M.M. Ismail, J.
1. The petitioner herein was appointed temporarily as a sewing mistress in the Board High School, Nandivaram, Chingleput Taluk, on a salary of Rs. 90 n -r mensem by an order of the Special District Educational Officer, Chingleput District, dated 17-7-64. On 14-6-1966, the same officer passed the following order : 'Inasmuch as she is in possession of the minimum qualification prescribed for the post, the pay of Smt. C. G, Kothainayaki, sewing mistress, Board High School, Nandivaram, is refixed at Rs. 90 per mensem in the scale of Rs. 90-4-110-3-140 with effect from 23-7-1964, I.e., the date of her appointment'. By a subsequent order dated 30-6-1966 she was granted 'maternity leave for two months from 7-10-1965 to 6-12-1965 with permission to avail the school holiday on 7-12-1965'. The same officer, later, also sanctioned annual increments to the petitioner. By a subsequent order dated 2-1-1967 the same Special District Educational Officer declared that the petitioner had satisfactorily completed her period of probation within three years on 22-9-1966 and was found fit on 23-9-1966. After all these things the District Educational Officer passed the order dated 31-3-67 which is challenged in this case. In this order, for the first time, it was stated that the petitioner did not possess the requisite qualification for appointment as sewing mistress, Board High School, Nandivaram and, therefore, the orders refixing her pay in scale of Rs. 90-4-110-3-140 was cancelled. The same order refixed her salary at Rs. 90 from 23-7-1964 on the basis of her being an unqualified candidate and cancelled the previous orders sanctioning two increments to her, as well as declaring that she had satisfactorily completed her probation. That order also cancelled the maternity leave granted to her and the same leave was converted into extraordinary leave without pay and allowances from 7-10-1965 to 7-12-1965. The order proceeded to state, 'consequent on her being posted as unqualified assistant with effect from 23-7-1964 the recovery of the inadmissible incremental arrears as well as the leave salary drawn by the individual to be effected in her case aggregates to Rs. 382/64 as per the working sheet appended and it is, therefore, hereby ordered that the entire sum be recovered and remitted to the credit of Secondary Education Fund, forthwith. It is further hereby ordered that the pay of this individual for March, 1967 be also withheld until further orders on the subject'.
2. Pursuant to this order of the Special District Educational Officer, the headmaster of the school on 29-4-1967 passed an order stating that the petitioner is deemed to have been relieved or. the afternoon of 29-4-1967 and on receipt of necessary clarification from higher authorities necessary relief order would be issued and a sum of Rs. 214-64 is to be recovered from the individual. It is to quash this order of the headmaster dated 29-4-1967 the present writ petition has been filed.
3. I do not have the slightest hesitation in holding that the orders complained of are utterly unwarranted and they cannot be supported on any principle whatever. In the counter-affidavit filed in this writ petition it is stated that the petitioner did not possess the requisite qualification for appointment as a sewing mistress and the appointment was made by mistake and the subsequent declaration of satisfactory completion of probation as well as the sanction of increments and the grant of maternity leave all were based on such mistake and, therefore, once the mistake was discovered the earlier orders were cancelled. Not only the orders complained of are illegal and cannot be supported by any principle of law whatever, they are also in violation of all principles of natural justice. I may straightaway point out that it is not the case of the respondent that at any stage the petitioner misrepresented with reference to her actual qualifications or put forward a claim to possess a qualification which she did not possess nor is it the case of the respondent that the petitioner was found unfit to function as a sewing mistress or any defect or deficiency was found in her work. If so, for no fault of her own, it is not open to the respondent, simply because they committed a mistake, to pass an order which will have the effect of ruining her career completely and totally. It is to be borne in mind that though the petitioner was originally appointed temporarily, subsequently it was stated by the respondents themselves that she possessed the minimum qualification prescribed for the post and that she was found fit. Having passed those orders, I do not think that the respondents, on any principle of law, can justify the present action of theirs. If the petitioner was told even in the beginning that she did not possess the necessary qualification she would have taken sufficient steps to acquire the qualification or would have taken other steps to qualify herself for some other post. All those opportunities have been denied to the petitioner for no fault of her own. As I pointed out already not only the petitioner was not informed at any stage that she did not possess the necessary qualification, but on the other hand the orders passed by the respondent actually stated she did possess the minimum qualification prescribed for the post. Under these circumstances, with reference to the facts of this case, I am of the opinion that the principle of equitable estoppel will come into operation and bar and prevent the respondents from putting forward the contention that the petitioner did not possess the necessary qualification for the post, and, therefore, she should be relieved from the post.
4. In this context the following observation of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in K, Jagannadham v. District Collector : AIR1966AP59 , at pages 61 and 62, is apposite to the point :
This is a case where the petitioner had placed all the available materials truthfully before the Public Service Commission, and, by their conduct, the Commission caused the petitioner to act on the faith of the existence of a state of affairs which, to his great detriment, he was told more than two years later, did not exist. In the name of alleged correction of a mistake, the respondents cannot seek to do this amount of harm to a person like the petitioner, who I should think has been much more sinned against than sinning.
I may also state that there is not even a whisper against the quality of work of the petitioner or his efficiency as a typist. If the petitioner was found to be inefficient or unsuitable to hold the post, appropriate action could have been taken against him under the relevant service rules, for terminating his probation and discharging him from service. This course has not been adopted. The circumstances lead to the inference that the petitioner has been found to be satisfactory in his work. In such a case to go back some years before his appointment and trot out a circumstance which was missed by the respondents due to their own negligence and use it against the petitioner to his detriment does not appear to be permissible in law. The petitioner who was duly appointed as a probationer and has also completed the period of his probation can be discharged or removed from service only in accordance with the statutory service rules governing him....No fraud, misrepresentation or anything mala fide has even indirectly been imputed to the petitioner. Any negligence, oversight or mistake of the respondents cannot be blamed on the petitioner. 1 see no valid justification for depriving the petitioner of her service career merely because the respondents happened to be remiss or negligent in informing themselves correctly at the appropriate time of a matter which related to a period anterior to the petitioner's appointment in Government service. The petitioner is entitled to the protection of the service rules under which he was appointed and which govern him. The respondents having brought about a situation on the faith of which the petitioner embarked upon a service career, cannot at so late a stage and so much to the detriment to the petitioner, be heard to say that the situation of their making should be regarded as not have existed at all. The principle of estoppel operates against the respondents in the circumstances of this case.
5. Under these circumstances the order of the second respondent dated 29 4-1967 and the order of the first respondent dated 31-3-1967 on which the second respondent's order was based are quashed. The writ petition is allowed. The petitioner is entitled to her costs of this writ petition and the counsel's fee is fixed at Rs. 250.