The Madras High Court on Friday set aside a Tamil Nadu G.O. of May 3 last year which restored consequential seniority to accelerated promotees of the Special Task Force, which eliminated the sandalwood smuggler, Veerappan in 2004.

In its common judgment on a batch of appeals and writ petitions, a Division Bench consisting of Justices R.Banumathi and K.Ravichandrabaabu said the government ought not to have passed the G.O when writ appeals were pending before the court. Consequently, the Bench said it had no hesitation in holding that the G.O. was invalid and passed without any competency. Accordingly, the same was liable to be quashed, the Bench said.

By a G.O. of October 29, 2004, the then government granted accelerated promotion to 748 personnel who were engaged in the killing of Veerappan and his gang members. By subsequent orders, the government announced a cash award of Rs.three lakh and other perks to them.

A section of police officials whose seniority and promotional opportunities were affected, filed writ petitions in the Madras High Court. The subsequent government also passed a G.O. of October 3, 2007, deleting a paragraph in the 2004 order which granted consequential seniority to those who had obtained accelerated promotions. Challenging this, another section of officials moved the High Court.

A single Judge upheld the G.O. of October 3, 2007. Appeals were filed and a Division Bench in October 2009 stayed the operation of a single Judge’s order. Hence, the present petitions and appeals.

The Bench said that in its considered view, the granting of stay in the writ appeals would not confer any right on the government to proceed independently to decide the same issue which was directly the issue pending before the court. Accordingly, the Bench said, it was holding that the stay granted did not empower the government to take a decision to pass the impugned G.O. independently.