Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has observed that a change in social policy, implementation of policies and programmes following a change in government is “part of the democratic process” and cannot be termed as “arbitrary or mala fide”.
A division bench of Justices Gautam Patel and Neela Gokhale, on Tuesday, refused to quash an order passed by the current state government last December, cancelling the appointment of chairman and members of the Maharashtra State Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
What the June 2022 petition had claimed
The HC dismissed the petition filed by erstwhile chairman Jagannath Abhyankar and members Ramhari Shinde and Kishor Medhe, challenging the cancellation order. They were appointed in 2021 for a term of three years.
The petition contended that after the current government came to power in June 2022, it cancelled appointments of as many as 197 presidents and non-official members appointed on 29 project level (planning review) committees in tribal sub-plan projects.
Their advocate SB Talekar argued that previous government decisions cannot be changed merely because they were taken by rival political parties in power before the current government took over.
The judges said the petitioners did not have any fundamental right to continue on the posts. Hence the government order cancelling their appointment cannot be held “arbitrary or discriminatory”.
“A change in social policy followed by a change in government is part of the democratic process and a change in the implementation of policies and programmes per se cannot be charged as arbitrary or mala fide,” the HC said.
Court: Inception of the commission is by an executive order
The commission is neither statutory nor mandated by any provision of the Constitution and hence the appointment of the petitioners did not have any statutory basis, the court said.
It said that the petitioners were nominated at the sole discretion of the government without following any selection procedure or inviting applications from the general public. “Such an appointment has to be treated as one under the pleasure of the government. In fact, the existence of the commission itself is at the pleasure of the government,” the bench said.
It further added that the very inception of the commission is by an executive order and can thus also be dismantled by an executive order.
“For this reason, the petitioners have no fundamental or legal right to the posts. Consequently, there is no requirement of any justification or of giving an opportunity of hearing to the petitioners for their removal,” the HC said.