Union Of India And Another vs Tulsiram Patel And Others (1985)

Union Of India And Another vs Tulsiram Patel And Others, AIR 1985 SC1416 is a significant case under the administrative law. This post discusses the facts, contentions and the decision of the Apex Court –

Facts of the case

  • All the Government servants in the above Appeals and Writ Petitions had been either dismissed or removed from service without holding any inquiry. They had not been informed of the charges against them nor given any opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges. The penalty of dismissal or removal, as the case may be, had been imposed upon them under one or the other of the three clauses of the second proviso to Article 311(2) or under similar provisions in rules made under the proviso to Article 309 or in rules made under an Act referable to Article 309.

(for instance, Rule 19 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, Rule 14 of the Railway Servants (Discipline and Appeal) Rules 1968, and Rule 37 of the Central Industrial Security Force Rules, 1969, or under such a rule read with one of the clauses of the second proviso to Article 311(2).

  • The affected government servants assailed the aforesaid order in writ petitions under Article 226 in different High Courts, and some of these writ petitions were allowed on the basis of Supreme Court’s decision in Divisional Personal Officer, Southern Railway & Anr. v. T.R. Challappan [1976] 1 S.C.R. 783, and a few were dismissed.
  • Appeals by Special Leave against those judgments were filed, and in three such appeals it was noticed by a three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court that there was a conflict between Challappan’s Case and another three Judge Bench in M. Gopala Krishna Naidu v. State of Madhya Pradesh [1968] 1 S.C.R. 355 .
  • The Apex Court directed that the papers in the three appeals be placed before the Hon’ble Chief Justice for reference to a larger Bench. These appeals were thus referred to the Constitution Bench and all other similar Appeals and Writ Petitions were also placed before the Constitution Bench for disposal.

Bench – Chandrachud, Y.V. ((Cj), Tulzapurkar, V.D., Pathak, R.S., Madon, D.P., Thakkar, M.P. (J)

Date of Decision -11 July,1985

Relevant constitutional provision

Article 311 of the Constitution confers certain safeguards upon persons employed in civil capacities under the Union of India or a State. The first safeguard (which is given by clause (1) of Article 311) is that such person cannot be dismissed or removed by an authority subordinate to that by which he was appointed. The second safeguard (which is given by clause (2) of 133 Article 311 is that he cannot be dismissed removed or reduced in rank except after an inquiry in which he has been informed of the charges against him and given a reasonable opportunity of being heard in respect of those charges.

Arguments on behalf of the Petitioners /Appellants

On behalf of the Union of India it was submitted as follows:

  •  The second proviso is unambiguous and must be construed according to its terms.
  • Where the second proviso of clause (2) of Article 311 is made inapplicable, there is no scope for holding any partial inquiry.
  • The very contents of the three clauses of the second proviso show that it is not necessary or not practicable or not expedient that any partial inquiry could be or should be held, depending upon which clause applies.
  •  Article 14 does not govern or control Article 311. The Constitution must be read as a whole. Article 311(2) embodies the principle of natural justice including the audi alteram partem rule. Once the application of clause (2) is expressly excluded by the Constitution itself, there can be no question of making applicable what has been so excluded by seeking recourse to Article 14.
  • Considerations of sympathy for the government servants who may be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank are irrelevant to the construction of the second proviso. The doctrine of tenure at pleasure in Article 310 and the safeguards given to a government servant under clauses (1) and (2) of Article 311 as also the withdrawal of the safeguard under clause (2) by the second proviso are all enacted in public interest and where public interest conflicts with private interest, the latter must yield to the former.

Arguments on behalf of the Respondents

The arguments advanced on behalf of the government servants on the pleasure doctrine and the second proviso to Article 311 (2)  :

  •  The pleasure doctrine in England is a part of the special prerogative of the Crown and had been inherited by India from England and should, therefore, be construed strictly against the Government and liberally in favour of government servants.
  • The second proviso which withdraws from government servants the safeguards provided by clause (2) of Article 311 must be also similarly construed, otherwise great hardship would result to government servants as they could be arbitrarily thrown out of employment, and they and their dependents would be left without any means of subsistence.
  • There are several stages before a government servant can be dismissed or removed or reduced in rank namely, serving upon him of a show-cause notice or a charge-sheet, giving him inspection of documents, examination of witnesses, arguments and imposition of penalty. An inquiry starts only after a show cause notice is issued and served. A show cause notice is thus preparatory to the holding of an inquiry and even if the entire inquiry is dispensed with, the giving of a show cause notice and taking of the explanation of the government servant with respect thereto are not excluded.
  •  It is not obligatory upon the disciplinary authority to dispense with the whole of the inquiry. Depending upon the circumstances of the case, the disciplinary authority can dispense with only a part of the inquiry.
  • Imposition of penalty is not a part of the inquiry and once an inquiry is dispensed with, whether in whole or in part, it is obligatory upon the disciplinary authority to give an opportunity to the government servant to make a representation with respect to the penalty proposed to be imposed upon him.
  • Article 311 is subject to Article 14. Principles of natural justice and the audi alteram partem rule are part of Article 14, and therefore, a show cause notice asking for the explanation of the government servant with respect to the charges against him as also a notice to show cause with respect to the proposed penalty are required to be given by Article 14 and not giving such notices or either of them renders the order of dismissal, removal or reduction in rank invalid.


  • The Hon’ble Apex Court allowed the appeal of the Union of India and dismissed the Writ Petitions and Transferred Cases of the employees.
  • The pleasure doctrine is not based upon any special prerogative of the Crown but is based on public policy and is in public interest and for public good. The basis of the pleasure doctrine is that the public is vitally interested in the efficiency and integrity of civil services and, therefore, public policy requires, public interest needs and public good demands that civil servants who are inefficient, dishonest or corrupt or have become a security risk should not continue in service.

  • In India, the exceptions to the pleasure doctrine can only be those which are expressly provided in the Constitution.  Several exceptions to the pleasure doctrine are expressly provided in the Constitution.

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Bhumika Sharma

She is currently a Research Scholar, (PhD) at Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. She finds peace in research and writing on a variety of social issues. She believes in the power of education and awareness to deal with various problems.

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