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AWADESH MANI TRIPATHI V/S UNION OF INDIA, decided on Tuesday, April 23, 2013.
[ In the Supreme Court of India, SLP(C) No. 34226 of 2009. ] 23/04/2013
Judge(s) : G.S. SINGHVI, RANJANA PRAKASH DESAI & SHARAD ARVIND BOBDE
Advocate(s) : Shrish Kumar Misra. Siddharth Luthra, Priya Puri, Paras Kuhad, ASGs, Soumen Talukdar, Chandan Kumar.
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    1. This petition is directed against order dated 16.11.2009 passed by the Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court whereby the writ petition filed by the petitioner for issue of a mandamus to respondent nos. 3 to 5 herein to allot him LPG distributorship at Rudrapur District Deoria U.P.2. The facts which can be culled out from the record of the special leave petition show that in response to an advertisement issued by the Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (for short 'the Corporation') on 24.08.2000 the petitioner Kameshwar Singh and others applied for allotment of LPG distributorship at Rudrapur.3. After interviewing the eligible candidates the Selection Board prepared a merit list in which the name of Kameshwar Singh was shown at No.1 and that of the petitioner at No.2.Accordingly the LPG distributorship was awarded to Kameshwar Singh.4. The selection made by various Selection Boards generated lot of public debate and allegation of favouratism nepotism and corruption were leveled against the Chairman and the Members of different Selection Boards. This led to intervention of the then Prime Minister who ordered cancellation of all the allotments.5. The allottees challenged the action taken by the Central Government by filing writ petitions in different High Courts. On a petition filed by the Union of India all the matters were transferred to this Court and were disposed of vide judgment titled Onkar Lal Bajaj and Others v. Union of India and Another (2003) 2 SCC 673. Paragraphs 56 and 57 of that judgment which have bearing on this case are reproduced below:56. In our view the Government should not have exercised the power in a manner so as to enable it to escape the scrutiny of allotments exposed by the media. No arbitrary exercise of power should intervene to prevent the attainment of justice. Instead of passing the impugned order in the context of the facts of the present case the Government should have ordered an independent probe of alleged tainted allotments. The impugned order had the twin effect of (1) scuttling the probe and (2) depriving a large number of others of their livelihood that had been ensured for them after their due selections pursuant to a welfare policy of the Government as contained in the guidelines dated 9-10-2000. The public in general has a right to know the circumstances under which their elected representatives got the outlets and/or dealerships/distributorships.57. In view of the aforesaid:I. We appoint a committee comprising Mr Justice S.C. Agrawal a retired Judge of this Court and Mr Justice P.K. Bahri a retired Judge of the Delhi High Court to examine the aforesaid 413 cases. We request the Committee to submit the report to this Court within a period of three months.II. The Committee would devise its own procedure for undertaking the examination of these cases. If considered necessary the Committee may appoint any person to assist it.III. We direct the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas Government of India and the four oil companies to render full complete and meaningful assistance and cooperation to the Committee. The relevant records are directed to be produced before the Committee within five days.IV. We direct the Ministry to appoint a nodal officer not below the rank of a Joint Secretary for effective working of the Committee.V. The Central Government State Government/Union Territories and all others are directed to render such assistance to the Committee as may be directed by it.VI. The oil companies are directed to provide as per the Committee's directions the requisite infrastructure staff transport and make necessary arrangements whenever so directed for travel stay payments and other facilities etc.VII. In respect of any case if the Committee on preliminary examination of the facts and records forms an opinion that the allotment was made on merits and not as a result of political connections or patronage or other extraneous considerations it would be open to the Committee not to proceed with the probe in detail.6. The two Judge Committee constituted by this Court gave opportunity to the petitioner and others to submit their representations. They were also given opportunity of personal hearing.7. After considering the representations received from various individuals and scrutinising the record the Committee submitted a report to this Hon'ble Court which was accepted vide order dated 7.11.2008.8. As a sequel to cancellation of the dealership of Sh. Kameshwar Singh the petitioner represented for allotment of LPG distributorship to him by relying upon the guidelines issued in 2000. The Corporation did not accept the petitioner's claim. Therefore he filed writ petition no. 58384 of 2009 in the Allahabad High Court and prayed for issue of a mandamus to the Corporation to allot LPG distributorship to him.9. The Division Bench of the High Court dismissed the writ petition by a rather cryptic order the relevant portions of which are extracted below:The petitioner was placed at serial no.2 in the panel for allotment of LPG dealership/distributorship. The allotment made in favour of the person who was placed at serial no.1 Kameshwar Singh was not made on merit and therefore the Apex Court cancelled the allotment of LPG dealership/distributorship made in his favour.We are of the opinion that once the Supreme Court has found that the allotment of LPG dealership/distributorship was not done on merits the entire selection is liable to be cancelled and a fresh selection is required to be made by the respondents.10. Learned counsel for the petitioner relied upon order dated 1.4.2009 passed by the learned Single Judge of the Rajasthan High Court Jaipur Bench in S.B. Civil W.P. No.2974 of 2007 whereby a direction was given to the concerned oil company to consider the case of the petitioner in that petition for allotment of distributorship and argued that his client is also entitled to similar relief. He emphasised that in terms of paragraph 4 of the 2000 guidelines the petitioner is entitled to an allotment of LPG distributorship as of right because the allotment made in favour of Kameshwar Singh was cancelled by this Court.11. Sh. Sidharth Luthra learned senior counsel appearing for the Corporation argued that the petitioner cannot rely upon the guidelines issued in 2000 and seek a direction for the allotment of LPG distributorship because the entire selection was flawed. He referred to letter No.P.19017/51/2004/ISO dated 17.4.2007 issued by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas and order dated 4.10.2010 passed by this Court in Civil Appeal No. 8586 of 2010 (Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd. and Another v. Ramesh Chand Trivedi) and argued that in view of the directives issued by the Government of India which have been noticed by this Court the petitioner is not entitled to allotment of LPG distributorship in terms of the 2000 guidelines. Sh. Luthra also pointed out that after the disposal of Civil Appeal No. 8586 of 2010 the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas issued revised guidelines for selection of LPG distributors and submitted that in the selection held in 2011 Smt. Sunita Singh was declared successful for allotment of LPG distributorship at Rudrapur.12. We have considered the respective submissions and carefully perused the record.13. It is true that learned Single Judge of the Rajasthan High Court issued a mandamus for consideration of the second meritorious person for allotment of LPG distributorship but the order passed by him was reversed by this Court and the policy contained in letter dated 17.4.2007 was approved. This is evident from paragraph 4 of order dated 4.10.2010 passed in Civil Appeal No. 8586/2010 which reads as under:4. Learned counsel for the appellants submitted that the Central Government has taken a policy decision (vide directive dated 17.4.2007) to re-advertisement the distributorship wherever the earlier allotment was set aside in pursuance of this Court's order and not to allot it to the next person in the panel. The said policy cannot be said to be arbitrary or unreasonable or contrary to any rules. This Court had found that the selection process by the Board resulting in the selection of Naveen Gupta for the distributorship is illegal and vitiated due to extraneous consideration. If a comparative assessment made by a selection Board is vitiated and the appellants decided to scrap the entire panel and re-advertise the distributorship the decision is not open to question. It cannot be contended that when the allotment in favour of the first person in the panel is set aside the distributorship should automatically be allotted to the eligible applicant who is shown as second in the panel. Where the allotment was cancelled on account of irregularity in selection and preparation of panel the decision to have a fresh selection instead of using the panel which was found to be vitiated does not call for interference by courts.14. The petitioner has neither challenged letter dated 17.4.2007 and revised guidelines dated 25.6.2010 nor he has questioned the selection made in 2011 pursuant to advertisement dated 20.10.2011. Therefore it is not possible to find any fault with the conclusion recorded by the Division Bench of the High Court that the petitioner is not entitled to allotment of LPG distributorship.15. The order passed by the learned Single Judge of the Rajasthan High Court on which reliance has been placed by learned counsel for the petitioner is of no help the cause of the petitioner because the same has already been reversed by this Court.16. We may add that when the merit list prepared by the Selection Board was found to be vitiated due to the influence of extraneous consideration the petitioner who was placed at No.2 cannot seek a mandamus for allotment of LPG distributorship. Any such direction by the Court would amount to perpetuation of the illegality committed by the Selection Board.17. With the above observations the special leave petition is dismissed.