[Maharashtra Rules of Business and Instructions] “Chief Minister Has No Independent Power”: Bombay High Court Quashes CM Eknath Shinde’s Order

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Court was hearing a petition filed by Chandrapur district Central Co-Operative Bank challenging the order dated 29.11.2022 passed by Chief Minister Eknath Shinde. 

A division bench of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes at Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court has held that the Chief Minister (CM) lacks the independent authority granted by the Maharashtra Rules of Business and Instructions to review or change the decision made by the concerned Minister-in-charge.

The high court was hearing a plea filed by Chandrapur District Central Co-operative Bank, which was challenging the CM's order wherein he had stayed the order passed by the Minister of Co-operation allowing the Bank (CDCCB), to begin the recruitment process for the vacant positions by the order dated 29.11.2022.

The bank operates under the Reserve Bank of India licence and is not funded by the state government. It also operates over the entire revenue district of Chandrapur. The Bank has approved an 885-person employment pattern. But with the passage of time, some employees retired, reducing the strength to 525 employees alone. 

According to the bank, since 393 positions were empty throughout its 93 branches in Chandrapur, its board of directors made a resolution to fill the positions in November 2021. After receiving approval from the divisional joint registrar on February 25, 2022, the bank posted an advertisement and began the recruitment process.

The main issue that the bench was dealing with was whether or not the Chief Minister had the power to stay the order passed by the Minister of cooperation.

The counsel for the petitioner Adv S.V. Manohar contended that there was a need for undertaking a recruitment process and the petitioner had followed a due process of obtaining permission from the Commissioner of Co-operation, Pune as per guidelines issued by the National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development (‘NABARD’).

It was also contended that the Chief Minister lacks jurisdiction/authority to stay the order passed by the Minister of Cooperation.

Adv R.L Khapre, the counsel for the respondent, contended that the petitioner was a caretaker body and could not take a major decision of undertaking the recruitment process.

It was also contended that the Chief Minister is head of the Council of Ministers and he is responsible for the acts of the Ministers. The Chief Minister has every power to review the orders passed by the Minister and therefore, there is no illegality in passing the impugned order of stay, he asserted.

After listening to the arguments of both parties the bench held, “There is no 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.”

The Chief Minister has no independent authority under the Rules of Business and the Orders issued thereunder to review or change the decision made by the respective department. As a result, the impugned order of stay granted by the Chief Minister would not stand on this legal touchstone, the court said.

Further, the court said that the Intervention of the Chief Minister in the present matter was wholly unwarranted and without the authority of law.

Accordingly, the court quashed and set aside the impugned stay order dated 29.11.2022.

Case Title: Chandrapur District Central Co-operative Bank Ltd. & Anr. vs. State of Maharashtra & Ors.

Statute: Maharashtra Rules of Business and Instructions