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Sethu Lakshmi Bayi Vs. State of Kerala - Court Judgment

LegalCrystal Citation
SubjectConstitution
CourtKerala High Court
Decided On
Case NumberO.P. No. 391 of 1981
Judge
Reported inAIR1983Ker250
ActsConstitution of India - Article 14
AppellantSethu Lakshmi Bayi
RespondentState of Kerala
Appellant Advocate M. Ramanatha Pillai, Adv.
Respondent AdvocateGovt. Pleader
DispositionPetition dismissed
Cases Referred and Ramniklal Dwarkadas Modi v. Mohanlal Laxmichand
Excerpt:
.....- article 14 of constitution of india - petition against government order regarding stoppage of payment of allowance to petitioner - petitioner was given effective and real opportunity to put forward her objections - order impugned was speaking order - government had no liability or obligation to pay allowance and payment to an individual - continuance of payment not in public interest - petition lacks merits - petition liable to be dismissed. - - the senior maharani's request to continue the pension before the authorities did not meet with success. 1999); (5) when an order is challenged and its validity depends on its being supported by public interest, the state must disclose the material so that the court may be satisfied that the order is not bad for want of any material,..........was dismissed by a learned single judge of this court by judgment dated 30-7-1976. it was taken in writ appeal as writ appeal no. 428 of 1976. a division bench of this court by judgment dated 25th of july, 1979 allowed the writ appeal and held that;'......on our finding that there is no order of the government rescinding the order of the ruler of travancore state sanctioning payment, and that the cancellation of the payment was without affording an opportunity to the writ petitioner, we allow this appeal.' in this view of the matter, the division bench declared that the stoppage of the payment of allowance to the senior maharani (the petitioner in the o. p.) in dec. 1971 was invalid in law. the order of the government of kerala dated 18-1-1974 was quashed and a direction was issued, to.....
Judgment:

Paripoornan, J.

1. In view of the importance of the questions raised, our learned brother Justice Dr. T. Kochu Thommen has referred this Original Petition to be heard and disposed of by a Division Bench, by the order of reference dated 3rd of March, 1983. The petitioner in the Original Petition is Senior Maharani and ex-Regent of the State of Travancore. The Regency commenced on the 1st of Sept., 1924 and terminated on 6th of Nov., 1931. In Oct. 1932, the then Maharaja of Travancore State sanctioned an allowance of Rs. 75,000/- per year to the Regent Maharani. The payment was continued till Dec. 1971 when it was stopped. The Senior Maharani's request to continue the pension before the authorities did not meet with success. By communication dated 18-1-1974 the State Government regretted that the Maharani's request to continue the allowance (payment) cannot be granted. Thereupon she filed O.P. No. 1338 of 1974 to quash the order of the State Government dated 18-1-1974 and for other reliefs. The O. P. was dismissed by a learned single Judge of this Court by judgment dated 30-7-1976. It was taken in writ appeal as Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976. A Division Bench of this Court by judgment dated 25th of July, 1979 allowed the writ appeal and held that;

'......On our finding that there is no order of the Government rescinding the order of the Ruler of Travancore State sanctioning payment, and that the cancellation of the payment was without affording an opportunity to the writ petitioner, we allow this appeal.'

In this view of the matter, the Division Bench declared that the stoppage of the payment of allowance to the Senior Maharani (the petitioner in the O. P.) in Dec. 1971 was invalid in law. The order of the Government of Kerala dated 18-1-1974 was quashed and a direction was issued, to the effect, that the petitioner will be entitled to payment of allowance from 26-2-1971. The State Government took up the matter before the Supreme Court by way of special leave petition. S. L. P. (Civil) No. 384 of 1980. It was finally dismissed as withdrawn.

2. It is seen that in pursuance to Government Letter No. 29622/Pol./82/PD dated 20-5-1972 the allowance was paid to the petitioner up to 25-2-1972. After the disposal of Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976 by this court, the Government issued notice No. 118826/Pol./82/79/GAD dated 9-1-1980 to the Senior Maharani -- petitioner in the Original Petition, informing her, of the intention of Government to discontinue the payment of allowance and affording an opportunity to her to file objections, if any, for consideration by the Government. The writ petitioner filed an objection thereto. Notwithstanding the objections, the State Government by order dated 28-10-1080, evidenced by Ext. P-3, rejected the request of the petitioner to continue the payment of allowance for her lifetime and ordered that the payment of the allowance Rs. 75,000/- per annum to Smt. Sethu Lakshmi Bayi will be discontinued forthwith. It is this order, Ext. P-3, that is challenged in this Original Petition. The petitioner prays for the issue of a writ of certiorari or other appropriate order to quash G. O. Ms. No. 506/80/GAD dated 28-10-1980 evidenced by Ext. P-3 and to direct the respondent. State of Kerala, to continue the annual payment of Rs. 75,000/- to the petitioner for her lifetime, and for other reliefs.

3. The State has filed a detailed counter-affidavit dated 18th Dec., 1981 justifying the stand taken in ordering discontinuance of the payment of Rupees 75,000/- per anmun to the petitioner. Initially when the matter came up before our learned brother, Justice Dr. T. Kochu Thommen, the learned Judge felt that in view of the importance of the questions raised, the matter should be heard and disposed of by a Division Bench and accordingly the O. P. was posted before the Division Bench and heard by us.

4. Mr. G. Ramaswami, learned counsel for the petitioner, raised three points before us. They are:

(1) Ext. P-3 order was not passed by the State Government in 'public interest'. The order is vague.

(2) The State Government misread and misunderstood the judgment of this court rendered in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976 (Ext. R-2) when it observed: 'that the High Court has considered the contention of promissory estoppel and rejected it.'

(3) The opportunity to show cause, afforded to the petitioner against the discontinuance of the allowance, was not effective.

5. The learned Advocate-General who appeared for the State Government, took us through various portions of the judgment of this court rendered in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976 (Ext. R-2) as also Ext. P-1 notice dated 9-1-1980 given to the petitioner to show cause as to why the Government should not stop the payment of Rs. 75,000/- to the petitioner and also Ext. P-3 order dated 28-10-1980 disposing of the objections. It was contended on behalf of the State that none of the contentions raised by the petitioner will stand scrutiny on a perusal of the above documents and that the final order passed by the Government, Ext. P-3, is justified in law, and the petitioner is not entitled to any relief at the hands of this court.

6. Mr. G. Ramaswami in elaborating the first point raised viz. that Ext. P-3 order is vague and that it was not passed in public interest formulated the following propositions of law as laid down by the Supreme Court, in support of his submission :

(1) The State should state facts in disposing of the objections, as to why the discontinuance of the allowance is not in public interest -- vide Motilal Padampat Sugar Mills Co. Ltd. v. State of Uttar Pradesh (AIR 1979 SC 621 at p. 644);

(2) It is not open to the State Government to improve on what is said in the final order passed, Ext. P-3 Mohinder Singh Gill v. Chief Election Commr., New Delhi (AIR 1978 SC 851);

(3) 'The Executive Government does not possess arbitrary power over the interests of the individual. Every action of the executive Government must be informed with reason and should be free from arbitrariness.'-- Vide Ramana Dayaram Shetty v. International Airport Authority of India (AIR 1979 SC 1628 at P- 1636);

(4) 'Every activity of the Government has a public element in it and it must, therefore, be informed with reason and guided by public interest. Every action taken by the Government must be in public interest; the Government cannot act arbitrarily and without reason and if it does, its action would be liable to be invalidated.' Kasturi Lal Lakshmi Reddy v. State of Jammu & Kashmir (AIR 1980 SC 1992 at p. 1999);

(5) When an order is challenged and its validity depends on its being supported by public interest, the State must disclose the material so that the court may be satisfied that the order is not bad for want of any material, whatever which, to a reasonable man reasonably instructed in the law, is sufficient to sustain, the grounds of public interest justifying the order -- Baldev Raj Chandha v. Union of India (1980-4 SCC 321 at page 325): AIR 1981 SC 70 at p. 72); and

(6) Mere enrichment of the coffers of the State is not in public interest --State of Madhya Pradesh v. Ranojirao Shinde (AIR 1968 SC 1053 at p. 1057).

7. We heard counsel at length. On ananxious consideration of the variouspoints raised, in the light of the decisions brought to our notice, we are ofopinion that none of the points raised bythe counsel for the petitioner will holdgood.

8. There can be no exception to the various propositions advanced by the learned counsel, as laid down by the Supreme Court in the various decisions referred to above. As held by this court in Abraham v. State of Kerala (1977 Ker LT 172 at p. 177): (AIR 1977 Ker 96 at pp. 99-100) (FB), 'no decision of any court is authority for the proposition unless the circumstances and facts under which the judgment is rendered are identical to the facts of the case before a court. The Supreme Court also recently warned that the observations in a judgment torn from their context and without reference to the relevant facts of the case with reference to which they have been made should not be relied on for deciding cases where the proposition is different.' It is well settled that the observations of the Supreme Court contained in the various decisions are not to be read as statutory enactments. The generality of the observations made in a case are always to be taken to be circumscribed by the facts and circumstances of that case. It is inappropriate to cull out or detach certain observations from the context and then make them applicable to a different set of circumstances a decision is only an authority for what it actually decides. These propositions are evident from a perusal of the decisions reported in State of Orissa v. Sudhansu Sekhar Misra (AIR 1968 SC 647), H.H. Maharajadhiraja Madhav Rao Jivaji Rao Scindia Bahadur v. Union of India (AIR 1971 SC 530) and Ramniklal Dwarkadas Modi v. Mohanlal Laxmichand (AIR 1977 Guj 15) (FB). Bearing in mind the above well-known principles of law, the only question that falls for consideration in this case, is whether Ext. P-3 order passed by the Government, can be said to be not in accordance with the requirements of law, 'in a broad sense' as laid down in the decisions of the Supreme Court brought to our notice and adverted to in para 6 supra. We are of opinion, that the order passed by the Government, Ext. P-3, should be read as a whole, to determine, whether in substance the said order conforms to the requirements of law as enjoined by the decisions of the Supreme Court aforesaid and has been passed 'bona fide'. It is the substance, rather than the form in which Ext. P-3 is couched, that should determine its validity. It is the 'total view' of the matter that will clinche or decide the issue. We have gone through the entire order. Ext. P-3, and also the relevant materials on which it is based, including the notice issued to the petitioner dated 9-1-1980 (ExtP-1) as also the judgment of this court rendered in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976 (Ext. R-2). Having examined Ext. P-3 order and those materials, we are unable to agree with the learned counsel for the petitioner that the order of the State Government, Ext. P-3, is vitiated o- infirm for any of the defects enumerated in the various decisions brought to our notice. We must at once make it clear, that we do not understand the aforesaid decisions of the Supreme Court, as mandating that the order passed by the State Government should be examined sentence by sentence, very minutely, so as to discover a minor lapse or mistake here or an incautious expression of opinion there, to be used as a peg, on which to hang a jurisdictional error or infirmity, as enumerated in the various Supreme Court decisions. Ext P-1 notice issued to the petitioner in terms referred to the carrier proceedings as also the judgment of this court rendered in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976 and mentioned that the Government of Kerala are satisfied that it may not be in public interest to make the payment of Rs. 75,000/- any further and gave notice to the petitioner to file her objections, if any, therefor. Having considered the objections raised by the petitioner dated 12-2-1930 evidenced by Ext. P-2 and keeping in view the judgment rendered by this court in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976, the Government proceeded to state as follows in Ext. P-3:

'Since the allowance of Rs. 75,000/- per annum was a personal grant given by the then Ruler of the State of Travancore to the outgoing Regent by his own executive act, it is not in the interest of the State to make such payments out of the consolidated funds of the State. The State has no legal liability to pay such allowance ..................What was granted to the petitioner was not pension, but only an allowance......

Till 1972, the Government had no occasion to study or examine the nature of the payment and the scope for its discontinuance........................

(Emphasis supplied)

Government, after examining in detail all the arguments/objections advanced by Smt. Sethu Lakshmi Bayi, Senior Maharani and Ex-Regent of Travancore against the stoppage of the payment of the amount of Rs. 75,000/- per annum found that the arguments/objections are devoid of merits. Government, therefore, reject her request to continue the payment of the amount for her lifetime and they order accordingly Government also order that the payment of the allowance of Rs. 75,000/- per annum to Smt. Sethu Lakshmi Bayi will be discontinued forthwith.'

9. In our opinion the order, Ext. P-3, considered as a whole, in the light of Ext. P-1 notice and the judgment rendered by this court in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976, (Ext. R-2) cannot be said to be vague; nor can it be said in the light of the relevant portions extracted above, that Ext. P-3 order was not passed in 'public interest.' There is nothing to show that Ext. P-3 order was passed arbitrarily; it was passed after due notice and hearings and after taking into account, relevant and material factors. There is no case that Government took into account any irrelevant or immaterial factor into account, in passing Ext. P-3 order. The order impugned is a speaking order and it has not been shown to be unreasonable. It should be emphasized that Ext. P-3 order has in terms referred to two crucial aspects, namely, that there is no liability or obligation to pay the allowance and that the payment being to an individual, continuance of the payment will not be in the interest of the State (public interest). In the light of the above, the first point urged by the counsel for the petitioner is devoid of force.

10. The 2nd point pressed by counsel was, that in disposing of the matter the State Government misread the judgment of the High Court rendered in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976 (Ext. R-2) in stating that the High Court has considered the contention of promissory estoppel and rejected it. We find from Ext. R-2, judgment in Writ Appeal No. 428 of 1976, in para 16, that this court held:

'Both for want of pleading, and from the paucity of the material we should repel the contention based on the promissory estoppel'.

In the light of the above, the second point urged by the counsel for the petitioner also fails.

11. The 3rd point raised by the petitioner's counsel, that the opportunity given to the petitioner was not effective is also without substance. It is common ground that the petitioner was served with Ext. P-1 notice dated 9-1-1980, wherein all relevant particulars were given. The petitioner was directed to file objections, if any, within 15 days of the date of receipt of the notice. The petitioner did file detailed objections evidenced by Ext. P-2 dated 12-2-1980. As seen from Ext. P-3, the petitioner also was given an opportunity of being heard through her nominee. After taking such steps, the Government passed a detailed order dated 28-10-1980, Ext. P-3, which is impugned herein. Having regard to the facts stated above, we have no hesitation to hold that the petitioner was given an effective and real opportunity to put forward her objections and the contention urged by the petitioner's counsel to the contra is without substance.

12. The net result is: all the points urged by the petitioner's counsel fail. The original petition is without substances. It is dismissed but in the circumstances without any order as to costs.


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