Exercise caution while accepting PIL challenging public appointments: Supreme Court to HCs

The Supreme Court clarified that the jurisdiction of the High Court while issuing a writ of quo warranto  is a limited one and can be issued only when the person holding the public office lacks the eligibility criteria or when the appointment is contrary to the statutory rules.
As per the apex court, consideration of suitability or eligibility of a candidate for a post is within the domain of the appointing authority and court can only scrutinize whether the appointment is in violation to statutory provisions/rules. Keeping this in view, the apex court directed the High Courts that if the candidate had the qualifications and fulfilled the requirements of the post, quo warranto should not be entertained on Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

What is quo warranto?

Quo warranto is a writ or legal action requiring a person to show by what warrant an office or franchise is held, claimed, or exercised.

What was the case?

The apex court was adjudicating over a case in which the Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU) of Odisha and Bijaya Chandra Jena were aggrieved over an order by Orissa High Court invalidating his appointment as CEO of CESU as well as recovery of the salary he drew while serving the post. The SC accepted their litigation and setting aside the order, it held that the direction for recovery of the honorarium was not right as it creates a dent in the honor of a person and such an order would be equivalent to forced labor which is unjustifiable.
It clarified that while issuing a writ of quo warranto the court only makes a declaration that the person holding the public office is a usurper and not eligible to hold the post and after the declaration is made he ceases to hold the office.



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