The Supreme Court has cautioned high courts against passing interim orders in a casual manner in matters relating to promotion to IAS cadre, saying it would lead to "irreparable injury" to public interest.
"It is beyond any cavil of doubt that before passing any interim order, the courts should not only consider prima facie case, balance of convenience, and irreparable injury but also its effect on public interest also," a bench of justices S B Sinha and Cyriac Joseph observed.
The apex court passed the order while setting aside an interim Punjab and Haryana High Court order of March 25, 2008 had stayed the reversion of Bhagwant Singh and five others promotee officers who were reverted from the IAS cadre by the state government after it was found that their elevation was not done in accordance with the rules.
Singh and other officers challenged their reversion before the high court which stayed the government order but in the process stalled the promotion of six direct recruit officers who were to be elevated to the prestigious IAS.
Aggrieved by the high court's order, the direct recruits Prabhjot Singh Mand and others filed a civil appeal in the apex court.
Upholding their plea the apex court observed, "It may be true that when an employee is reverted to a lower post, he would suffer civil consequences, but then, it was necessary not only in public interest, but also to give effect to the doctrine of comity and or/amity."
The apex court said the dispute was not between any private parties but between two cadre of senior officers which has a bearing on public interest.
"Appointment to the cadre of IAS is a matter of public interest. An interim order involving public interest in public law cases must receive different considerations," the apex court said.
The bench said the order of the high court has resulted in a piquant situation in which the direct recruits who were entitled to promotion could not be promoted because of the interim order.
"They (direct recruits) could not be denied promotion by another interim order passed in favour of the first respondent (promotee) directing that they could not be reverted as a result whereof the vacancy would not occur," the apex court observed, while setting aside the high court's order.