GrRATIAEN J.—ValHpuram v. Postmaster-General
1948Present: Gratiaen J.
V ALLIPIJ RAM, Petitioner, and POSTMASTER-GENERAL, Respondent.
S. C. 502—In the matter of an Application for a Writ of Mandamuson the Postmaster-General
Writ of Mandamus—Dismissal of public officer—Pleasure of Crown—Inquiryinto charges—Irregularity—Ceylon (State Council) Order in Council1931—Section 86 (1)—Royal instructions.
The effect of Article 86 of the Ceylon (State Council) Order in Council,1931, is that all public servants in Ceylon hold office during the pleasureof the Crown subject to any specific law to the contrary.
The Royal instructions regulating the procedure for dismissal areissued merely for the direction of the Governor and do not constitutea contract between the Crown and its servants.
Application for a writ of mandamus on the Postmaster-General.
B. Wikramanayake, K.C., with A. Sivagurunathan, for the petitioner.
December 1, 1948. Gratiaen J.—
Cur. adv. vult..
The petitioner was a Postmaster employed as an officer of the CeylonPost and Telegraph Department. On June 21, 1945, by an order ofthe Governor, he was dismissed from the Public Service. Thereafterhe unsuccessfully sought through various channels to obtain redressand on October 29 of this year (40 months after the event) he appliesto this Court for relief. It is not pretended that he has any other objectin view than to challenge the legality of his dismissal and thereby tosecure his reinstatement as a public servant. He complains that hewas not given the fullest opportunity of exculpating himself in respectof the charges framed against him, and that in particular he was notpermitted to cross-examine witnesses or to have access to documentsused against him. In these alleged circumstances he asks this Courtfor a writ of mandamus “ ordering the Postmaster-General of Ceylonto hold an inquiry into the charges framed against him ”,
GRATIAEN J.— VcUlipuram v. Postmaster-General215
On the date of the petitioner’s dismissal Ceylon was a Crown Colonyandinterms’of Article 86 (1) of theCeylon (StateCouncil) Order inCouncil,1931, the appointment, promotion, transfer, dismissal and disciplinarycontrol of public officers in the Colony vested in the Governor subject(as far as is relevant to this present application) to any instructionsgiven under the Royal Sign Manual and Signet. Article 86 (2) conferredin the Governor a limited right to delegate his powers in this connection.It is expressly laid down in the Royal Instructions to the Governordated December 6, 1941, that, inter alia, “ all commissions granted bythe Governor or by any public officer acting under his authority shall,unless otherwise provided by law, be granted during Our pleasure only ”.The Royal Instructions also lay down the procedure to be followed beforethe Governor proceeds to dismiss different grades of public officer. Inthe case of any officer in the grade to which the petitioner belongs,“ the grounds of intended dismissal shall be definitely stated in writingand communicated to him in order that he may have full opportunityof exculpating himself, and the Governor shall investigate the case withthe aid of the head of the department in which the officer shall then beserving ”. The petitioner, at this late stage, challenges the legalityof his dismissal on the ground that these instructions were in his casesubstantially ignored. I am not satisfied that his complaint is in theslightest degree justified, but, even if it were, it seems to me that a Courtof Law would have no right to interfere. The petitioner’s applicationproceeds upon a misconception as to the position of public officers inthis Island not only in 1945, when the dismissal took effect, butalso today, when re-instatement is sought through the intervention ofthis Court.
The effect of Article 86 of the Ceylon (State Council) Order in Council,1931, coupled with the Royal Instructions to which I have referred,was that all public servants in the Island held office during thepleasure of the Crown, subject to any specific law to the contrary. In thecase of the petitioner, there is not and there never was at any time anylaw by which he held office otherwise than during the pleasure of theCrown. The Royal Instructions regulating the procedure for dismissalmerely issued directions for the guidance of the Governor, and did notconstitute a contract between the Crown and its servants. As Lord Hobhousestated in Shenton v. Smith (1895) A. C. 229, where the Privy Councilconsidered a similar case from Western Australia, “ if any public servantconsiders that he has been dismissed unjustly, his remedy is not by alaw-suit but by an appeal of an official or political kind ”. Again, withregard to the position where there is a departure from the Royal Instruc-tions regulating the procedure for dismissal he says that any officer whodeparts from the regulations “ is answerable not to the servant dismissedbut to his superior officers ”. The purpose of the Royal Instructionsis to assure that the tenure of office, though at pleasure, will not besubject to capricious or arbitrary action, but will be regulated by therules …. but there is no right enforceable by action to hold officeaccording to the rules and the officer can therefore be dismissed notwith-standing the failure to observe the prescribed procedure ”, VenkataRao v. Secretary of State (1937) A. C. 248.
G-HATIAEN J.—Vallipuram v. Postmaster-General
It seems to me clear that the petitioner held office in the Public Serviceuntil June 21, 1945, at the pleasure of the Crown, and that he has there-fore no remedy available to him at law for the purpose of enforcing anyalleged contractual rights arising from that employment. Besides,his position is even more untenable today. Since bis dismissal Ceylon hasceased to be a Crown Colony, and today enjoys the status of a self-governing Dominion in the Commonwealth of Nations. The statusof her public servants is now regulated by Article 57 of the Ceylon(Constitution) Order in Council, 1946 (as amended) which declares that“ save as otherwise provided by this Order, every person holding officeunder the Crown in respect of the Government of the Island shall holdoffice during His Majesty’s pleasure ”. In the result what was providedby the Royal Instructions under the old constitution is now expresslylaid down by law. There is no possible means by which a public officerwho was dismissed in 1945, can claim as of right a place in the PublicService of today. I refuse the petitioner’s application. To allow a rulenisi to issue would I think encourage him to entertain false hopes whichwould not be justified.
I desire to add that I can find nothing in the Royal Instructions datedDecember 6, 1941, which entitles a public officer to insist upon anyparticular form of procedure being adopted during the investigations ofcharges framed against him. The duty to give him “ a full opportunityof exculpating himself ” should be honestly discharged, but questionsof the procedure to be adopted in discharging that duty fall within theprovince of administrative discretion over which the Courts will notexercise any over-riding authority. The application is refused.
VALLIPURAM, Petitioner, and POSTMASTER-GENERAL, Respondent