The Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court has quashed the decision of Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde to stay the recruitment process of a co-operative bank, noting that the CM has no powers to review or modify the calls taken by the minister concerned.
A division bench of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes in its order of March 3 termed Shinde's decision ”wholly unwarranted and without authority of law”.
The order was passed on a petition filed by Chandrapur District Central Co-operative Bank Ltd. and a businessman named Santoshsingh Rawat, who had been elected as its chairman, opposing Shinde's decision.
According to the plea, the CM's order was passed at the behest of local politicians.
The court held that the chief minister has no independent power assigned under the ’Rules of Business and Instructions’ to review or modify the decision taken by the in-charge minister.
”The intervention of the chief minister is wholly unwarranted and without the authority of law. The chief minister has no independent power under the Business Rules and Instructions to interfere into the subject which was allocated to the incharge-minister,” the court said in the order.
The CM was not the head of the ‘cooperation department’, but the said department was assigned to a separate minister, the bench said.
”There is no authority/power vested in the Chief Minister as per Rules of Business and Instructions to have supervisory powers over the decision taken by the concerned minister. Nor do the Rules indicate that the Minister is subordinate to the Chief Minister as regards independent functioning of a department assigned to him by the rules,” it added.
The court further held that the minister in charge of a department is responsible for the affairs thereof and the minister's directives would assume the character of an order passed by the state government.
”No doubt the order of granting permission for recruitment is of administrative nature which can be reviewed, but only by the In-charge-Minister. The intervention of the chief minister is not authorized under the Business Rules and the Instructions issued thereunder," it said.
The petitioners had said that the proposal for filling up 393 posts was sanctioned by the minister in-charge in September last year after an inquiry.
The plea further said that the CM's order was passed at the behest of local politicians and that it did not take into consideration the fact that the bank was facing an acute staff shortage, making it impossible to run 93 branches.
The CM had in November 2022 stayed the recruitment process.