Officer’s prima facie false statement on oath | Court orders are to be complied with grace, not with rod: CAT

Srinagar, Dec 13: Pulling up an officer for “having made prima facie a false statement on oath”, the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) has held that the “court orders are to be complied with grace and not with a rod as nobody is above law”.

A division bench of M S Latif, Member (J), and Prasant Kumar, Member (A), observed while hearing a case wherein it had earlier put on hold J&K Public Service Commission (JKPSC)’s order cancelling the appointment of a dental surgeon, A A Mughal, after 18 years as “withdrawn”.

The tribunal had also directed the authorities to accommodate the dental surgeon, Dr Shwiti Gupta given the J&K High Court’s orders in this regard.

The plea before the CAT revealed that the commission had issued an advertisement notice on June 23, 2003, inviting applications from eligible candidates for the post of Dental Surgeon in the Health and Family Welfare Department.

Mughal, being eligible, applied for the post and after completing the selection process, the JKPSC issued a select list on September 29, 2005, wherein she also figured.

Subsequently she joined the post in 2005 and is working as a Dental Surgeon with the department for the last 18 years.

In the meantime, Dr Gupta questioned her non-selection as she was entitled to six more points, three each for experience and sports.

Finally, the authorities passed an order on November 25, 2020, whereby the claim of Dr Gupta was rejected.

She challenged the order before CAT Bench Jammu and her plea was allowed with a direction to the authorities to appoint her to the post of Dental Surgeon.

In an appeal, the authorities challenged the order before the High Court, which was dismissed by the Division Bench on December 15, 2021.

After the dismissal of the appeal, the candidate was appointed to the post of Dental Surgeon and the appointment of Mughal was cancelled as withdrawn by the JKPSC on July 20 this year.

Aggrieved by the order, Mughal filed a petition before CAT with the contention that she had been working without any break for 18 years.

The tribunal observed that after it was brought on record before the High Court by Mughal that 17 vacancies of the post of Dental Surgeons were available which had not been notified to the commission, the court, it said, had said she could easily be accommodated to any of these vacancies without disturbing the selection and appointment of any candidate.

“Given this, the respondents (authorities) are directed to accommodate the applicant (Dr Gupta) as observed by the High Court in its order dated December 15, 2021, as well as given the clarification issued by the PSC in its meeting on February 25, 2020,” the CAT had said.

Citing the statement of facts filed by the Deputy Secretary, Health and Medical Education (H&ME) Department, the tribunal observed that the deponent had revealed that Mughal’s cancellation of the appointment was stayed and further the order passed by the tribunal could not be executed because Dr Gupta was already appointed vide government order dated August 4, 2023.

“Yet again the deponent further admits that the tribunal vide interim order dated September 22, 2023, has stayed the revised recommendation dated August 19, 2023, passed by the Public Service Commission,” it said.

“The statement of facts establishes that the respondents had knowledge of the order passed by this tribunal and despite knowledge have flouted the orders passed by this court,” the tribunal said.

It observed that the division bench of the High Court vide its judgment dated December 15, 2021, had already directed that there were 17 vacancies of Dental Surgeons which had not been notified by the commission and, as such, the respondent could easily be accommodated to any of these vacancies without disturbing the appointment of any candidates either as per the select list of 2005 or any other select list prepared thereafter.

The tribunal said that the contemnors had not only held its order in breach but also violated the orders passed by the division bench of the High Court.

While the tribunal observed that the Deputy Secretary, the H&ME Department was expected to be independent and impartial, it said that the officer owes his duty not only to the government but equally to the division bench of the High Court and also to the tribunal.

“He cannot escape the liability of having made prima facie a false statement on oath, to mislead this court and to pollute the stream of administration of justice,” the court said. “The court orders are to be complied with grace and not with a rod as nobody is above law whosoever it is high or low.”

It said that this tribunal while exercising its jurisdiction in contempt proceedings can undo the wrongs which had been done to the petitioner and restore status quo ante.

The tribunal noted that the Deputy Secretary H&ME Department made a statement at the Bar that he would comply with the directions passed by the High Court as well as the orders passed by the tribunal in letter and spirit and, as such sought a week.

“In this view of the matter, a lenient view is taken,” the tribunal said and directed the officer to remain present on the next date of hearing.

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