Supreme Court: IAS Officers Cannot Insist on Specific Posting

In the latest Judgment of the Supreme Court, a three-judges bench comprising Hon’ble Mr. Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R.Subhash Reddy and Justice M. R Shah passed their order in a contempt petition filed by Dr Jitendra Gupta who is an IAS officer.

Brief Facts of the case Dr Jitendra Gupta vs Secretary, DopT, Government Of India

When the petitioner was posted as Sub- Divisional Officer in Bihar, an FIR was filed against him. The State of Bihar initiated disciplinary proceedings against him as well. 

Petitioner moved the Patna High Court and stated that the state government was victimizing him. The Court was satisfied with the evidence in support of his claim and quashed the criminal proceedings against him.

Subsequently, the petitioner filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court requesting the court to transfer him from the State of Bihar. The Supreme Court in its order dated 09.05.2017 directed the centraL government to look into the matter and take appropriate steps.

Consent was sought from the State of Haryana by the central government, and the State of Haryana informed the central government of their approval to transfer the petitioner to Haryana.

Due to some reason, the central government declined the transfer request of the petitioner. Aggrieved by the order, the petitioner approached the central administrative tribunal. 

CAT ruled in favour of the petitioner and directed the central government to consider the case of the petitioner. The government of Bihar was directed to not withhold consent for interstate transfer.

Aggrieved by order of CAT, the Bihar government moved Delhi High Court. The central government informed the Court that they did not want to challenge the order passed by CAT. The petition was dismissed by the Delhi High Court.

The central government issued a letter to the appellant stating that he can be transferred to either Nagaland, Andhra Pradesh or Manipur due to shortage of IAS officers. The letter sought the consent of the officer.

The petitioner challenged the letter in front of the Delhi High Court and stated that the Central Government was in Contempt of Court. The Delhi High Court found no merit in the application and dismissed the same.

Aggrieved by the order, the petitioner moved the Supreme Court.

Proceedings before the Supreme Court

When the matter was first taken up by the Supreme Court, the Court ordered that the matter should be settled amicably by both the parties. The respondent advocate assured the Court that the applicant would be posted to Haryana within three weeks.

The petitioner initiated contempt proceedings against the respondents on 03.02.2020 alleging that they had not complied with the order of the Supreme Court. Again the Court requested them to settle the matter amicably and listed the matter on 11.08.2020

When the matter was taken up on 11.08.2020, the Court ordered that the petitioner and the central government should work out a list of states where the petitioner can be posted to and submitted the proposal before the Supreme Court.

The counsel for the petitioner submitted that the central government has not complied with the order dated 02.07.2019 passed by the Delhi High Court. He argued that the State of Haryana had already consented and had no issues if the petitioner was transferred there.

It was further submitted that the central government should not ask for the consent of the petitioner in order to transfer him to Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland or Manipur.

His main contention before the courCourt that interstate transfer of officers was allowed if they faced extreme hardship. The central government has accommodated the request of transfer of a large number of IAS officers, but his client was singled out.

The counsel for the respondent stated that his client, the central government committed no contempt. He stated that as per the order of the High Court, the central government had to take the call regarding the transfer.

He contended that in cases where there was a threat to the life of an officer, he could be transferred to a state of his choice. However, in this case, there was no threat to the life of the accused, so it is up to the government to decide where to post him.

The Decision of the Court

The Court held that the central government did not commit willful disobedience of the high court order and therefore, contempt action cannot be taken against them. As per the Court central government had the right to post officers wherever they deem fit and the petitioner had sought transfer outside the State of Bihar. The central government had initiated the process to transfer him to another state and had issued a letter asking for the petitioners’ consent as well.

The Judges noted the fact that “The proceedings of inter-cadre transfer are awaiting finalization for the last more than two years. The appellant who is ready to render his services in any other State, which State needs to utilize his services for the welfare of the people.”

The Court also directed that the petitioner cannot insist on being transferred to Haryana and should be open to other postings as well. The Court allowed the petitioner to make fresh representation to the competent authority and its decision should ideally be completed within two months.

Due to the reasons mentioned above, the Contempt of Court petition was rejected.

Case Details

Title :- Dr Jitendra Gupta vs SECRETARY, DoP&T, GOVERNMENT OF INDIA

Case No. : CIVIL APPEAL NO(S).3298 of 2020 

Date of Order:-  25.09.2020

Quorum : Justice Ashok Bhushan, Justice R.Subhash Reddy and Justice M. R Shah

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