SC/ST panel can’t be construed as tribunal or court: HC

SC/ST panel can’t be construed as tribunal or court, rules Karnataka HC

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The High Court has held that the Karnataka State Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission cannot be construed as a Tribunal or a forum discharging the functions of a judicial character or court. The court made this observation while quashing the order passed by the commission in a service-related
dispute.

The dispute was between two government servants belonging to the scheduled castes working at the office of the director to the department of pre-university education.

The petitioner M B Siddalingaswamy was promoted as Superintendent in 2012 and the other officer K R Muralidhar was promoted in 2015. Muralidhar filed a petition before the commission contending that he was senior to Siddalingaswamy and was entitled to retrospective promotion from 2012 and also sought other benefits.

The commission passed the order in November 2016 directing the government to accord retrospective seniority to the fifth respondent with effect from 2012 and also grant him all consequential monetary benefits.

The petitioner contended that the petition before the commission was not maintainable and Muralidhar had to approach the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal (KAT).

The counsels appearing for the commission and the government contended that redressal of grievance of a citizen belonging to Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe is the duty of the Commission when discrimination against such candidate is evident on the face of it.

Justice M Nagaprasanna said that the powers bestowed upon the commission by the constitution are procedural powers of the civil court for the purpose of investigating and enquiring into matters and are limited only for that purpose. The court said that a reading of sections 8 and 10 of the Karnataka State Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act, 2002, makes it abundantly clear that the Commission is not empowered to adjudicate upon the rights of parties.

“The Commission cannot be construed to be a Tribunal or a forum discharging the functions of a judicial character or Court. Article 338 of the Constitution itself does not entrust the Commission with the power to take up the role of a Court or an adjudicatory Tribunal and determine the rights of parties inter se,” the court said.