Govt. cannot make illegal appointments, says HC

‘Extraordinary favour given to a person’

It is not open to the government to make illegal appointments, opposed to public policy, and then take cover under the smokescreen of the doctrine of pleasure, enunciated under Article 310 (2) of the Constitution, the Madras High Court said on Wednesday.

Justice V. Parthiban held that the State government appeared to have shown “extraordinary favour” to an individual on “extraneous consideration”, by accommodating him in a top post in the Municipal Administration Department, after displacing an existing employee.

The judge agreed with senior counsel P. Wilson that the government had miserably failed to explain what special qualification the individual possessed, for him to have been given four years of extension of service, and then a fresh appointment.

He pointed out that the present writ petitioner, N. Natarajan, joined the Tamil Nadu Municipal Engineering Service in 1983, served for 35 years, and rose to the position of chief engineer in the office of the Commissioner of Municipal Administration (CMA) in 2018.

On the other hand, Pugazhendi, who was serving as chief engineer in the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC), was due to retire from service on attaining the age of 58, on June 30, 2016. He made a representation on June 21, 2016, seeking an extension of service.

On the same day, the then GCC Commissioner wrote to the government, recommending a two-year extension for Mr. Pugazhendi, since his services were required for ongoing projects.

The government accepted the recommendation and extended his services by two years, after upgrading his post as principal chief engineer. In June 2018, his service was extended by two years, on similar grounds, commending his contribution in completing many works on time.

A problem arose on December 12, 2019, when a G.O was issued directing Mr. Natarajan and Mr. Pugazhendi to swap their positions, by way of a transfer, though the post in GCC was lower in rank, compared to the one in the office of CMA.

Though the former challenged the G.O. through the present writ petition, the tenure of the latter came to an end on June 30, before any interim order could be passed. However, on the same day, another G.O. was issued, appointing Mr. Pugazhendi as chief engineer in the office of CMA, on contract basis. Immediately, the petitioner amended his prayer and challenged the June 30 G.O. too, on the ground that Mr. Pugazhendi was not eligible to be appointed as chief engineer in the office of CMA, since he did not possess the requisite qualifications.

The judge quashed the December 2019 G.O. through which Mr. Natarajan was transferred, and the June 30 G.O. by which Mr. Pugazhendi was appointed.

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