Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
A democracy is a democracy because in a democracy the State acts as an ideal employer. But in Orissa, the government run by chief minister Naveen Patnaik has become such a tormenting employer that thousands of employees are forced into litigations seeking justice and when justice comes to their side, the State contrives new grounds to prolong the cases before the courts and/or itself enters into litigations against the employees.
Several thousands of cases provoked and/or contrived by the State are pending before the Orissa State Administrative Tribunal, set up in 1986 “for quick redressal of grievances of State government employees regarding their service matters”. Latest update of official data carries different sets of numbers of the cases, one of which shows that the number of cases instituted before the Tribunal from 1986 to 31 December 2002 was 37,082. Out of these 37,082 cases, 19,482 were disposed off by that date leaving a balance of 17,600 cases as on 1 January 2003 pending.
How many cases are instituted thereafter is not being reflected in official data. In fact, this governments feels more comfortable by not updating data on official records in as many fronts as possible. However, a secretary of a single department i.e. the department of school and mass education, Ms. Aparajita Sarangi, after the High Court punished her for contempt against court direction, in a different context has disclosed that there are around 23,000 cases raised by aggrieved employees of her department that include cases already disposed of by the State Administrative Tribunal, Orissa High Court and even the Supreme Court with specific direction to the government, are yet to be settled by the State. This figure of unending litigations in a single department juxtaposed with the total balance of 17,600 pending cases comprising cases of all the departments before the Tribunal as on 1 January 2003 is enough to assume that in Naveen Patnaik regime, service related litigations have broken all records.
But how recalcitrant attitude of top functionaries of this government is playing havoc with lives of employees is best viewable in the government’s habitual disobedience to orders of the courts in every stage. A case related to the Department of Higher Education may be viewed as a sample, specifically as this particular case shows how habitually litigant is Naveen Patnaik’s Government.
This is the case of Kailas Chandra Mishra of Orissa Education Service. A Reader of Anthropology before his premature death in a road accident, he was degraded in rank with arbitrary curtailment of seniority by ten years. Mortally aggrieved, he moved the Government for restoration of his seniority. Having failed to fetch redressal of his grievances from the Government, he filed a case in the State Administrative Tribunal in 2001. The Tribunal nullified the curtailment of his seniority and passed orders in November 2006 for his restoration in senior position in the gradation list with all consequential benefits. But instead of honoring the just orders of the Tribunal, the government in the department of higher education wanted to move the High Court for nullification of the Tribunal order. Opinion of the Law Secretary was sought for. On analysis of the Tribunal verdict vis-a-vis the case contents, the Law Secretary opined that the Government should not prefer any proceeding in the High Court, but should honor the Tribunal orders. Instead of accepting his competent opinion, the administrative department under orders of the concerned Minister sent the file again to the Law Secretary to revise his views. It did not click. The Law Secretary made it clear that Mishra’s case was so very strong and the Tribunal verdict was so very just that the Government had no chance of victory against that in any higher forum. According to the Rules of Business created by the Constitution, under Rule 2 (b) pertaining to State Subjects under Judicial Branch, institution of “appeals against sentences in lower courts” depends upon approval of the Law department.
For this, unlike the Secretaries of all other departments, the Secretary of Law department holds a statutory post, holding a Senior District Judge position in the cadre of Orissa Superior Judicial Service (Senior Branch), on whose opinion and advice the State Government is legally required to depend in matters of litigations, interpretation of statutes and study of court orders for purpose of implementation thereof or filing appeal there-against and to abide by the same. But, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik used his prerogative and ordered for filing of a case in Orissa High Court against the Tribunal order.
The High Court rejected the Government case. Appeal against the High Court order was preferred in the Supreme Court and there too Government lost.
Yet, instead of implementing the order of the Tribunal, the Government has contrived new grounds to harass the widow of the educationist, who has been harping on implementation of the order and release of her late husband’s dues illegally blocked by the Government.
In the meantime, on May 17, 2011, “in view of the conditions imposed by the 13th Finance Commission in its award to lay down a litigation policy for State of Orissa based on the National Litigation Policy to ensure conduct of litigation by State Government as a responsible litigant aiming toward reducing pendency and delays in finality of litigation”, the State Government has framed a “State Litigation Policy” that it projects as “guideline to be observed and followed” in matter of litigations.
It has been stressed in this instrument that “all endeavor should be made to satisfy the person aggrieved by redressing his grievance ……. and those connected with the litigation should not leave the matter to the adjudicating forum to decide with an attitude that “LET IT BE DECIDED BY THE COURTS”. Any such attitude coming to the notice has to be seriously viewed. It should give a feeling not only that grievance is redressed but it must be shown to have been redressed within the frame work of law in a just possible manner”. It has further been underlined that “All Public servants should develop the attitude of being accountable where grievance is made by individual in respect of their actions or inactions or abuse of position in any matter. …….. The mindset should be that if a person has a claim tenable in the eye of law let him not be unnecessarily driven to the court as his ultimate success costs dearer to the State in many respect sending a wrong message and signal affecting the Governance”.
Sad, the Government run by Naveen Patnaik refuses to respect its own litigation policy, so litigant by nature it is.