reason. The final seniority list will have a great impact and consequences upon the petitioners while considering them for promotion to the post of the MFS Grade-I. The validity and correctness of the diploma certificate obtained by the respondent No. 5 has been challenged by some of the Range Forest Officers by way of WP(C) No.116 of 2020 wherein this Court had passed an interim order to the effect that the validity of the said certificate should be subject to the outcome of the writ petition. It is well settled law that if the initial action is not taken in consonance with law, all consequential proceedings would fall for the reason that the illegality strikes at the root of the order. ;
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