CHENNAI: The chairman or the members of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission (TNPSC) can be suspended only after obtaining necessary orders from the Governor, the State government submitted in its counter filed before the first bench of the Madras High Court on Thursday.
The counter was filed by the Personnel and Administrative Reforms Secretary in response to PILs filed by TKS Elangovan of the DMK and K Balu, president of Advocates Forum for Social Justice, challenging the recent appointment of a set of 11 members to the TNPSC.
The counter said that since the members, appointed by orders dated January 31 this year, had already assumed office on February 2 and had become constitutinal functionaries, they can be suspended only in accordance with Article 317 of the Constitution, which states that the President, in the case of the Union government, or a Joint Commission and the Governor, in the case of a State Commission, may suspend from office the chairman or any other member of the Commission in respect of whom a reference has been made to the Supreme Court under clause (1), until the President has passed orders on receipt of the report of the Supreme Court on such reference.
The counter added that the scope of judicial review in this matter is very limited, as held by the Supreme Court. The members are advocates, academics, engineers, a doctor, social workers and eminent persons in public administration, including an IT expert, having high degree of calibre and competency. They do not hold any position or owe allegiance to any political party, as alleged by the petitioners. On the other hand, petitioner Elangovan was a DMK functionary and Balu a PMK man, hence, they were politically motivated.
When the matter came up on Thursday, the first bench of Chief Justice SK Kaul and Justice MM Sundresh noted that none of the members and the TNPSC secretary, cited as respondents, filed their counters. Only the Chief Secretary filed his reply. “In the matter of some importance, we cannot accept such a casual attitude. The remaining respondents, if they wish to file their counter-affidavits, may do so within two weeks subject to deposit of cost of Rs 5,000 per counter-affidavit with the TN Mediation and Conciliation Centre on the High Court campus,’’ the bench said. Rejoinder, if any, be filed within two weeks thereafter, it added.
Following a submission from Elangovan’s senior counsel P Wilson, the bench directed the government to produce before the court records relating to the process of deliberations and selection. The matter was posted for further hearing on June 13.