New Delhi: The Supreme Court has cautioned high courts and tribunals against shuttling litigants back and forth to get their representations decided first instead of adjudicating the main issue. The court noted such a practice may help in “easy” disposal of cases in the “overburdened adjudicatory institutions” but it does not serve the cause of justice.
A bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud implored upon the courts and tribunals to rather decide a matter finally so as to put an end to all the contentions in so far as adjudication before that particular forum is concerned.
The top court used the term ‘dispose of the representation mantra’ to indicate how the high courts and tribunals would keep sending the litigants back to the authorities concerned to have their representations decided first in spite of a decision on the merits of the case. A deferment in a decision on merits, the judges noted, invariably results in increasing the cost of the litigation apart from a delay in the legal process.
“This ‘dispose of the representation’ mantra is increasingly permeating the judicial process in the High Courts and the Tribunals. Such orders may make for a quick or easy disposal of cases in overburdened adjudicatory institutions,” noted the bench.
It, however, emphasised: “But, they do no service to the cause of justice. The litigant is back again before the Court, as this case shows, having incurred attendant costs and suffered delays of the legal process. This would have been obviated by calling for a counter in the first instance, thereby resulting in finality to the dispute.”
The apex court noted this while hearing an appeal by the central government against an order to grant compassionate appointment to the son of an employee, 21 years after the latter’s death.
While the employee in the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting died in May 1996, the first representation was moved in 1997. His wife moved the Central Administrative Tribunal only in 2007 — after more than 10 years of the death.
The bench noted that as the issue of compassionate appointment remained pending, high court and tribunals passed orders for deciding the representations instead of taking a call on the issue of giving a job under the pertinent rules.
By the time the High Court issued its direction in August 2016, nearly 21 years had elapsed since the date of the death of the employee.
According to the bench, the recourse to the tribunal suffered from a delay of over a decade in the first instance and hence, “staleness of the claim took away the very basis of providing compassionate appointment”. It thus set aside the High Court order.