A Noting recorded in the file is merely a noting simpliciter not the decision of the Government

Supreme Court of India

A Noting recorded in the file is merely a noting simpliciter and nothing more. It merely represents expression of opinion by the particular individual. By no stretch of imagination, such noting can be treated as a decision of the Government. Even if the competent authority records its opinion in the file on the merits of the matter under consideration, the same cannot be termed as a decision of the Government unless it is sanctified and acted upon by issuing an order in accordance with Articles 77(1) and (2) or Articles 166(1) and (2). The noting in the file or even a decision gets culminated into an order affecting right of the parties only when it is expressed in the name of the President or the Governor, as the case may be, and authenticated in the manner provided in Article 77(2) or Article 166(2). A noting or even a decision recorded in the file can always be reviewed/reversed/overruled or overturned and the court cannot take cognizance of the earlier noting or decision for exercise of the power of judicial review. State of Punjab v. Sodhi Sukhdev Singh, AIR 1961 SC 493, Bachhittar Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1963 SC 395, State of Bihar v. Kripalu Shankar, (1987) 3 SCC 34, Rajasthan Housing Board v. Shri Kishan, (1993) 2 SCC 84, Sethi Auto Service Station v. DDA, (2009) 1 SCC 180 and Shanti Sports Club v. Union of India, (2009) 15 SCC 705.

A somewhat similar question was considered by the Constitution Bench in Bachhittar Singh vs. The State of Punjab (1962) 3 Suppl. SCR 713, in the backdrop of the argument that once the Revenue Minister of PEPSU had recorded a note in the file that the punishment imposed on the respondent be reduced from dismissal to that of reversion, the same could not be changed/reviewed/overruled by the Chief Minister. This Court proceeded on the assumption that the note recorded by the Revenue Minister of PEPSU in the file was an order, referred to the provisions of Article 166 of the Constitution and held :

“Merely writing something on the file does not amount to an order. Before something amounts to an order of the State Government two things are necessary. The order has to be expressed in the name of the Governor as required by clause (1) of Art.166 and then it has to be communicated. As already indicated, no formal order modifying the decision of the Revenue Secretary was ever made. Until such an order is drawn up the State Government cannot, in our opinion, be regarded as bound by what was stated in the file. As along as the matter rested with him the Revenue Minister could well score out his remarks or minutes on the file and write fresh ones.

The business of State is a complicated one and has necessarily to be conducted through the agency of a large number of officials and authorities. The Constitution, therefore, requires and so did the Rules of Business framed by the Rajpramukh of PEPSU provide, that the action must be taken by the authority concerned in the name of the Rajpramukh. It is not till this formality is observed that the action can be regarded as that of the State or here, by the Rajpramukh. We may further observe that, constitutionally speaking, the Minister is no more than an adviser and that the Head of the State, the Governor or Rajpramukh (Till the abolition of that office by the Amendment of the Constitution in 1956), is to act with the aid and advice of his Council of Ministers. Therefore, until such advice is accepted by the Governor whatever the Minister or the Council of Ministers may say in regard to a particular matter does not become the action of the State until the advice of the Council of Ministers is accepted or deemed to be accepted by the Head of the State. Indeed, it is possible that after expressing one opinion about a particular matter at a particular stage a Minister or the Council of Ministers may express quite a different opinion, one which may be completely opposed to the earlier opinion. Which of them can be regarded as the ‘order’ of the State Government ? Therefore, to make the opinion amount to a decision of the Government it must be communicated to the person concerned. In this connection we may quote the following from the judgment of this Court in the State of Punjab vs. Sodhi Sukhdev Singh, (AIR 1961 SC 493).

“Mr. Gopal Singh attempted to argue that before the final order was passed the Council of Ministers had decided to accept the respondent’s representation and to reinstate him, and that, according to him, the respondent seeks to prove by calling the two original orders. We are unable to understand this argument. Even if the Council of Ministers had provisionally decided to reinstate the respondent that would not prevent the Council from reconsidering the matter and coming to a contrary conclusion later on, until a final decision is reached by them and is communicated to the Rajpramukh in the form of advice and acted upon by him by issuing an order in that behalf to the respondent.”

Thus it is of the essence that the order has to be communicated to the person who would be affected by that order before the State and that person can be bound by that order. For, until the order is communicated to the person affected by it, it would be open to the Council of Ministers to consider the matter over and over again and, therefore, till its communication the order cannot be regarded as anything more than provisional in character.

We are, therefore, of the opinion that the remarks or the order of the Revenue Minister, PEPSU are of no avail to the appellant.”

(Emphasis added)

32. In State of Bihar and others vs. Kripalu Shankar and others (1987) 3 SCC 34, a two-Judge Bench while considering the question whether notings recorded in the file would constitute civil or criminal contempt within the meaning of Section 2(b) and (c) of the Contempt of Courts Act observed as under:-

“14. Now, the functioning of Government in a State is governed by Article 166 of the Constitution, which lays down that there shall be a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister at the head, to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions except where he is required to exercise his functions under the Constitution, in his discretion. Article 166 provides for the conduct of Government business. It is useful to quote this article:

166 (1) All executive action of the Government of a State shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor.

(2) Orders and other instruments made and executed in the name of the Governor shall be authenticated in such manner as may be specified in rules to be made by the Governor, and the validity of an order or instrument which is so authenticated shall not be called in question on the ground that it is not an order or instrument made or executed by the Governor.

(3) The Governor shall make rules for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government of the State, and for the allocation among Ministers of the said business insofar as it is not business with respect to which the Governor is by or under this Constitution required to act in his discretion.

15. Article 166(1) requires that all executive action of the State Government shall be expressed to be taken in the name of the Governor. This clause relates to cases where the executive action has to be expressed in the shape of a formal order or notification. It prescribes the mode in which an executive action has to be expressed. Noting by an official in the departmental file will not, therefore, come within this article nor even noting by a Minister. Every executive decision need not be as laid down under Article 166(1) but when it takes the form of an order it has to comply with Article 166(1). Article 166(2) states that orders and other instruments made and executed under Article 166(1), shall be authenticated in the manner prescribed. While clause (1) relates to the mode of expression, clause (2) lays down the manner in which the order is to be authenticated and clause (3) relates to the making of the rules by the Governor for the more convenient transaction of the business of the Government. A study of this article, therefore, makes it clear that the notings in a file get culminated into an order affecting right of parties only when it reaches the head of the department and is expressed in the name of the Governor, authenticated in the manner provided in Article 166(2).”