New Delhi, October, 2023 – The Supreme Court of India recently delivered a significant ruling in Bichitrananda BeheraV. State Of Orissa And Others, Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.16238 Of 2017 that underscores the importance of timeliness in service-related claims and addresses the concept of acquiescence. The case involved a service-related dispute in which a belated claim was rejected, and the Court found that the delay amounted to acquiescence, implying an implicit and reluctant consent to an act.
Background of the Case
The case revolved around Mr. Bichitrananda Behera, who sought to assert his claim to the post of Physical Education Trainer (PET). The Court emphasized that Mr. Behera had not pursued his claim for over 12 years, whether in a court of law, tribunal, or any authority. The delay in asserting his claim was deemed significant, particularly in service matters, and it carried the connotation of acquiescence.
Acquiescence: Understanding the Legal Concept
The Court’s decision was grounded in the legal concept of acquiescence, which it defined as a tacit or passive acceptance. Acquiescence implies an implied and reluctant consent to an act. In essence, it represents a passive assent, and it presupposes knowledge of a particular act. When a person is aware of a situation and consciously ignores it or fails to take action against it, acquiescence occurs.
The Court cited the case of *Union of India v. N Murugesan* (2022) 2 SCC 25 to illustrate the concept of acquiescence, emphasizing that acquiescence is not limited to mere delay; it implies an active consent by remaining silent or inactive in the face of knowledge.
The Case in Question
The case before the Supreme Court concerned the appeal filed by Mr. Bichitrananda Behera, challenging the High Court of Orissa’s decision. The High Court had dismissed Mr. Behera’sappeal against the judgment of the State Education Tribunal, which directed the state to approve the appointment of Mr. Pramod Kumar Mohanty as a PET in a Gram Panchayat School and to release a block grant in his favor, retroactive to January 1, 2004.
The controversy began with the constitution of the first Stop Management Committee for the school. The committee was subsequently reconstituted, and its composition was modified. This led to a legal dispute that reached the High Court. During this time, Mr. Bichitrananda Behera was appointed as a PET on May 14, 1994.
After years of legal proceedings, the interim order of the High Court that favored the committee reconstituted on December 15, 1992 was vacated on December 18, 1995. This happened after Mr. Behera’s appointment. When applications were invited for block grants under the Grant-in-Aid Order, 2004, effective from January 1, 2004, the Inspector of Schools approved Mr. Behera’sappointment and his entitlement to the block grant on April 2, 2005.
Legal Analysis and Court’s Observations
The Supreme Court examined the facts of the case in detail. It noted that Mr. Behera’s appointment was made during the pendency of a stay order granted by the High Court, and that stay order was in favor of the Managing Committee constituted on December 15, 1992. Therefore, the Court found that Mr. Behera’s appointment was neither illegal nor void ab initio.
Furthermore, the Court pointed out that the Managing Committee constituted on December 15, 1992 continued its operations during the period of the stay order, and no order suggested that actions taken by that committee had lost their efficacy or validity.
In contrast, Mr. Pramod Kumar Mohanty, who claimed to have continued as the PET in the school from January 10, 1993, could not have been appointed on the same post held by the incumbent, Mr. Kapil Sasmal, according to the Court’s observations.
The Court also noted that Mr. Mohanty had worked in another school from January 4, 1995, to August 18, 2002, further complicating his claim.
The Supreme Court’s Verdict
Based on its analysis of the case and legal principles, the Supreme Court concluded that Mr. Behera was entitled to continue in the role of PET in the school. His service was counted from his appointment on May 14, 1994, and all consequential benefits would follow as determined by records.
To ensure complete justice, given the time taken by the adjudicatory process, the Supreme Court invoked its power under Article 142 of the Constitution of India. It directed the State of Odisha to grant a lump-sum amount of INR 3 lakhs to Mr. Mohanty. The Court also specified that any monies paid to Mr. Mohanty should not be recovered. The decision in this case is not intended to set a precedent.
Implications of the Supreme Court’s Decision
The Supreme Court’s decision in this case emphasizes the importance of timely pursuit of service-related claims, particularly in matters where delay can be construed as acquiescence. The ruling underscores the need for individuals to assert their claims in a timely manner and avoid implicit consent through inaction or delay.
The legal concept of acquiescence, as elaborated by the Court, is significant in service-related disputes, and this decision provides clarity on its application in such cases.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in this case sets an important precedent for service-related claims and the concept of acquiescence. It emphasizes the significance of timeliness and proactive pursuit of claims, as undue delay can result in implicit consent to an act. The decision serves as a reminder of the need for individuals to assert their rights promptly, particularly in service matters, to avoid potential acquiescence.