There can be no Estoppel against a Statute: Supreme Court

There can be no Estoppel against a Statute: Supreme Court

The Supreme Court stated that there can be no estoppel against a statute.  

Background 

Shorn of details, by a Gazette Notification, the vacancy for FPS dealership was declared in the District of Alipurduar. The respondent participated in the selection process and was recommended as a first priority candidate in respect of the said vacancy. However, no final order appointing the respondent was issued by the State Authority. While the application of the respondent was pending, a notification was issued by the Food and Supplies Department of the State of West Bengal cancelling the declaration of vacancies. This notification was issued in the light of implementation of the 2013 Act.

Arguments 

The appellants contended that the Notification was issued in public interest in view of the 2013 Act. Therefore, the plea of legitimate expectation of the respondent is without any basis. 

They argued that there is no estoppel against the statute. It is further argued that the Division Bench failed to appreciate that due to the implementation of the 2013 Act, the number of beneficiaries has been reduced in the State at that time after mapping of ration card holders, thus it was no more viable to create or go through with the process of filling up of vacancies. 

It is urged that the selection shown pursuant to the Notice does not vest the respondent with any justiciable right to agitate before the Writ Court.

The respondent while supporting the judgment of the Division Bench submitted that the respondent had participated in the selection process and became successful thereat. The respondent altered the material position to her prejudice, on the basis of the directions issued by the State in terms of the said notification. The justification for cancellation given in the impugned notification is the coming into effect of the 2013 Act.   The said Act was in force prior to the notification. Therefore, the Authorities are deemed to have taken into consideration the parameters laid down in the 2013 Act while declaring vacancy. At this stage, the Authorities cannot resile from their declared position.  

Decision 

The division bench of Justice S. Abdul Nazeer and Justice Vikram Nath viewed that, in the instant case, no promise of any kind was made to continue the existing policy on the part of the State. Furthermore, Clause 4 of the Conditions of the Notification, calling for vacancies, provided that the State could reject applications without ascertaining any reasons. 

The court said that the agency which initiated the selection process is entitled to recall it upon reasonable grounds. Participation in the selection process or being a selected candidate does not vest such a candidate with the right to direct the Authorities to give him appointment. 

The court held that it cannot be said that the State has acted with material irregularity in issuing the impugned notification of 2015. 

The court allowed the appeal and set aside the judgment of the Division Bench and restored the judgment of the Single Judge. 

Case title: The State of West Bengal & Ors. v/s Gitashree Dutta (Dey)

Citation: CIVIL APPEAL NO. 4254 OF 2022

Click here to read the Order/Judgment 

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