Madhya Pradesh High Court stays Removal of Chairman and Member of State Commission for Scheduled Castes

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A writ petition was filed at the Madhya Pradesh High Court under Article 226 challenging constitutionality of the removal of Chairman and Member of State Commission for Scheduled Castes.

The political appointments were made by the former ruling government which had to prove its majority in the legislative assembly after 22 MLA’s submitted their resignation. The present ruling government in Madhya Pradesh, then the opposition, had made striking remarks over the hasty appointments to the constitutional post when the state was in the middle of a political crisis.

On 23.05.2020, the political leadership was transferred which led to the cancellation of all the appointments, despite the fixed tenure of three years.

Following appointments were made by the former ruling political party, Indian National Congress;

  1. Former Member of Parliament, Anand Ahirwar as Chairman of State Commission for Scheduled Caste.
  2. Pradeep Ahirwar as Member of State Commission for Scheduled Caste.
  3. Congress leaders Ramu Tekam and Rashid Sohail Siddiqui as Members of Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission (MPPSC).
  4. Congress media in-charge Shobha Oza as Chairperson of State Women Commission.
  5. Congress leader Abhay Tiwari as Chairman of State Youth Commission.

The petitioners in the case at hand are Mr Anand Ahirwar and Mr Pradeep Ahirwar.

Issues before the Court

Whether the appointment made was consistent with the constitutional provision of the aforementioned post.

Whether the incumbent can be challenged based on the change of regime in the State.

Analysis

The petitioners in the present case have challenged the state government’s decision to cancel the appointments made by the former ruling government. The constitutional post is created under article 338 of the Constitution of India to provide safeguards against the exploitation of Scheduled Caste and to protect and promote their social, educational, cultural and economic rights.

The different state government have constituted state-level commission on SC/ST under the special provisions to prevent the atrocities. The appointments are to be made for three years by the Chief Minister of the concerned state government.

The members appointed to the Commission are directly affiliated to the former ruling party. The state government issued an order of cancellation of such recruitments stating in media reports that the appointment was made by the Chief Minister who no longer enjoyed a majority, rather be proven by a floor test. Thus, the appointments made were invalid as the appointer himself was in a disputed position.

The petitioners contended before the court that the order demanding their removal was issued under political pressure. The cancellation has been made during the nationwide lockdown owing to the COVID- 19 pandemic when the administrative/ executive bodies are functioning only for essential services. This has violated the principles of natural justice, audi alterem partem, as the petitioners were never provided with an opportunity of being heard.

Generally, cancellation of appointments to a constitutional post is made on the grounds of misbehaviour or incapability of the member to render his duties or declared incompetent by a court. In the present case, the petitioners contend that none of the ground shall apply to them and the cancellation is a political move despite being a constitutional provision.

Court’s Decision

The order was pronounced by Justice Nandita Dubey at Jabalpur bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court. The court has ordered a stay on the removal of petitioners and asked the state government to file a reply within two weeks as it found merit in the contentions made by the petitioners.

The cancellation of appointment of Shobha Oza as Chairperson of State Women Commission was also presented before the same judge, However, the present judge recused herself to heed the matter and has directed it to another bench of the High Court.


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