Joint Secretary, Political Department Govt. Of Meghalaya Main Secretariat Shill Vs. High Court of Meghalaya Through Its Registrar, Shillong on18th March, 2016 – Supreme Court of India Judgement

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CIVIL APPEAL NO.  2987 OF 2016

(@ Special Leave Petition (Civil) No. 6825 of 2016)

Joint Secretary, Political Department,  Government of Meghalaya, Main Secretariat,

Shillong                                                       …Appellant(s)


High Court of Meghalaya through its Registrar,

Shillong                                                         …Respondent(s)


Dipak Misra, J.

New York Times,  in  the  Editorial,  “The  Frankfurter  Legacy,”  on

September 2, 1962, while stating about the greatness of  Felix  Frankfurter,

chose the following expression:-

“History will find greatness in Felix Frankfurter as a justice, not  because

of the results he reached but because of his attitude toward the process  of

decision.  His  guilding  lights  were  detachment,  rigorous  integrity  in

dealing with the facts of a case, refusal to resort to  unworthy  means,  no

matter how noble the end, and dedication to the  Court  as  an  institution.

Because he was human, Justice Frankfurter did not always live up to his  own

ideal.  But he taught  us  the  lesson  that  there  is  importance  in  the


2.Almost two decades and two years back, the Court in Tata  Cellular  v.

Union of India[1]  referred,  with  approval,  the  following  passage  from

Neely, C.J.[2] :-

“82. … ‘I have very few illusions about my own limitations as  a  Judge  and

from those limitations I generalise  to  the  inherent  limitations  of  all

appellate courts reviewing rate cases.  It  must  be  remembered  that  this

Court sees approximately 1262 cases a year with five Judges.  I  am  not  an

accountant,  electrical  engineer,  financier,  banker,  stock  broker,   or

systems management analyst. It is the  height  of  folly  to  expect  Judges

intelligently to review a 5000 page record  addressing  the  intricacies  of

public utility operation.’ ”

3.Regard being had to the directions issued  by  the  High  Court,  this

Court in Census Commissioner and others  v.  R.  Krishnamurthy[3]  commenced

the judgment in the following manner:-

“The present appeal depicts and, in a way, sculpts the  non-acceptance

of  conceptual  limitation  in  every  human  sphere   including   that   of

adjudication. No adjudicator or a Judge can conceive the idea that  the  sky

is the limit or for that matter there is no  barrier  or  fetters  in  one’s

individual perception, for judicial vision  should  not  be  allowed  to  be

imprisoned and have  the  potentiality  to  cover  celestial  zones.  Be  it

ingeminated, refrain and restrain are the essential virtues in the arena  of

adjudication  because  they  guard  as  sentinel  so  that  virtuousness  is

constantly sustained. Not for nothing, centuries back Francis  Bacon[4]  had

to say thus:

“Judges ought to be more learned than witty, more reverend  than  plausible,

and more advised than  confident.  Above  all  things,  integrity  is  their

portion and proper virtue. … Let the Judges  also  remember  that  Solomon’s

throne was supported by lions on both sides: let  them  be  lions,  but  yet

lions under the throne.”

4.The necessity has arisen again  for  reiteration  of  the  fundamental

principle to be adhered to by a Judge.  It is  because  the  order  impugned

herein  presents  a  sad  sad  scenario,  definitely   and   absolutely   an

impermissible and unacceptable one.

5.    Presently, to the facts of the case.   A  writ  petition  forming  the

subject matter of Writ Petition (Civil)  No.  319  of  2015  was  registered

under the caption “Suo motu  cognizance  of  appointment  of  Lokayukta  and

failure to constitute Meghalaya  State  Human  Rights  Commission”.  By  the

impugned order dated 14.12.2015, the High Court referred to  clause  (a)  of

sub-section (2) of Section 3 of  the  Meghalaya  Lokayukta  Act,  2014  (for

brevity, “the Act”) and proceeded to deal with the same.  In  that  context,

it has passed the following order:-

“The  provision  providing  such  eligibility  criterion  requires  judicial

scrutiny; for: the same eligibility cannot be provided for  the  Chairperson

and for a Member other than the Judicial Member of the  Lokayukta.  Besides,

the Central Lokpal  and  Lokayukta  Act  of  2013  does  not  prescribe  any

eligibility criteria for  Lokayukta  and  Up-Lokayukta.  That  apart,  other

States including State of Karnataka and State of Madhya Pradesh, looking  to

adjudicatory nature of work, has provided the eligibility  criteria  like  a

former Judge of Supreme Court; a Chief Justice of High Court or a  Judge  of

High Court, whereas, the eligibility  criteria  provided  in  the  Meghalaya

Lokayukta Act, 2014, inter alia includes a  criterion  whereby  an  eligible

non-Judicial person can also be appointed as the Chairperson.  Hence,  issue


During the pendency of this writ petition, the portion of  clause  (a)

of sub-section (2) of Section 3, which reads as  “…  or  an  eminent  person

who fulfills the eligibility specified in clause (b)  of  sub-section  (3)”;

and consequently, “Sub-clause (b) of Sub-section (3) of Section  3”  insofar

as it provides for the  offending  criterion  for  the  appointment  of  the

Chairperson is hereby stayed.”

6.After passing the said order, the High Court  has  proceeded  to  deal

with the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of the  Meghalaya  State

Human Rights Commission.  Dealing with the said facet, it  had  directed  as


“Now, coming to the appointment of the Chairperson and Members of  the

Meghalaya State Human Rights Commission, Hon’ble the Apex  Court  has,  vide

order dated 24.7.2015 in Crl.M.P. No. 16086 of 1997 in Crl.M.P. No. 4201  of

1997 (Shri Dilip K. Basu v. State of  West  Bengal  and  Ors)  has  directed

various States including the State of Meghalaya to set up  the  State  Human

Rights  Commission  within  six  months  and  to  fill  up  the  vacancy  of

Chairperson and Members of State Human Rights Commission  within  3  (three)

months from the date of order.  As  towards   compliance  of  the  aforesaid

directions of Hon’ble the  Apex  Court,  the  State  of  Meghalaya  has  not

initiated the process of appointment of the Chairperson and Members  of  the

State Human Rights Commission, we  direct  the  Chief  Secretary,  State  of

Meghalaya, to file affidavit showing the status of processing  of  the  file

for the appointment of the Chairperson and other Members of the State  Human

Rights Commission on the next date of hearing.  Besides,  we  also  make  it

clear, that the State shall specify the name  of  Hon’ble  former  Judge  of

Supreme Court and Hon’ble former Chief Justice of High Court, who have  been

offered the appointment  as  Chairperson.   The  State  shall  also  clearly

indicate as to who are the Judges  of  High  Court  and  other  non-Judicial

persons who have been offered the appointment as the Chairperson/Members  of

the Commission.  This information is required to  maintain  transparency  in

the process of  appointment on the posts as aforesaid.”

7.Be it noted, the Division Bench has appointed two  counsel  as  Amicus

Curiae and directed the Registrar General to settle their  professional  fee

to be paid by the Department of Law, Government of Meghalaya.

8.Mr. Ranjan Mukherjee learned counsel appearing for the  appellant  has

submitted that the State has  no  cavil  over  the  directions  relating  to

constitution  of  the  State  Human  Rights  Commission  by  appointment  of

Chairperson and Members. In course  of  hearing,  the  learned  counsel  has

submitted that the State shall appoint the Chairperson and  Members  of  the

State Human Rights Commission as per law by end of June, 2016.   That  being

the concession by Mr. Mukherjee on behalf of the State which, we  think,  is

absolutely fair, there is no need to advert to the said aspect. It  is  also

urged by Mr. Mukherjee that the State would not  have  challenged  the  said

part of the order as it understands its responsibility and further when  the

High Court has issued the direction, the State is  obliged  to  respect  the

same as it is  in  consonance  with  the  legal  position.  The  cavil,  Mr.

Mukherjee would put it, pertains to the observations made by the High  Court

and  the  stay  order  passed  in  respect  of  the  provision  relating  to

eligibility prescribed under the Act. It is urged  by  him  that  there  had

been no assail to the constitutional validity of  the  said  provision  and,

therefore, the High Court could  not  have  suo  motu  taken  up  the  same,

especially when the language employed is also  similar  to  the  Lokpal  and

Lokayuktas Act, 2013 passed by the Parliament.

9.To appreciate the submission, it is necessary to note that Chapter  II

of the Act deals with Establishment  of  Lokayukta.   Sections  3  reads  as


“Section  3.  Establishment  of  Lokayukta.—(1)  As  soon   as   after   the

commencement of this Act, there shall be  established,  by  notification  in

the Official Gazette, a body to be called the “Lokayukta”.

(2) The Lokayukta shall consist of-

(a) a Chairperson, who is or has been a Chief Justice of the High  Court  or

a Judge of the High Court or an eminent person who fulfils  the  eligibility

specified in clause (b) of sub-section (3); and

(b) such number of members, not exceeding four out  of  whom  fifty  percent

shall be Judicial Members.

(3) A person shall be eligible to be appointed,-

(a) as a Judicial Member if he is or has been a Judge of the High  Court  or

is eligible to be a Judge of the High Court;

(b) as a Member other  than  a  Judicial  Member,  if  he  is  a  person  of

impeccable integrity,  outstanding  ability  having  special  knowledge  and

expertise of not less than twenty-five years  in  the  matters  relating  to

anti-corruption policy, public administration, vigilance, finance  including

insurance and banking, law, and management.

(4) The Chairperson or a Member shall not be —

(i) a member of Parliament or a member of the Legislature of any  State  or

Union territory;

(ii) a person convicted of any offence involving moral turpitude;

(iii) a person of less  than  forty-five  years  of  age,  on  the  date  of

assuming office as Chairperson or Member, as the case may be;

(iv) a member of any Panchayat or Municipality or District Council;

(v) a person who has been removed or dismissed from service of the Union  or

a State, and shall not hold any office of trust or profit  (other  than  his

office as the Chairperson or a Member) or be connected  with  any  political

party or carry on any business or practice any profession  and  accordingly,

before he enters upon his office, a person appointed as the  Chairperson  or

a Member, as the case may be, shall, if –

(a) he holds any office of trust or profit, resign from such office; or

(b) he is carrying on any business, sever his connection  with  the  conduct

and management of such business; or

(c) he is practicing any profession, cease to practice such profession.”

10. Section  4  deals  with  appointment  of  Chairperson  or  Members  on

recommendation of Selection Committee;  and  other  provisions  of  the  Act

dwell upon various other facets which we need not refer to.   Submission  of

Mr. Mukherjee is that the High Court could not have suo  motu  proceeded  to

deal with the appointment of Lokayukta and, in  any  case,  could  not  have

directed stay of the provision.

11.There can be no doubt, the court can initiate suo motu proceedings  in

respect of certain issues which come within the domain of  public  interest.

In Budhadev Karmaskar (1) v. State of W.B.[5] the  Court,  while  dismissing

an appeal, observed thus:-

“14.Although we have dismissed this  appeal,  we  strongly  feel  that  the

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Central and the State  Governments  through  Social  Welfare  Boards  should

prepare schemes for rehabilitation all over the country for  physically  and

sexually abused women commonly known as the ‘prostitutes’ as we are  of  the

view that the prostitutes also have a  right  to  live  with  dignity  under

Article 21 of the Constitution of India since they  are  also  human  beings

and their problems also need to be addressed.

15.As  already  observed  by  us,  a  woman  is  compelled  to  indulge  in

prostitution not for pleasure but because  of  abject  poverty.  If  such  a

woman  is  granted  opportunity  to  avail  some  technical  or   vocational

training, she would be able  to  earn  her  livelihood  by  such  vocational

training and skill instead of by selling her body.


16.Hence, we direct the  Central  and  the  State  Governments  to  prepare

schemes  for  giving  technical/vocational  training  to  sex  workers   and

sexually abused women in all cities in India. The schemes should mention  in

detail who will give the technical/vocational training and  in  what  manner

they can be rehabilitated and  settled  by  offering  them  employment.  For

instance, if a technical training is for some craft  like  sewing  garments,

etc. then some arrangements should also be made for providing a  market  for

such  garments,  otherwise  they  will  remain  unsold   and   unused,   and

consequently the woman will not be able to feed herself.”

The purpose of the initiation in the aforesaid case is self-evident.

12.Suo motu public interest litigation can  be  initiated  to  ameliorate

the conditions of a class  of  persons  whose  constitutional  or  otherwise

lawful rights are affected or not adequately looked  into.   The  Court  has

adopted the said tool so that persons in disadvantaged situation because  of

certain reasons – social, economic or socio-economic – are in a position  to

have access to the Court.  The Court appoints Amicus Curiae  to  assist  the

Court and also  expects  the  executive  to  respond  keeping  in  view  the

laudable exercise.

13.In Ramlila Maidan Incident, In Re[6],  suo motu probe of incident  was

ordered by the Court against imposition of prohibitory order  at  night  and

hasty and forcible evacuation of public on the basis of  media  reports  and

CCTV camera footage.         In Nirmal Singh Kahlon v.  State  of  Punjab  &

others[7], the Court has held:-

“The High Court while entertaining the writ petition formed  a  prima  facie

opinion as regards the systematic commission of fraud. While dismissing  the

writ petition filed by the selected candidates,  it  initiated  a  suo  motu

public interest litigation.  It  was  entitled  to  do  so.  The  nature  of

jurisdiction exercised by the High Court, as is well  known,  in  a  private

interest litigation and  in  a  public  interest  litigation  is  different.

Whereas in the latter it is inquisitorial in nature, in  the  former  it  is

adversarial. In a public interest litigation, the court  need  not  strictly

follow the ordinary procedure. It may not only appoint committees  but  also

issue directions upon the State from time  to  time.  (See  Indian  Bank  v.

Godhara Nagrik Coop.  Credit  Society  Ltd.&  another[8]  and  Raju  Ramsing

Vasave v. Mahesh Deorao Bhivapurkar[9].)”

14.In Raju Ramsing Vasave (supra), the Court has  observed  that  when  a

question is raised, this Court can take  cognizance  of  a  matter  of  such

grave importance suo motu. It may not treat the special leave petition as  a

public interest litigation, but, as a public law litigation.  It  is,  in  a

proceeding of that nature, permissible for the  Court  to  make  a  detailed

enquiry with regard to the broader aspects of the  matter  although  it  was

initiated at the instance of a person having a private  interest.  A  deeper

scrutiny can be made so as to enable the Court to find out as to  whether  a

party to a lis is guilty of commission of  fraud  on  the  Constitution.  If

such an enquiry subserves  the  greater  public  interest  and  has  a  far-

reaching  effect  on  the   society   the   Court   will   not   shirk   its

responsibilities from doing so.

15. Be it noted, the constitutional courts can entertain letter  petitions

and deal with them as writ petitions.  But it will depend  upon  the  nature

of the issue sought  to  be  advanced.   There  cannot  be  uncontrolled  or

unguided exercise of epistolary jurisdiction.

16.In the instant case, as is evident, the High Court  has  compared  the

provisions pertaining to appointment of Chairperson and  Members  under  the

Act with the provisions of other Acts  enacted  by  different  legislatures.

The legislature has passed the legislation in  its  wisdom.   There  was  no

challenge to the constitutional validity of the provisions of the Act.   The

suo motu petition was registered for giving effect to the  Act  by  bringing

the institutions into existence.  This  may  be  thought  of  in  very  rare

circumstances depending on the nature  of  legislation  and  the  collective

benefit but in that arena also the Court cannot raise the issue relating  to

any particular provision and seek explanation in  exercise  of  jurisdiction

under Article 226  of  the  Constitution.   In  the  case  at  hand,  as  is

manifest, the Division Bench of  the  High  Court  has,  with  an  erroneous

understanding of fundamental principle of law, scanned the  anatomy  of  the

provision and passed an order in relation to it as if  it  is  obnoxious  or

falls  foul  of  any  constitutional  provision.   The   same   is   clearly

impermissible.  A person aggrieved or with expanded concept of locus  standi

some one could have assailed the provisions.  But in that  event  there  are

certain requirements and need for certain compliances.

17.   In State of Uttar Pradesh v. Kartar Singh[10], while dealing with  the

constitutional validity of Rule 5 of the Food Adulteration Rules,  1955,  it

has been opined as follows:-

“….. if the  rule  has  to  be  struck  down  as  imposing  unreasonable  or

discriminatory standards, it could not  be  done  merely  on  any  a  priori

reasoning but only as a result of materials placed before the Court  by  way

of scientific analysis. It is obvious that this can be done  only  when  the

party invoking the protection of Art. 14 makes  averments  with  details  to

sustain such a plea and leads evidence to establish  his  allegations.  That

where a party seeks to impeach the validity of a rule made  by  a  competent

authority on the ground that the rules offend Art. 14 the burden is  on  him

to  plead  and  prove  the  infirmity  is  too  well  established  to   need


18.In  State  of  Andhra  Pradesh  and  another  v.  K.  Jayaraman   and

others[11], it has been ruled thus:-

“It is clear that,  if  there  had  been  an  averment,  on  behalf  of  the

petitioners, that the rule was invalid for violating Articles 14 and  16  of

the Constitution, relevant facts showing how it was discriminatory ought  to

have been set out.”

19.In Union of India v. E.I.D. Parry (India) Ltd.[12], a             two-

Judge Bench of this Court has expressed thus:-

“… There was no pleading that the Rule upon which the  reliance  was  placed

by the respondent was ultra vires the Railways Act, 1890. In the absence  of

the pleading to that effect, the trial Court did  not  frame  any  issue  on

that question. The High Court of its own proceeded to consider the  validity

of the Rule and ultimately held that it  was  not  in  consonance  with  the

relevant provisions of the Railways Act, 1890 and consequently held that  it

was ultra vires. This view is contrary to the settled law…”

20.In State of Haryana v. State of  Punjab  &  another[13],    the  Court

emphasizing on the facet of pleading, has opined that:-

“….. It is well established that constitutional invalidity (presumably  that

is what Punjab means when it uses the word “unsustainable”) of  a  statutory

provision can be made either on the basis  of  legislative  incompetence  or

because the  statute  is  otherwise  violative  of  the  provisions  of  the

Constitution. Neither the reason for the particular enactment nor  the  fact

that the reason for the legislation has become redundant, would justify  the

striking down of the legislation or for holding that a statute or  statutory

provision  is  ultra  vires.  Yet  these  are   the   grounds   pleaded   in

subparagraphs (i), (iv), (v), (vi) and (vii) to declare Section 14  invalid.

Furthermore, merely saying that  a  particular  provision  is  legislatively

incompetent [ground (ii)] or discriminatory [ground (iii)] will not  do.  At

least prima facie acceptable grounds  in  support  have  to  be  pleaded  to

sustain the challenge. In the absence of any such pleading the challenge  to

the constitutional validity of a statute or statutory  provision  is  liable

to be rejected in limine.”

21.This being the position  in  law,  the  High  Court  could  not   have

proceeded as if it was testing the validity of  the  provision  and  granted

stay. The approach is totally  fallacious.    Having  opined  aforesaid,  we

have no option but to set aside that part of the order which deals with  the

provisions of the Act.  We do not intend to express any opinion with  regard

to validity of any provision contained in the Act.  We also do not think  it

condign to direct that the establishment under the said  Act  should  become

operational within any fixed time.  Suffice to say at present that when  the

State Legislature has introduced the legislation to take  steps  as  regards

the institution, it shall be the endeavour of the executive to see that  the

office of the Lokayukta is in place.  We say no more for the present.

22.In view of the aforesaid analysis, the appeal is  partly  allowed  and

the direction pertaining to the stay of  the  provisions  of  the  Meghalaya

Lokayukta Act, 2014 is set aside. It is directed  that  State  Human  Rights

Commission shall become functional  by  end  of  June,  2016.   As  we  have

completely dealt with the matter, the writ petition initiated  by  the  High

Court shall be deemed to have been disposed of. There shall be no  order  as

to costs.

……………………………J.[Dipak Misra]

……………………………J. [Shiva Kirti Singh]

New Delhi;

March 18, 2016



[2] (1994) 6 SCC 651


[4] Bernard Schwartz in Administrative Law, 2nd Edn., p. 584


[6] (2015) 2 SCC 796


[8] Bacon, ”Essays: Of Judicature in I The Works of Francis Bacon”

(Montague, Basil, Esq ed., Philadelphia: A Hart, late Carey & Hart, 1852),

pp. 58-59.


[10] (2011) 11 SCC 538


[12] (2012) 5 SCC 1


[14] (2009) 1 SCC 441


[16] (2008) 12 SCC 541


[18] (2008) 9 SCC 54


[20]  AIR 1964 SC 1135


[22] (1974) 2 SCC 738 :  AIR 1975 SC 633


[24] (2000) 2 SCC 223 :  AIR 2000 SC 831


[26]  (2004) 12 SCC 673

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See Also: Case Brief – Joint Secreatary, Political Department Govt. of Meghalaya Main Secretariat Shill Vs. High Court of Meghalaya Thru Its Registrar, Shillong; on 18th March, 2016, Supreme Court of India