Doctrine of pleasure | Notes for UPSC Law Optional Mains


Doctrine of pleasure | Notes for UPSC Law Optional Mains


ORIGIN : In Britain, traditionally, a servant of the Crown holds office during the pleasure of the Crown. This is the common-law doctrine.

WHAT IT IMPLIES : The tenure of office of a civil servant, except where it is otherwise provided by a statute, can be terminated at any time at will without assigning any cause, without notice.


The civil servant has no right at common-law to take recourse to the Courts, or claim any damages for wrongful dismissal. He cannot file a case for arrears of his salary.


JUSTIFICATION : The justification for the rule is that the Crown should not be bound to continue in public service any person whose conduct is not satisfactory.


IN INDIA : A similar rule is embodied in Article 310(1) which lays down that the defence personnel and civil servants of the Union, and the members of an All-India Service, hold office during the ‘pleasure of the President’. Similarly, a civil servant in a State holds office ‘during the pleasure of the Governor’.


WITH OR WITHOUT ADVICE OF COM ? The pleasure of the President or the Governor is not required to be exercised by either of them personally. The Supreme Court has propounded the view in Shamsher Singh[ Shamsher Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1974 SC 2192 overruling State of Uttar Pradesh v. Babu Ram Upadhya, AIR 1961 SC 751 : (1961) 2 SCR 679 on this point] and Sripati Ranjan[ Union of India v. Sripati Ranjan, AIR 1975 SC 1755 : (1975) 4 SCC 699.] that the Constitution ‘conclusively contemplates’ a ‘constitutional President’ acting with the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers. Appointment, dismissal or removal of civil servants is not a ‘personal’ but an ‘executive’ function of the President or the Governor.


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NOT ALL POSTS ARE AT SOMEONE’S PLEASURE : This is the general rule which operates “except as expressly provided by the Constitution”. This means that the “doctrine of pleasure” is subject to general constitutional limitations.


NOT WITHIN ANYONE PLEASURE : The Supreme Court Judges [Art. 124], Auditor-General [Art. 148], High Court Judges [Arts. 217, 218], a member of a Public Service Commission [Art. 317], and the Chief Election Commissioner have been expressly ex-cluded by the Constitution from the rule of pleasure.


ART.310 : Under Article 310, the government has power to punish any of its servants for misconduct committed not only in the course of official duties but even for that committed by him in private life.


The government has a right to expect that each of its servants will observe certain standards of decency and morality in his private life. For example, government has power to demand that no servant shall re-marry during the life-time of his first wife, or that he shall not drink at social functions etc..


1.Union of India v. Tulsiram Patel, AIR 1985 SC 1416 : (1985) 3 SCC 398 : The Supreme Court has recently justified the pleasure doctrine on the basis of ‘public policy’, ‘public interest’ and ‘public good’ insofar as inefficient, dishonest or corrupt persons, or those who have become a security risk, should not continue in service.


2.Thus, disciplinary action can be taken against a police constable for his behaving very rudely and improperly with a member of the public in his private life.[ Madhosingh v. State of Maharashtra, AIR 1960 Bom 285.]


3.As per common law doctrine of pleasure, a servant cannot ask for any arrears of salary. The Supreme Court in India refused to follow the above mentioned rule in State of Bihar v. Abdul Majid. A sub-inspector of police, dismissed from service on the ground of cowardice, was later reinstated in service, but the government contested his claim for arrears of salary for the period of his dismissal. The Supreme Court upheld his claim for arrears of salary on the ground of contract or quantum meruit, i.e., for the value of the service rendered. In State of Maharashtra v. Joshi, a claim for arrears of salary was held to be based on con-tract.


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ART.309 V. ART.310 : The power of the Legislature or that of the Executive to make rules, to lay down conditions of service of public servants is subject to ‘the tenure at pleasure’ doctrine under Article 310. Article 309 is, therefore, to be read subject to Art. 310.


DISCIPLINARY ACTION TAKEN UNDER STATUTORY AUTHORITY: Though a law (or the rules) made under Article 309 cannot restrict the pleasure of the President or the Governor, as noted above, yet a law or a rule can prescribe the procedure by which, and the authority by whom, disciplinary powers can be exercised over civil servants. Whatever this authority then does, it does so by virtue of the express power conferred on it by the law (or the rules), and not under the ‘pleasure’ of the President or the Governor.


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