Specific complaints must be filed involving discrimination, deprivation or violation of safeguard of Scheduled Castes to prove offence of discrimination: Calcutta High Court

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Court said that Commission for Scheduled Caste is not justified in entertaining disgruntled employee’s plea.

The Calcutta High Court recently observed that for proving a case of discrimination against Scheduled Castes, specific complaints must be filed involving discrimination, deprivation or violation of safeguards of Scheduled Castes.

Court ordered the National Commission for Scheduled Castes ( the Commission) to recall and withdraw the recommendations by which it had directed the Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal to reinstate an ex-employee who had been terminated, on the grounds that the Commission had exceeded its authority and violated the safeguards.

The single-judge bench of Justice Moushumi Bhattacharya observed,

“….the complaint of the respondent no. 3 before the Commission was not related to any discrimination, violation of safeguards or deprivation of the rights of respondent no. 3 as a member of the Scheduled Caste. It was a case of a disgruntled employee who took his dissatisfaction to the Commission as a last resort. The Commission, on its part, travelled beyond its jurisdiction to issue the impugned recommendations, not only for reinstatement of respondent no. 3 but also for payment of his salary with effect from 23.6.2021.”


The third respondent was an employee of the West Bengal Department of Health and Family Welfare. He submitted his initial resignation on January 5, 2021, followed by a second letter on January 27, 2021, citing his incapacity to serve in Alipurduar.

The third respondent was the subject of disciplinary proceedings culminating in a dismissal order on April 5, 2023.

In the interim, the third respondent filed a complaint with the Commission on July 5, 2022, alleging that he belonged to a Scheduled Caste and, as a result, had suffered injustice at the hands of the State Government mechanism since January 27, 2021.

The Commission summoned the petitioner (Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of West Bengal) and respondent no. 3 to a hearing, during which correspondences were exchanged between the parties in this regard, culminating in the minutes of the hearing dated 3 February 2023, at which both parties were present.

The impugned recommendations were part of the minutes and were communicated to the petitioners on February 9, 2023. The impugned suggestions were as follows:

  1. Respondent No. 3 shall be allowed to join his duty in the Department of Health and Family Welfare.
  2. Respondent no. 3 shall be paid his salary with effect from June 23, 2021
  3. The concerned competent authority of the Department was directed to appear before the Commission on the scheduled date of hearing and submit an Action Taken Report within 15 days.

The State of West Bengal and the officials of the Department of Health and Family Welfare filed the present writ petition before the high court, praying for the issuance of mandamus commanding the Commission and the Vice Chairperson of the Commission to rescind the impugned recommendations made by the Commission on February 3, 2023, and to refrain from giving further effect.

The Advocate General, S. N. Mookherjee, argued that the challenged recommendations lack jurisdiction because the third respondent's complaint was related to a service concern, and therefore the Commission lacked the authority to rule on the complaint.

Moreover, it was argued that the Commission could not have directed the petitioners to submit an Action Taken Report because Article 338 of the Constitution precludes the Commission from doing so.

Deputy Solicitor General, Billwadal Bhattacharya, appearing for the Commission argued that Article 338A(8) empowers the Commission to investigate any matter and that the Commission has all the powers of a civil court trying a case, including the ability to summon any person from any part of the country.

The Attorney representing Respondent No. 3 (the complainant) stated that Respondent No. 3 was a member of a Scheduled Caste and had been harassed by the relevant State Department.

The issue before the high court was whether the Commission's recommendations contained in the Minutes of Hearing dated 3 February 2023 were within the scope of the powers and responsibilities granted to the Commission by Article 338 of the Constitution.


The court observed that the present complaint did not fall within the purview of the constitutional mandate with regard to the jurisdiction of the Commission. Further, it was said that the impugned recommendations made it clear that the Commission had virtually acted as an appellate forum with reference to the order passed by the West Bengal Administrative Tribunal by recommending the reinstatement of respondent no. 3.

Regarding requiring an Action Taken Report from the petitioners in response to recommendations, the court cited the Supreme Court's decision in All India Indian Overseas Bank SC and ST Employee's Welfare Association v. Union of India in which it was determined that the powers of the Commission under Article 338(8) are primarily to facilitate an investigation or inquiry, but that such powers do not convert the Commission into a Civil Court.

“Any action or decision taken in excess or in the absence of jurisdiction would not only nullify the very initiation of proceedings but all that follows post-initiation,” the court added.

Court further said that if there's any complaint regarding the violations of safeguards provided to the Scheduled Castes, then such complaint should specifically include the issue of discrimination, deprivation or violation of safeguards.

Thus, court allowed the writ petition and ordered the Commission to recall and withdraw the challenged recommendations, as well as prohibed the Commission from acting or giving effect to the recommendations.

Case Title: State of West Bengal & Ors. vs. The National Commission for Scheduled Castes & Ors.