w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n

Vijay Kumar Prasad v/s Oil & Natural Gas Corporation Ltd., through Shahi Shanker, CMD ONGC, New Delhi & Others

Company & Directors' Information:- OIL AND NATURAL GAS CORPORATION LIMITED [Active] CIN = L74899DL1993GOI054155

Company & Directors' Information:- OIL INDIA LIMITED [Active] CIN = L11101AS1959GOI001148

Company & Directors' Information:- INDIA NATURAL GAS COMPANY PRIVATE LIMITED. [Dissolved] CIN = U23200MH1999PTC120457

Company & Directors' Information:- S R P OIL PVT LTD [Active] CIN = U23209DL1996PTC303594

Company & Directors' Information:- GAS CORPORATION INDIA LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U40200BR1993PLC005536

Company & Directors' Information:- NATURAL GAS COMPANY PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U23200MH1937PTC002629

Company & Directors' Information:- VIJAY INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U25199DL1998PTC096860

Company & Directors' Information:- M K S OIL PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U23201DL2013PTC250459

Company & Directors' Information:- OIL CORPORATION OF INDIA PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U15133UP1952PTC002471

Company & Directors' Information:- O.I.L PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U15400DL2013PTC255692

Company & Directors' Information:- SHANKER INDIA LIMITED [Active] CIN = U27310UP2008PLC035838

Company & Directors' Information:- VIJAY J AND K PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U52100GJ1974PTC002504

Company & Directors' Information:- P P OIL PRIVATE LIMITED [Active] CIN = U15141MH1999PTC117925

Company & Directors' Information:- DELHI GAS LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U40200DL1995PLC068380

Company & Directors' Information:- B F OIL PRIVATE LIMITED [Strike Off] CIN = U15141DL1993PTC052160

Company & Directors' Information:- D VIJAY AND COMPANY LIMITED [Dissolved] CIN = U99999MH1933PTC002056

    Writ Petition No. 3773 of 2019

    Decided On, 11 October 2019

    At, High Court of Judicature at Bombay


    For the Appellant: In person. For the Respondents: Girish Jawahar Paryani, Advocate.

Judgment Text

G.S. Patel, J.

1. Heard. Rule. The Respondents waive service. By consent taken up for hearing and final disposal.

2. The Petitioner appears in person. He is even now an employee of the 1st Respondent, the Oil And Natural Gas Corporation Ltd (“ONGC”). At the time of the petition he was Chief Engineer (Production) at the Nhava Supply Base, ONGC, Nhava. Respondents Nos. 3, 5, 7, 9, 11 and 12 are all employed with ONGC. The 13th Respondent is the Union of India. Respondents Nos. 2, 4, 6, 8 and 10 are persons who held positions of various kinds with ONGC. Respondents Nos. 14 to 16 are individuals.

3. The petition is ostensibly fled under Article 226 of the Constitution of India for very many reliefs. Not all lie within the ambit of Article 226. The principal relief is for the issue of a mandamus to the Respondents to reply with reasons to the Petitioner in respect of his complaint listed at Exhibit “V”. There is also a challenge to an order dated 24th January 2018 passed by the Central Information Commission, New Delhi (“CIC”) in a Second Appeal, and for a direction to ONGC in Mumbai and its nodal Public Information Officer or PIO to supply certain information sought by the Petitioner under the Right to Information Act under an application dated 20th April 2016.

4. We have heard Mr Vijay Kumar Prasad. We have carefully considered the petition with all its annexures, the affidavit in reply fled by one AJ Narsaiyaa, the Chief Manager (Human Resources) of ONGC, the lengthy affidavit in rejoinder, and the detailed written submissions Mr Prasad tendered.

5. Mr Prasad works with the ONGC as a Chief Engineer (Production). He has been in employment for over 33 years and has received regular promotions.

6. From paragraph 4 of the petition onwards, there are a series of allegations made against various officers of ONGC. The frst allegation is that a serving officer demanded on 3rd September 2004 that the Petitioner should marry the officer’s daughter or face dire consequences. The Petitioner then says that since he could not and did not accede to this, there began a systematic campaign of harassment and intimidation. He was threatened with dismissal and disciplinary action. It is alleged that on 6th April 2006 the Petitioner was issued a memorandum alleging serious misconduct which was similar to earlier warning letters. The Petitioner submitted a representation dated 19th June 2006 protesting against what he perceived to be victimisation. He also approached the Hon’ble Union Minister of State (Petroleum and Natural Gases) on 20th July 2006 and later approached the Union Cabinet Minister. The Petitioner received neither reply nor redress. The Petitioner then says that ONGC then took up what the Petitioner describes as an undercover operation from October 2006 to ruin his personal life.

7. We have made it clear to Mr. Prasad that within the limited confines of Article 226 of the Constitution of India, we cannot possibly examine these allegations. Those limitations are not relaxed merely because a party chooses to appear pro se, nor does the use of extreme language or terminology such as “evil deeds”, “torture” etc allow us to expand our writ jurisdiction beyond well-established limits. What emerges from paragraph 9 is that the Petitioner continues to perceive himself as being victimised. These allegations may or may not furnish Mr. Prasad a cause of action in a civil proceeding; we say nothing on that score. He is at liberty to take those steps, if available, and subject to all defences including limitation. We are, however, clear that we cannot examine them in a writ petition.

8. We gather from the averments in paragraph 10 of the petition that the Petitioner was something of a whistle-blower. He complained inter alia about alleged clandestine spending by ONGC. Then there is a long narration in paragraph 10 about residential neighbours allegedly spying on the Petitioner, illegally hacking his internet connection and computer, and running illicit wire-taps on his cell phones. These are just allegation, sans particulars and certainly without proof. These allegations, too, cannot be examined in writ jurisdiction.

9. Paragraph 12 contains an allegation that an officer of ONGC attempted to poison and murder the Petitioner. Again, this cannot be the subject matter of a civil writ petition.

10. The Petitioner’s meandering narrative of these and similar facts of his persecution — or, at any rate, his perceived persecution — does not persuade us that we can fashion any sort of relief on these grounds.

11. For our present purposes what matters is that the Petitioner made an application on 20th April 2016 under the Right to Information Act 2005 seeking information on as many as 71 queries.

12. On 21st June 2016 the Petitioner was given an abridged or abbreviated report in response to the Petitioner’s repeated complaints. The petition then avers that the Petitioner did not received an adequate response to his RTI queries. He fled a First Appeal. A short while later on 12th July 2016, the Petitioner received some limited information but much of what he sought was denied to him claiming an exemption. The Respondents replied to his First Appeal but without adequate reasons. The Appellate Authority on 21st July 2016 confirmed the order of the Authority below.

13. It seems that by this time the Petitioner was using ONGC’s SAP business portal to transmit his representation. He received an advisory dated 14th July 2016 not to do so. The Petitioner confirms that he is not doing that and we accept this.

14. The Petitioner ultimately fled a Second Appeal before the Central Information Commission. The submission is that the response to this was vague.

15. Even a cursory reading of paragraphs 2 to 37 of the petition is enough to show that it is impossible to grant or even mould any particular relief based on averments made in this chaotic and unfocussed fashion. The whole of the petition is an attempt to portray the Petitioner as a targeted victim of a vast conspiracy involving many dozens of people, spread across large spans of time and even covering a wide geographical distribution. At every turn, all that the Petitioner sees is harassment and persecution. There are fles on allegations about the Petitioner being victimised, harassed, having his privacy invaded, being the victim of an undercover sting operation, being forced into a relationship with someone else and so on. Throughout there is nothing in the form of tangible material, but only a piling up of correspondence and allegations. It is impossible from these averments to discern a legally enforceable right, let alone a fundamental right, that can be invoked by the Petitioner.

16. The specific challenge in the petition is to a document at Exhibit “HHHH” and its annexures. The exhibit is a letter of 13th February 2018 from the General Manager (HR) and CPIO of ONGC to the Petitioner. It encloses some documents and the relevant one is from pages 349 to 358. The document is heavily redacted. It says that a committee of four officers was set up by the ONGC Human Resources Office to look into the Petitioner’s case. The 10th Respondent, Dr Mina Biswal, was a member of this committee. The other persons on this committee included Respondents Nos. 8 and 9. This report from pages 349 to 354 noted the brief facts and that for the past three years the Petitioner had been alleging that he was personally targeted and troubled in Mumbai, at his residence in Panvel and was attempted to be subjected to lead poisoning at Bengal Chemical Bhavan. Up to that time he had sent as many as 192 letters to various senior officers of ONGC. The report noted some corrective measures including noting that despite telephonic request, the Petitioner did not meet the regional office head in Mumbai to ascertain basic facts but instead addressed even more correspondence. Thereafter, by virtue of a letter dated 17th November 2015, an internal committee of officers was constituted and it concluded that all the complaints made by the Petitioner pertained to officers, persons or places that did not relate to what is called the IOGPT (Institute of Oil & Gas Production Technology) of the ONGC. The IOGPT was established in 1984 with assistance of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to meet the production and processing-related technological requirements of oil and gas fields and processing plants. It is situated at the Technology Park in Panvel. The IOGPT is one of ONGC’s many such research and development facilities.

17. It was found that the Petitioner’s complaints all pertained to a period prior to his joining or secondment to IOGPT. Further, as the IOGPT is in Panvel, the enquiry committee felt this was really a matter to be dealt with by the regional office. The committee also noted that there was nothing to indicate that there had been any trouble at Bengal Chemical Bhavan. The Petitioner was staying in a private residence at Panvel which was not in the control of ONGC, and therefore the allegations against neighbours were not such as could be addressed by any internal mechanism or protocol of the ONGC.

18. After going through several written, oral and other received information from the Petitioner, his colleagues, his reporting officer, neighbours, co-residents, medical reports and available records, the four-member committee submitted its report on 21st January 2016. The salient points of this recommendation are as follows (quoted from the report):

(a) Considering Shri Prasades alleged life threatening accusation, the committee advised Shri Prasad that if he is convinced that there is threat to his life, he should approach the local police station immediately and he should stop sending SAP mails.

(b) The committee noted that Shri Prasad is well informed on RTI, committee’s jurisdiction and his requirements.

(c) The committee interacted with senior executives residing in the same complex as Shri Prasad and they expressed that they are neither aware of any such incident in the society during that period nor any other personalized troubling to him in the society premises.

(d) The committee also enquired about threatening and personalized commenting incidents from the secretary of Shri Prasad’s Housing society, who stated that no such event happened in the society as per the records.

(e) As regards Shri Prasad’s allegation related to spying, lead poisoning, tracking his moments etc. at Bengal Chemical Bhavan, are concerned, Shri Prasad’s colleagues of IMPETUS shared that Shri Prasad’s allegations are truly baseless, no such event has taken place nor it is possible to take place and the incidents mentioned are not true and are imaginary.

(f) The medical report of Shri Prasad from SRL Diagnostics dt. 6th June 2015 was perused by the committee and was observed that his lead levels are within normal range.

(g) As per medical report dt. 26th November 2015 conduced by Dr Megha Deshpande, Consulting Physician, Shri Prasad is normal physically though his behaviour shows anxiety and may require thorough investigation. Shri Prasad was advised for the same. However, Shri Prasad did not pay heed to the advice. Since the lead levels in the report are indicated normal, the committee opined that the alleged lead poisonings may not have taken place at all.

(h) Despite giving fair opportunity to Shri Prasad by the committee, he instead of helping the committee to find the root cause of his grievances and redressal thereof, has insisted only on pursuing some imaginary documents. Shri Prasad being a very senior and mature officer could have utilized this opportunity to get the issues if any addressed.

(i) The committee from his communications observed that Shri Prasad initially stated that RO Vigilance was behind the ill doings, and then started accusing RO, HR and GM IMPETUS and is now insisting on seeing certain imaginary documents.

(j) The committee from all its logical deductions tend to agree with the available information from people with whom it has interacted that such an event is not possible to happen in hired office at BCB as well as in his residential society.

(k) Due to adamant behaviour of Shri Prasad, the committee failed to address his grievances if any.

(Emphasis added)

19. We have highlighted and emphasized some portions of this, because even today in this writ petition, the Petitioner persists in repeating the same allegations. As a matter of administrative law and standards of judicial review of administrative action, we can find no reason to interfere. The decision-making process cannot be faulted. The Petitioner was given multiple opportunities for redressal. His remedies, if any, do not lie before us in a writ petition.

20. The committee also observed as follows:

(a) Shri V.K. Prasad, CE (P) is not looking for redressal of his grievances. He has been changing his stand time and again without focusing on the issue initially raised by him in his SAP mail PARA II.

(b) It is difficult to establish that he was troubled at BCB office during his IMPETUS tenure; however, it is extremely unlikely that these incidents could ever have taken place.

(c) Incidents mentioned by Shri V.K. Prasad, CE (P) at his residence vide mail dated 8th October 2015 appear to be imaginary.

(d) The allegation of his lead poisoning at Bengal Chemical Bhavan, Mumbai or at IOGPT Panvel appears to have not taken place at all.

(e) Misuse of corporate resources by Shri Prasad i.e. instead of following laid down policy on grievance management of the company choose to use SAP mails on daily basis. SAP happens to be business platform of the company.

(Emphasis added)

21. The committee therefore, concluded that the allegations made by the Petitioner were found to be false and imaginary and that he should be advised to follow the established procedures but not misuse the SAP business portal. Page 354 contained material that is heavily redacted. Then at page 355 is a document signed by one S Gopinath which is also redacted but it seems to indicate that ONGC has taken the view that his business portal was being misused. Although there is some other material where questions were raised about the Petitioner’s mental health, we do not think it is necessary to go into this further.

22. So far as our remit is concerned,

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this much is clear: first, we are unable to discern any legal right or fundamental right that can be said to have been infringed warranting our interference under Article 226 of the Constitution of India. Second, there is no case made out for interference as a matter of judicial review. There is no arbitrariness, irrationality or unreasonableness that would demand our intervention. Third, there are very serious disputed questions of fact. The allegations of individual mala fides, wrongdoing, criminality, culpability in tort and otherwise, and so on are all matters that require evidence and cannot be examined in a writ petition. The Petitioner must prove the correctness of what he says in a manner known to law. Just because he is an individual there can be no exception made to this rule. His version will have to be tested by cross-examination once he enters the witness box and gives appropriate evidence in support of a civil suit, assuming that he can make out an actionable civil cause. Fourth, we are not prepared to hold that just because an RTI query has been raised with 71 queries therefore this gives the Petitioner a cause of action or entitles him to an immediate remedy. It is undoubtedly true that the Petitioner did receive some responses but for the others exemption was claimed. 23. It is difficult in these circumstances to hold that the Petitioner has made out a sufficient case warranting our interference. The Petitioner keeps making the same allegations over and over again, but refuses to cooperate or furnish proof. We find no merit in the petition. It is dismissed. There will be no order as to costs.