1. In this bunch of cases comprising five writ petitions and two Special Appeals, the following two questions concerning the interpretation of Rule 56(a) of the Fundamental Rules have been referred for the opinion of this Full Bench:
'1. Whether under Fundamental Rule 56, the age of compulsory retirement is 55 or 58 years?
2. Whether the proviso to Clause (a) of Fundamental Rule 56 violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution?'
2. The answer to question No. 1, in my opinion, is plain from the language of the rule itself and does not need any elaborate discussion. The material part of Rule 56(a) reads:--
'Except as otherwise provided in other clauses of this rule the date of compulsory retirement of a government servant other than a government servant in inferior service is the date on which he attains the age of 58 years.' When the rule itself declares that the age of compulsory retirement is 58 years, It is not possible to interpret it to mean that the age of retirement is 55 years.
3. The contrary view expressed in Shridhar Prasad Nigam v. State of U. P., 1966 All. L. J. 153= (AIR 1966 AIl. 560), in my opinion, proceeded upon the fallacy that the proviso attached to Clause (a) of Rule 56 were 'the other clauses' referred to in the opening part of that clause. There are four provisos. The last two are not relevant. Only provisos (i) and (ii) are material for our purposes. Proviso (i) reserves to the government the right to retire a government servant after he attains the age of 55 years by giving himthree months' notice or pay in lieu thereof. Likewise, proviso (ii) confers a right upon the government servant to voluntarily retire by giving three months' notice after he attains the age of 55 years. Reading these two provisos along with the main Clause (a), the Division Bench which decided the case of Shridhar Prasad Nigam, 1966 All L. J. 153 = (AIR 1966 All. 560) (supra) came to the conclusion that the age of compulsory retirement of a government servant continued to be 55 years as before, because a government servant after he attained the age of 55 years had no right to continue in serivce upto the age of 58 years and the government servant also could not be compelled to continue in service upto the age of 58 years. Clearly these two provisos are not the 'other Clauses' referred to in Clause (a) of Rule 56. The other Clauses to which reference was intended were Clauses (b) and (c) of Rule 56 which provided for different ages of compulsory retirement for different categories of government servants. Clause (b) relates to the compulsory retirement of a government servant in an inferior service. Clause (c) is in three parts. Part (1) talks of the age of compulsory retirement of Civil Engineers of the Public Works Department, while parts (2) and (3) of Clause (c) provided for extension of service of a Chief Engineer. The two provisos do not affect the age of compulsory retirement mentioned in Clause (a) which has been fixed at 58 years instead of 55 years which was the age of retirement prior to the amendment of this rule in 1963. I am, therefore, of opinion that the aee of compulsory retirement is 58 years. As there is no difference of opinion between us on this point, nothing further need be said about it.
4. As regards question No. 2, I am in respectful agreement with the answer proposed by my brother Pathak and hold that the proviso (i) to Clause (a) of Fundamental Rule 56 violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
5. From the history of this rule it appears that the age of retirement of a government servant was raised from 55 years to 58 years in order to bring about parity on this point between the State employees and the employees of the Central Government. It is true that the Government has purported to retain the power to retire a government servant prematurely, but some indication should have been given in the rule to show the circumstances under which a government servant could be deprived of the benefit of the enhanced age of retirement. In the absence of such an indication, the power retained by the government becomes arbitrary and unguided.
6. It is argued that such a power would be exercised for good and sufficient reasons and any misuse of the powerwould always be open to scrutiny bv tht High Court under Article 226 of the Constitution. This argument has no meaning in view of the language in which the offending proviso has been couched. The proviso states: 'the appointing authority may at any time without assigning any reason, require the government servant to retire on three months' notice.........'.
If the power to retire a government servant prematurely can be exercised without assigning any reason, it is idle to contend that such a power would be exercised for good and sufficient reasons or that such reasons would be open to scrutiny by the High Court. Moreover, it is not necessary for a person to show that the offending provision has been misused in order to succeed in his complaint based upon Article 14 of the Constitution. It is enough for him to show that the offending provision is capable of such a misuse. In other words, it is not necessary for a petitioner to show that any discrimination has been practised against him.
7. I, therefore, answer the two questions in the manner they have been answered by brother Pathak. This would be enough to dispose of this reference to this Full Bench so far as it relates to the five writ petitions.
8. With regard to the two Special Appeals Nos. 307 and 320 of 1968, the position is slightly different. There the appellants were actually served with notices retiring them prematurely and formal orders for their retirement were also passed. The appellants had prayed for writs of certiorari and mandamus. Now, it appears that so far as the petitioners' prayer for writs of mandamus is concerned, the same cannot be allowed because of the efflux of time. The two appellants would have retired in due course on January 1, 1969, and January 11, 1969, respectively. Both these dates have already passed. It is not possible, therefore, to grant them any relief by way of mandamus or prohibition. But so far as their prayer for writs of certiorari is concerned, I see no reason why the same should be refused. The impugned orders retiring the two appellants prematurely were passed in pursuance of that part of Fundamental Rule 56 (a) which has been found to be ultra vires. Any order passed in pursuance of such a provision can be quashed, leaving it open, to the appellants to take such steps as they may be advised to seek redress for their wrongful retirement. To this limited extent, I find myself unable to agree with brother Pathak, J.
8-A. I would, therefore, direct that, (i) in Spl. Appeal No. 307 of 1968, a writ of certiorari shall issue quashing the impugned notice dated June 1, 1967 and the order dated June 5, 1967, copies where ofhave been annexed as Annexures 'I' and 'J' respectively to the writ petition giving rise to the Special Appeal.
(ii) in Special Appeal No. 320 of 1968, a writ of certiorari shall issue quashing the impugned notice and the order both dated June 7, 1967, copies whereof have been filed as Annexures 'L' and 'M' respectively to the writ petition giving rise to the Special Appeal.
Jagdish Sahai, J.
9. Writ Petition No. 3958 of 1968 has been filed by Tejpal Singh, Writ Petition No. 4033 of 1968 by Raiendra Prasad Saksena, Writ Petition No. 4394 of 1968 by Ram Ratan Kaushik, Writ Petition No. 4400 of 1968 by S. P. Roy and Writ Petition No. 1254 of 1968 by Kripa Ram Gupta. Special Appeal No. 320 of 1968 has been filed by Dr. Prakash Bhan Saxena and Special Appeal No. 307 of 1968 by Dr. B. B. L. Gupta.
10. Sarvasri Tejpal Singh, Rajendra Prasad Saksena, Ram Ratan Kaushik and S. P. Roy are District Judges in this State. Kripa Ram Gupta is a Probation Officer Incharge, Intensive Probation Scheme, Moradabad. Dr. B. B. L. Gupta was Superintendent, Lala Lajpat Rai Associated Hospital, Kanpur. Dr. Prakash Bhan Saxena was Medical Officer (Epidemic) in a travelling dispensary.
11. On 24-8-1968 on the basis of an order passed by the Governor of U. P., the Home Secretary issued the following notice to Sri. Tej Pal Singh.
'Under Paragraph (i) of the first proviso to Clause (a) of Fundamental Rule 56.
Whereas the Governor has ordered under paragraph (i) of the first proviso to Clause (a) of Fundamental Rule 56, contained in the Financial Hand Book, Volume II, Parts II to IV, as amended from time to time, that you Sri Tej Tal Singh, Officiating Additional District and Sessions Judge, Moradabad, should be required to retire from service on the expiry of three months from the date of service of this notice on you.
Now, therefore, you shall retire from service accordingly.
By order of the Governor,
Sd. A. K. Mistafy
(A. K. Mistafy)
Similar notices of different dates were served upon other petitioners and the appellants. Rule 56(a), as it stands today or as it stood at the time when the notices mentioned above were given, reads:
'56(a) Except as otherwise provided in other Clauses of this rule the date of compulsory retirement of a government servant, other than a government servant in inferior service is the date on which he attains the age of 58 years. He may be retained in service after the date of compulsory retirement with the sanctionof the Government on public grounds, which must be recorded in writing but he must not be retained after the age of 60 years except in very special circumstances. Provided that:
(i) the appointing authority may at any time, without assigning any reason, require the government servant to retire on three months' notice or pay in lieu of the whole or part thereof, after he attains the age of 55 years or such lesser age as together with the period of notice in lieu of which the pay is substituted would aggregate to 55 years, so, however, that in the case of pay being given in lieu of the whole or part of such notice the said period shall stand added to the government servant's qualifying service for the purposes of calculating the pension and death-cum-retirement gratuity due to him and for no other purpose; or
(ii) the government servant may, after attaining the age of 55 years, voluntarily retire after giving 3 months' notice to the appointing authority.
Provided further that:
(i) the notice of voluntary retirement given under the first proviso by a government servant against whom a disciplinary proceeding is pending or contemplated shall be effective only if it is accepted by the appointing authority subject to the condition that, in case of a contemplated disciplinary proceeding, the government servant is so informed before the expiry of the notice.
(ii) the notice once given by a government servant under the first proviso shall not be withdrawn by him except with the permission of the appointing authority;
(b) The date of compulsory retirement of a government servant in inferior service is the date on which he attains the age of 60 years. He must not be retained in service after that date, except in very special circumstances and with the sanction of the government.
(c) (1) Civil Engineers of the Public Works Department must retire on reaching the age of 58 years. They may, however, be required by the government to retire on reaching the age of 50 years, if they have not attained to the rank of Superintending Engineer.
(2) Subject to the requirements of this Clause as to reappointment the Government may, in the special circumstances which should be recorded in writing, grant an extension of service not exceeding three months to a Chief Engineer.
(3) No Chief Engineer of the Public Works Department shall, without re-appointment, hold the post for more than five years, but reappointment to the posts may be made as often, and in such case for such period not exceeding five years, as the government may decideprovided that the term of re-appointment shall not extend beyond the date on which the government servant attains the age of 58 or more than three months beyond that date.'
12. These writ petitions came up for hearing before a Bench consisting of Mathur and Satish Chandra, JJ. The learned Judges referred the following two Questions of law for the opinion of a Full Bench:
1. Whether under Fundamental Rule 56, the age of compulsory retirement is 55 or 58 years?
2. Whether the proviso to Clause (a) of Fundamental Rule 56 violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution?
13. Special appeals of Dr. B. B, L. Gupta and Dr. Prakash Bhan Saxena came up before a Bench consisting of Pathak and Gulati, JJ. They referred the two special appeals to a larger Bench. Learned counsel for the parties are agreed that the two questions that will require determination in the special appeals mentioned above are also the same as referred to by Mathur and Satish Chandra. JJ.
14. I proceed to consider the two submissions made before us, seriatim.
15. I have reproduced Fundamental Rule 56 in its entirety. Clearly, the petitioners' case will be covered by Sub-rule (i) read with the proviso to that Sub-rule.
16. In 1961 Fundamental Rule 56(a) provided that:
'56(a) Except as otherwise provided in other Clauses of this rule the date of compulsory retirement of a government servant other than a government servant in inferior service is the date on which he attains the age of 55 years.'
In 1963 Fundamental Rule 56 was amended and instead of 55 years, 58 years was provided as the date of compulsory retirement in Clause (a) of the rule. If Clause (a) of Rule 56 stood in isolation and there were no provisos to it, the position would have been clear that the age of compulsory retirement is 58 vears. However, the proviso to this provision is to the effect that notwithstanding that Clause (a) declares the age of retirement of a government servant as 58 years, the appointing authority may, at any time, without assigning any reason, retire a government servant, on three months' notice or pay in lieu of the whole or part thereof, after he attains the age of 55 years or such lesser age are as together with the period of notice in lieu of which the pay is substituted would aggregate to 55 years and the government servant may, also, after attaining the age of 53 years, voluntarily retire after giving three months' notice to the appointing authority. If Rule 56 (a) is read along with the proviso, the result that follows is that, as ofright, a government servant can continue in service only upto the time that he attains the age of 55 years. His continuance, thereafter and until he attains the age of 58 years, is subiect tp the will of the government or the appointing authority. Similarly, the government cannot insist upon a government servant to serve upto the age of 58 years, after he has attained the age of 55 years, without the consent of the government servant concerned.
Clause (a) of Rule 56 must be read along with the proviso. Simultaneously with the amendment of the age of superannuation the proviso was added. A critical analysis of this rule, therefore, leads to the conclusion that after a government servant attains the age of 55 years, he cannot, as of right, continue upto the age of 58 years nor can the government make him continue until he attains that age. For the continuance of a government servant beyond the age of 55 years consent of both i.e., the appointing authority and the government servant concerned is required. The consent need not be express. It may be implied by the circumstance that neither of the two parties exercises its option. Therefore, for all practical purposes, the age of compulsory retirement is 55 years. Clause (a) of Rule 56, however, declares that the age of compulsory retirement of a government servant is 58 years though the effect of that provision is whittled down and narrowed to this extent that after attaining the age of 55 years, the government servant cannot, as of right, continue until he attains the age of 58 years nor can the government insist that he should so continue.
17. Inasmuch as Clause (a) of Rule 56 clearly provides that the age of compulsory retirement is 58 years, and that figure has been brought in after substituting the original figure of 55 years, it must be held that as a proposition of law the age of compulsory retirement is 58 years. I have already said that notwithstanding the declaration that the age of superannuation is 58 years, government can unilaterally retire a public servant after he attains the age of 55 years as the public servant may go on retirement by taking an unilateral action on attaining that age.
18. In 1966 All. L. J. 153 = (AIR 1966 All. 560) a Division Bench of this Court, of which I was a member, while dealing with Rule 56 held:--
'It is true that if only the first Clause of Rule 56 is read an impression may be created that the age of retirement is 53 years, but if all the Clauses are read harmoniously together, it is clear that the intention of the rule-making authorities was to fix the age of superannuation at 55, leaving it to the Government to permit, with their consent good officers to continue in service until they attained the age of 58 years. It is clearly provided in the rule that after a Government servant has attained the age of 55 years, the Government cannot force him to continue in service and he cannot force the Government to retain him in service, until he attains the age of 58 years. It is true that normally a Government servant can expect to serve until he attains the age of 58 years, but after 55 years, he has no legal right to continue nor can the Government force him to continue. Rule 56 had to be drafted in that manner so as to bring it in line with the rules of the Central Government relating to the superannuation of its employees. Nothing turns upon the manner in which a provision is drafted nor is the use of the words 'age of compulsory retirement' in connection with 58 years conclusive.'
19. In this decision it was not noticed by the Bench which decided the case that the effect of amendment of Rule 56 in 1961 was to raise the age of retirement from 55 to 58 years. The position, therefore, was that before 1961 a government servant had to retire at the age of 55 years. In other words, he could not go beyond 55 years, except by way of extension or re-employment. Now he can continue in service upto the age of 58 years, without there being any extension of his service or without being re-employed, though at the age of 55 years, the government can retire him or he himself can retire at that age. In this view of the matter, the decision in Sridhar Prasad Nigam, 1966 All. L. J. 153 = (AIR 1966 All. 560) (supra) cannot be considered to be quite correct.
20. While dealing with a similar rule, a Full Bench of the Punjab High Court in Pritam Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1968 Punj. 189 has held that the age of retirement is 58 years. With great respect I agree with that decision.
21. The next question, however, is whether the provisos to Clause (a) of Rule 56 of the Fundamental Rules are violative of Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. In Sridhar Prasad Nigam, 1966 All. L. J. 153 = (AIR 1966 All. 560) (supra) the Division Bench took the view that those provisions were not bad for being discriminatory. The submission at the bar is that there is no guiding principle provided in the rule on the basis of which the Government can act. In Sridhar Prasad Nigam, 1966 All. L. J. 153= (AIR 1966 All 560) (supra) the Bench dealt with the matter in the following words:
'In any case the guiding principle on which the Government is expected to act is implicit in the provision. The guiding factor is whether or not the Governmentservant concerned is fit to be kept in service after he has attained the age of 55 years. Even if we hold that the rule fixes the age of superannuation at 58 years, we are unable to hold that the provision, is discriminatory. As the opening words of the notification dated 19th October 1963 would show, the change was made in view of 'the decision of the Government of India raising the age of compulsory retirement from 55 to 58 years of the Central Government servants.' As said earlier, a Government servant in the employment of this State would normally continue in service until he attained the age of 58 years, but the Government servant and the Government have an option in the matter which may or may not be exercised. Nothing has been shown to us to justify the conclusion that the Government cannot frame a rule under which while retaining the age of retirement at 58 years, they have the option to retire Government servants three years earlier.' The argument that the provisos are discriminatory inasmuch as they lay down, a different rule for retirement than the one contained in Clause(a) of Rule 56 is not correct because there is a rational basis behind the rule. It was contended that the rule creates classification, one class being of the government servants who would retire at the age of 58 years and the other of those who would be made to retire at the age of 55 years. In my opinion, assuming that there is a classification and there are two classes of government servants there is a reasonable and rational basis for the same, one class being of those whose continuance In service the government thinks is in public interest and the other of those whose continuance is not considered to be for public benefit. Besides both the parties have an option in the matter. The Government has no greater advantage than the public servant. The provisos lay down a rule of public policy that even though the age of superannuation has been raised to 58 years both the parties should have an equal right and opportunity to terminate the service after attaining the age of 55 years. The rise in age of superannuation is made subject to this condition.
22. In the State of Bombay v. Saubhag-chand M. Doshi, AIR 1957 SC 892 the validity of the provisions contained in Rule 165-A which authorised the Government to terminate the services of a government servant, without assigning any reason on his completing 25 years qualifying service or attaining the age of 50 years was upheld by the Supreme Court.
23. In Dalip Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1960 SC 1305 an order for compulsory retirement made under the provisions of Rule 278 of the Patiala State Regulations was upheld by the Supreme Court. In Shyam Lal v. State of U. P.,AIR 1954 SC 369 the validity of the rule requiring a government servant, after he had put in 25 years service, without assigning any cause, was upheld. A similar case is Gurdev Singh Sidhu v. State of Punjab, AIR 1964 SC 1585.
24. In Bishun Narain Misra v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1965 SC 1567 it was held that a rule could be validly framed so as to reduce the age of superannuation of a government servant. The same view was taken by a Full Bench of this Court in Ram Autar Pandey v. State of Uttar Pradesh, AIR 1962 All 328. In my opinion, there is nothing discriminatory in the two provisos mentioned above. The view that I am taking finds support from AIR 1968 Punj 189 (FB) (Supra).
25. In the five writ petitions only two questions of law have been referred to us and I answer them as stated above,
26. In the two special appeals not a question of law but the special appeals themselves were referred to us. I am of opinion that for the reasons mentioned above, the notices terminating the services of the two appellats mentioned above were valid and the learned single Judge was right in dismissing their writ petitions. I would, therefore, dismiss the special appeals but direct the parties to bear their own costs.
27. I greatly regret my inability to agree with my brother Jagdish Sahai.
28. I am clear in my mind that the age of compulsory retirement of a government servant under Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56, as it read at the relevant time and as it reads today, is the date on which the government servant attains the age of 58 years. It is not the date on which he attains the age of 55 years. The language of the rule points to this conclusion and its earlier history confirms it. From 1922 onwards, and especially after 1942, the language of the rule has remained substantially the same and the age of compulsory retirement alone has varied. Until before the amendment in 1957, the rule stated that the date of compulsory retirement is the date on which the government servant attains the age of 55 years. In 1957 the age of compulsory retirement was raised to 58 years. Nothing like the proviso to the present rule was brought in at the time. As it stood then, there cannot be the remotest doubt that the age of 58 years was the age of compulsory retirement. That age was in the year 1961 reduced to 55 years. In the year 1963, it was again raised to 58 years. Since then it has continued to be the same. Had the age of compulsory retirement been intended to remain at 55 years, there was no need for amending the rule in 1963. Viewed against the background of its history, Ifind it impossible to say that Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 contemplates any age other than 58 years as the age of compulsory retirement.
29. The age of compulsory retirement under Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 is 58 years. But paragraph (1) of the proviso thereto vests power in the appointing authority to retire a government servant after he attains the age of 55 years. All that it amounts to is that upon the exercise of that power a government servant can be retired before he reaches the age of superannuation. That does not mean that the age of superannuation ceases to be 58 years. That has been fixed by the rule at 58 years. But by an express act of the appointing authority the period of service of the Government servant can be abridged by retiring him before he reaches the age of superannuation. It is urged that the age of 58 years as the age of superannuation is subiect to the exercise of power by the appointing authority under paragraph (1) of the proviso, and that upon the appointing authority exercising that power the age of superannuation is reduced to 55 years. I am unable to accept the contention. We have been referred to the opening words of Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56, which reads:--
'Except as otherwise provided in the other Clauses of this rule.'
But that, I think, refers to the relevant Clauses of Fundamental Rule 56 so as to exclude the subject matter of those Clauses from the operation of Clause(a) para. (1) of the proviso is not a Clause of Fundamental Rule 56 but merely a paragraph of the proviso to Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56. Apart from this it is possible upon the language of paragraph (1) to the proviso to say that the appointing authority is not confined to retiring a Government servant at the age of 55 years but it may do so at any time after the Government servant atttains that age. The Clause does not say that the Government servant may be retired on the date on which he attains the age of 55 years. In contrast to the language employed in the parent provision of Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 paragraph (1) of the proviso treats with a point of time after the age of 55 years. It may be any day after that age is attained. It could not have been intended to make the age of superannuation or compulsory retirement an indefinite point of time depending upon the will of the appointing authority. A Government servant is entitled to know, as an essential requisite for ensuring his sense of security in service, what is the date on which he is ordinarily liable to retire. The age of compulsory retirement must be a definite date and not one which varies according to the decision of the appointing authority.
30. In my opinion, a Government servant is entitled as of right to continue in service until he attains the age of 58 years unless he is retired by an act of the appointing authority under paragraph (1) of the proviso. Where the appointing authority in the exercise of that power requires a government servant to retire after he attains the age of 55 years, his right to continue until the age of superannuation is curtailed accordingly. There is great difference between the position of a Government servant entitled to continue in service until the age of 58 years, unless that right is abridged by the exercise of the power vested in the appointing authority to retire him after he attains the age of 55, and the position of a government servant entitled until the age of 55 years merely, and thereafter to continue only upon an order expressly enlarging his age of retirement. In the first case, the order of the appointing authority affects the curtailment of a right vested in the government servant, in the latter case the order of the appointing authority is in the nature of a concession permitting a government servant to continue beyond the span ordinarily allotted to him under the rule.
31. Paragraph (2) to the proviso entitles a government servant to retire voluntarily after attaining the age of 55 years and, it is said, the right granted to a government servant to retire voluntarily at the age of 55 years establishes that the date of compulsory retirement is also 55 years. I do not think that is so. It is always open to the State Government, or for that matter, any employer to provide for the voluntary retirement of an employee even before the contracted age of compulsory retirement.
32. In this view of the matter I am unable to agree with the observations in 1966 All. L. J. 153 = (AIR 1966 All. 560) that the age of superannuation under Fundamental Rule 56 (a) has been fixed at 55 years leaving it open to the appointing authority to permit, with its consent, an officer to continue in service until the age of 58 years.
33. The next question is whether paragraph (1) of the proviso to Fundametal Rule 56 (a) violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Article 14 guarantees the general right of equality, while Article 16 is an instance of the same right in favour of citizens in certain special circumstances. Dasrath Ram Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh, AIR 1961 SC 564. It is now well settled that, to conform to the 'equality' provisions in the Chapter of Fundamental Rights in our Constitution, a group of persons may be treated differently from the general, provided the group falls into a classification which bears a reasonable relationship to the object of the statute. It was pointed out in Moti Das v. S. P. Sahi, AIR 1959 SC 942 that:
'While Article 14 forbids class legislation, it does not forbid reasonable classification for the purposes of legislation, and in order to pass the test of permissible classification, two tests must be fulfilled, namely, (1) that the classification must be founded on an intelligible differentia which distinguishes persons or things that are grouped together from the others left out of the group and (2) that the differentia must have a rational relation to the objects sought to be achieved by the statute in question.'
There must be classification, and the classification must not be arbitrary. The test of permissible clasification necessarily presupposes a classification already. The classification is defined by something in the statute which separates the members of the group from the rest. There must be something in the statutory provision indicating clearly who will form members of the group and who will fall outside it. Where it is not possible to determine that, it is clear that while one person may be governed by the general rule, another similarly situated may be exposed to discriminatory treatment under the impugned provision. The provision imposing the burden complained of must, as the first step in the series of considerations safeguarding its validity, contain a standard, policy or guideline sufficient to define the group which it seeks to involve. In the absence of any sufficiently defined guiding considerations, the door will be left open to arbitrary action, and whim or humour will find play under a constitutional system scrupulously devised to protect and safeguard the rule of law.
34. Compared with the parent provision in Clausefa) of Fundamental Rule 56, there is nothing in paragraph (1) of the proviso to indicate what is the group of persons sought to be isolated within the ambit of that Daragraph. Any such guiding consideration is conspicuous by its absence. It is not usual in measures of this nature to find a 'carte blanche' given to executive authority. In the case-law cited before us, almost all the' systems codifying the rights and obligations between the State and its servants invariably contain the controlling consideration that the power to retire a Government servant prematurely must be exercised only in the public interest or on account of inefficiency or dishonesty or some similar consideration. It is difficult to appreciate why such a factor of control was not included in the constitution of the impugned provision when it was framed.
35. It is said that the only purpose of the impugned Paragraph of the proviso could be, and is, the retirement of Government servants whose mental or physical ability had become so impaired as to materially affect the proper discharge of their functions of office, and to retire Government officers who could be saidto be corrupt but against whom no formal proceeding in a Court of law would succeed. It may be that that was the object in enacting the impugned provision. But we are concerned with the provision as it is, not with what it should have been. As it stands, it gives to the appointing authority an undefined and uncontrolled discretion in deciding whether one Government servant should be retired prematurely while another is allowed to run his normal span. In Jyoti Prasad v. Union Territory of Delhi, AIR 1961 SC 1602, while formulating the tests in respect of Article 14, the Supreme Court observed:--
'The enactment or the rule might not in terms enact a discriminatory rule of law but might enable an unequal or discriminatory treatment to be accorded to persons or things similarly situated. This would happen when the Legislature vests a discretion in an authority, be it the Government or an administrative official acting either as an executive officer or even in a quasi-judicial capacity, by a legislation which does not lay down any policy or disclose any tangible or intangible purpose, thus clothing the authority with un-guided and arbitrary power enabling it to discriminate .................. ..................In such circumstances the very provision of the law, which enables or permits the authority to discriminate, offends the guarantee of equal protection afforded by Article 14.' It is contended that we should presume that the power conferred will not be abused and that official authority will discharge its duties honestly and in accordance with law. Here again, it is forgotten that even assuming that the authority will always act honestly, there is nothing in the impugned provision itself, or for that matter in any part of the Fundamental Rule, to indicate to the authority what is the kind of Government servant to whom the impugned provision can be applied. The presumption that the authority will act in accordance with the rule of law can be sustained only if there is a rule of law to guide him.
36. Not infrequently cases arise where the question is whether a statute has laid down a policy for the guidance of the authority exercising power under it. It is a question which must be resolved in the light of one test or another. Concerning this, the following comment of the Supreme Court in Gopal Narain v. State of U. P., AIR 1964 SC 370 is especially pertinent:
'In this context, because of a Legislature's reluctance or inadvertence to express itself clearly of its policy, a heavy and difficult burden is often placed on Courts to discover it, if possible, on a fair reading of the provisions of the Act. Some Acts expressly lay down the policy to guide the exercise of discretion of anauthority on whom a power to classify is conferred. Some Acts, though they do not expressly say so, through their provisions may indicate clearly by necessary implication, their policy affording a real guidance for the exercise of discretion conferred on an authority thereunder. While a Court should be on its guard not to enter into the domain of speculation with a view to cover up an obvious deficiency in a legislation it may legitimately discover such a policy, if it is clearly discernible on a fair reading of the relevant provisions of the Act. This Court, in 1952 SCR 435 = AIR 1952 SC 123 found the clear policy of the Legislature on the basis of the preamble of the Act taken along with the surrounding circumstances; in P. Balakotaiah v. Union of India, AIR 1958 SC 232, on an examination of the Act read as a whole; and in Pannalal Binjraj v. Union of India, AIR 1957 SC 397 at p. 410 from the preamble itself. This view was accepted in later decisions. But it is neither possible nor advisable to lay down precisely how a Court should cull out such a policy from an Act in the absence of an express statutory declaration of policy, it would depend upon the provisions of each Act, including the preamble. 'But what can be posited is that the policy must appear clearly either expressly or by necessary implication from the provisions of the statute iteslf.' (Emphasis here in ' ' mine).
Can it be said that there is anything in the impugned provision itself or any thing in the context in which it appears which can be said to clearly show, either expressly or by necessary implication, that the power to prematurely terminate the services of a Government servant is controlled by some pertinent consideration? I think not. The language of the impugned provision and its contextual surrounding dp not clearly point to any pertinent principle in conformity with which the services of a Government servant may be terminated. There is also nothing in the history of the rule from which assistance can be derived in this respect.
37. There is the further consideration that while the power of appointing a government servant is generally, controlled by a complex detailed procedure involving, in some cases, consultation with the Public Service Commission, it will be anomalous to assume that a Government servant, appointed in accordance with that procedure and enjoying by virtue of his appointment the valuable right to continue in service, was intended to be exposed to a whollv arbitrary termination of his service, if the suitability of a candidate for appointment is required to be processed through a system which guards against arbitrary exercise of power, there is equally good reason why the termination of his service should (not?) be controlled by some adequate safeguard, even though it be by prescribing merely the conditions and guidelines in conformity with which the power to terminate has to be exercised.
38. We have come a long way from the age when the tenure of a Government servant rested entirely at the pleasure of the sovereign. The doctrine of absolute power in the sovereign which then held away (sway?) has now lost its validity. Increasingly, down the years, expression has been given to the need to assure the Government servant in his security of service. In AIR 1964 SC 1585 the Supreme Court observed:--
'It is hardly necessary to emphasise that for the efficient administration of the State it is absolutely essential that permanent public servant should enjoy a sense of security of tenure.'
39. I have pointed out earlier that it is possible, upon the language of paragraph (1) of the proviso, to terminate the service of a Government servant under the Clause at any point of time after the age of 55 years. That power hovers over him constantly, and inasmuch as it is not confined to grounds which appear from the Rule nor does its exercise require the disclosure of any reasons, its impact in undermining the sense of security and certainty of tenure, to which the Supreme Court has adverted, assumes vital significance.
40. I shall now turn to the cases cited before us.
41. In AIR 1954 SC 369 the question before the Supreme Court was whether the compulsory retirement of a Government servant amounted to his removal or dismissal so as to entitle him to the protection of Article 311(2) of the Constitution. The provision under consideration was Note 1 to Article 465-A of the Civil Service Regulations. The Supreme Court did not consider the question whether the provision was contrary to Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution. Besides, the Note specifically provided that the right of the Government to retire an officer prematurely could not be exercised except when it was in the public interest to dispense with the further services of the officer.
42. The next case is AIR 1957 SC 892. There, the provision under consideration was Rule 165-A of the Bombay Civil Services Rules, as adopted by the State of Saurashtra, which after reciting that the Government retained an absolute right to retire any Government servant after he had completed 25 years qualifying service or 50 years of age declared that the right would not be exercised except when 'it is In the public interest to dispense with the further services of a Government servant such as on account of inefficiency or dishonesty.' The question before the Supreme Court was whether action under the ruleamounted to casting a stigma upon the Government servant and Article 311(2) was attracted. No question as to the validity of the Rule in relation to Articles 14 and 16 was raised.
43. Reliance has been placed before as upon the following observations of the Supreme Court:--
'When the Government decides to retire a servant before the age of superannuation it does so for some good reason, and that, in general, would be misconduct or inefficiency.'
The observation takes meaning according to the context in which it was made. The argument for the petitioner in that case was that Rule 165-A of the Bombay Civil Services Rules specifically stated that a Govt. servant may be removed from service or required to retire from it on account of inefficiency or dishonesty. That, urged the petitioner, would bring the case within Article 311(2). It was contended that the decision of the Supreme Court in Shyam Lal, AIR 1954 SC 369 (supra) holding that an order retiring a Government servant under Note 1 of Article 465-A of the Civil Service Regulations would not attract Article 311(2), was distinguishable. Repelling the contention, the Supreme Court pointed out that although, unlike Note 1 of Article 465-A, Rule 165-A expressly stated that the power to retire a Government servant would not be exercised except on grounds of inefficiency or dishonesty, an order under Rule 165-A could not be held to be one of dismissal or removal as it did not entail forfeiture of the proportionate pension due for past services. The Supreme Court proceeded to say:--
'Indeed, in Shyam Lal's case, AIR 1954 SC 369 the Government did give to the officer concerned, notice of charges of misconduct and inefficiency and called for his explanation, though a formal enquiry was not held. In providing that no action would be taken except in case of misconduct or inefficiency Rule 165-A only made explicit what was implicit in Note 1 of Article 465-A'.
These observations were made entirely for the purpose of determining whether Article 311(2) came into play. It is not possible to speculate what the Supreme Court would have held in case the question was whether Note 1 of Article 465-A violated Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
44. Apart from this, it is worthy of note that the provision considered in Shyam Lal, AIR 1954 SC 369 (Supra), reproduced in full as set out by the Supreme Court in that case, reads as follows:--
'Note I-- Government retains an absolute right to retire any officer after he has completed 25 years qualifying service without giving any reasons, and no claimto special compensation on this account will be entertained. 'This right will not be exercised except when it is in the public interest to dispense with the further services of an officer'.' (Emphasis (here in ' ') mine.)
45. The power conferred by Note I of Article 465-A was circumscribed by the limitation that the right to retire could not be exercised except in the public interest.
46. The respondents relied upon Gopal Narain, AIR 1964 SC 370 (Supra). In that case it was clearly found that the power in the Municipal Board to select a part of the municipality for levying a tax was controlled by the purpose intended to be achieved by the statute itself, and the Supreme Court referred to several considerations clearly indicating the objects confining the exercise of the power.
47. In Shivcharan v. State of Mysore, AIR 1965 SC 280 the provision entitled the Government to retire a Government servant at any time after he had completed 25 years of qualifying service or on attaining 50 years of age 'if such retirement was considered necessary in the public interest.' The guideline was laid down by the provision itself and distinguishes the case from those before us.
48. We have also been referred to certain observations of the Supreme Court in AIR 1965 SC 1567:
'Now it cannot be urged that if Government decides to retain the services of some public servants after the age of retirement it must retain every public servant for the same length of time. The retention of public servants after the period of retirement depends upon their efficiency and the exigencies of public service, and in the present case the difference in the period of retention has arisen on account of exigencies of public service.' These observations were made while upholding the validity of the Rules specifying the different ages on attaining which different categories of servants would retire. The exercise of the power to retire was controlled by the rule itself.
49. Reference was also made to AIR I960 SC 1305. The question considered there was whether the compulsory retirement of a Government servant for 'administrative reasons' amounted to removal within the meaning of Article 311(2) of the Constitution, and the Court held that the retirement would amount to such removal.
50. In Moti Ram v. N.E. Frontier Rly., AIR 1964 SC 600 the question was whether Rule 148 (3) of Volume I of the Indian Establishment Code contravened Article 14 of the Constitution. The rule provided for the termination of service of certain railway servants, and did not mention any grounds upon which the termination could be effected. Gajendragadkar, J,, who expressed the majority view of the Court noted the contention but specifically declined to express any opinion on it,
51. It is also necessary to refer to AIR 1968 Punj 189. The learned Judges noted what was stated in Shridhar Prasad Nigam, 1966 All LJ 153 = (AIR 1966 All 560) (Supra), but, apart from this, proceeded upon considerations which were not identical with those placed by the petitioners before us.
52. Finally, the respondents have also referred to AIR 1957 SC 397. An order made by the Board of Revenue transferring a case under Section 5 (7-A) of the Indian Income-tax Act, 1922 was challenged before the Supreme Court. That was a case where no substantial right of the subject was involved and there was no denial of equal rights. As the Supreme Court pointed out:--
'It is further to be noted that the infringement of such a right by the order of transfer under Section 5 (7-A) of the Act is not a material infringement. It is only a deviation of a minor character from the general standard and does not necessarily involve a denial of equal rights for the simple reason that even after such transfer the case is dealt with under the normal procedure which is prescribed in the Act The production and investigation of the books of account, the enquiries to be made by the Income-tax Officer and the whole of the procedure as to assessment including the further appeals after the assessment is made by the Income-tax Officer are the same in a transfer case as in others which remain with the Income-tax Officer of the area in which the other assessees reside or carry on business. There is thus no differential treatment and no scope for the argument that the particular assessee is discriminated against with reference to others similarly situated.'
53. In conclusion, I think it right to point out that a rule conferring discretionary power upon an authority which affects the rights of a citizen must always be carefully formulated. This is especially so when the Rule of Law extends its mantle of protection wherever the power of the State impinges upon the right of the individual. On this, it is necessary to recall what the Supreme Court said in Jaisinghani v. Union of India, AIR 1967 SC 1427:
'...............It is important to emphasise that the absence of arbitrary power is the first essential of the rule of law upon which a whole constitutional system is based. In a system governed by the rule of law, discretion, when conferred upon executive authorities, must be confined within clearly defined limits. The rule of law from this point of view means that decisions should be made by the application of known principles and rules and, ingeneral, such decisions should be predictable and the citizen should know where he is. If a decision is taken without any principle or without any rule it is unpredictable and such a decision is the antithesis of a decision taken in accordance with the rule of law (See Dicey-- 'Law of the Constitution'-- Tenth Edn., Introduction ex). 'Law has reached its finest moment', stated Douglas, J. in United States v. Wunderlich, (1951) 342 US 98, 'when it has freed man from the unlimited discretion of some ruler...............
where discretion is absolute, man has always suffered.' It is in this sense that the rule of Jaw may be said to be the sworn enemy of caprice. 'Discretion', as Lord Mansfield stated it in classic terms In the case of John Wilkes, (1770) 4 Burr 2528 at p. 2539 'means sound discretion guided by law. It must be governed by rule, not by humour; it must not be arbitrary, vague, and fanciful.'
54. Upon the considerations to which I have adverted, I find myself unable to agree with the conclusion expressed in Shridhar Prasad Nigam, 1966 All LJ 153 = (AIR 1966 All 560) (Supra) that paragraph (1) of the proviso to Fundamental Rule 56 (a) does not violate Article 14 of the Constitution. In my judgment, it does.
55. Accordingly, I answer the two questions referred in Civil Misc. Writ Petitions Nos. 1254, 3958, 4033, 4394 and 4400 of 1968 as follows:--
(1) Under Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 the age of compulsory retirement is 58 years.
(2) Paragraph (1) of the proviso to Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution.
56. In respect of Special Appeals Nos. 307 and 320 of 1968, the entire case has been referred for decision. While the only questions raised in those appeals before us are the two questions referred in the writ petitions mentioned above, and should be answered accordingly, the facts disclose that the appellant in Special Appeal No. 307 of 1968 would have ordinarily retired on January 1, 1969 and the appellant in Special Appeal No. 320 of 1968 would have ordinarily retired on January 11, 1969 even if the impugned orders terminating their services prematurely had not been passed. Even if the impugned orders are held to be invalid hi the two appeals, the period during which the respective appellants would have ordinarily served has already expired. In the circumstances, both the appeals are infructuous and are accordingly dismissed, except that the order of the learned single Judge decreeing costs against the appellants is substituted by an order directing the parties to bear their own costs throughout
57. By The Court - In view of the majority opinion we answer the two questions referred to us in Civil Miscellaneous Writ Petitions Nos. 1254, 3958, 4033, 4394 and 4400 of 1968 as under:--
(1) Under Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 the age of compulsory retirement to 58 years.
(2) Paragraph (1) of the proviso to Clause(a) of Fundamental Rule 56 violates Articles 14 and 16 of the Constitution,
Special Appeals Nos. 307 and 320 of 1968 are dismissed but the parties are directed to bear their own costs.