when once it has been found that they are not lawfully entitled to the same. It is well-settled by now that a person cannot invoke Article 14 to claim a benefit extended to someone similarly placed if he is not lawfully entitled to such benefit in the first place

REPORTABLE
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA
CIVIL APPELLATE JURISDICTION
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 9533-9537 OF 2019
(arising out of S.L.P. (CIVIL) NOS.5395-5399 of 2016)
P. Singaravelan & Ors. Etc. Etc. ..Appellants
Versus
The District Collector, Tiruppur and
DT & Ors. Etc. Etc. ..Respondents
WITH
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 9538-9546 OF 2019
(arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 5605-5613 of 2016)
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 9547-9549 OF 2019
(arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 5391-5393 of 2016)
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 9551-9559 OF 2019
(arising out of SLP(C) Nos. 5367-5375 of 2016)
CIVIL APPEAL NO(S). 9560-9561 OF 2019
(arising out of SLP(C) Nos. of 2019)
[Diary No. 42301/2017]
J U D G M E N T
MOHAN M. SHANTANAGOUDAR, J.
CIVIL APPEALS @ SLP (CIVIL) NOS. 5395-5399 OF 2016;
CIVIL APPEALS @ SLP (CIVIL) NOS. 5605-5613 OF 2016;
CIVIL APPEALS @ SLP (CIVIL) NOS. 5391-5393 OF 2016, AND
CIVIL APPEALS @ SLP (CIVIL) NOS. 5367-5375 OF 2016
Leave granted.
1

  1. These appeals have been filed against the common final
    judgment and order dated 08.07.2015 passed by the High
    Court of Judicature at Madras allowing writ appeals filed by the
    Respondents herein, being state authorities, and dismissing
    writ petitions filed by the Appellants herein, being drivers in
    various departments of the Government of Tamil Nadu, with
    respect to the Selection Grade and Special Grade scales of pay
    applicable to them.
  2. The Appellants, in a nutshell, are claiming the grant of
    Selection Grade and Special Grade scales of pay in the bracket
    of Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-9000 respectively in terms of
    G.O. Ms. No. 162, Finance (Pay Cell) Department dated
    13.04.1998 (for short “G.O. Ms. No. 162”), which has been
    granted to around 3000 similarly placed employees. The
    Appellants place reliance on various decisions rendered by this
    Court and the High Court of Madras in several writ petitions and
    appeals granting similar pay scales to the petitioners therein.
    Thus, it is argued that the impugned judgment of the High
    Court has erroneously differed from the consistent view taken
    in these decisions.
  3. On the other hand, the Respondents argue in favour of the
    impugned judgment, claiming that the initial grant of the
    2
    claimed pay scale to some drivers (out of which the entire
    cluster of litigations arose) was merely on account of an error
    on the part of officials in some government departments. Thus,
    it is submitted that the applicable scales of pay are Rs. 4000-
    6000 and Rs. 4300-6000 respectively for the Selection Grade
    and Special Grade.
  4. It has come to our attention that several Benches of this
    Court have dismissed SLPs against decisions of the High Court
    fixing pay scales of the concerned drivers therein at Rs. 5000-
    8000 for the Selection Grade and Rs. 5500-9000 for the Special
    Grade in terms of G. O. Ms. No. 162. We deem it fit to refer to
    the orders passed by this Court in this respect:
    WA No. 67 of 2012 SLP (Civil) CC No.
    14715 of 2012
    Dismissed on
    10.09.2012
    WA No. 383 of 2009 SLP (Civil) No.
    35969 of 2009
    Dismissed on
    25.02.2015
    WA No. 391 of 2009 SLP (Civil) No. 6522
    of 2010
    Dismissed on
    25.02.2015
    WA No. 382 to 388 of
    2009
    SLP (Civil) No. 6523-
    6530 of 2010
    Dismissed on
    25.02.2015
    WP No. 462 of 2012
    WP No. 24912 of
    2010
    WA No. 383-391 of
    2009
    SLP (Civil) No.
    22491 of 2012
    Dismissed on
    25.02.2015
    WP -29119- 2012 SLP (Civil) No.
    33037of 2013
    Dismissed on
    25.02.2015
    3
    WA No. 791 and 792
    of 2013
    WP No. 2929 and
    2930 of 2012
    SLP (Civil) No.
    33588 of 2013
    Dismissed on
    25.02.2015
    WA No. 130, 131, 132
    of 2011
    SLP (Civil) CC No.
    12886-12888 of
    2013
    Dismissed on
    19.07.2013
    WA No. 2243 of 2012 SLP (Civil) CC No.
    6602 of 2013
    Dismissed on
    27.09.2013
    WA No. 526 of 2013 SLP (Civil) CC No.
    14007 of 2013
    Dismissed on
    21.08.2013
    WA No. 24899 of
    2014
    SLP (Civil) No.
    34265 of 2014
    Dismissed on
    06.02.2017
  5. Be that as it may, it must be noted that all the above
    orders of this Court were passed at the stage of admission
    itself. Even the order dated 25.02.2015, passed by a 3-Judge
    Bench of this Court while dealing with a batch of appeals
    having SLP (C) No. 35969/2009 as the lead matter, stated as
    follows:
    “UPON hearing the counsel the Court made the
    following
    ORDER
    Dismissed.”
  6. It is evident that all the above orders were non-speaking
    orders, inasmuch as they were confined to a mere refusal to
    grant special leave to appeal to the petitioners therein. At this
    juncture, it is useful to recall that it is well-settled that the
    dismissal of an SLP against an order or judgment of a lower
    4
    forum is not an affirmation of the same. If such an order of this
    Court is non-speaking, it does not constitute a declaration of
    law under Article 141 of the Constitution, or attract the doctrine
    of merger. The following discussion on this proposition in
    Kunhayammed v. State of Kerala, (2000) 6 SCC 359, is
    relevant in this regard:
    “(i) Where an appeal or revision is provided against
    an order passed by a court, tribunal or any other
    authority before superior forum and such superior
    forum modifies, reverses or affirms the decision put
    in issue before it, the decision by the subordinate
    forum merges in the decision by the superior forum
    and it is the latter which subsists, remains operative
    and is capable of enforcement in the eye of law.
    (ii) The jurisdiction conferred by Article 136 of the
    Constitution is divisible into two stages. The first
    stage is upto the disposal of prayer for special leave
    to file an appeal. The second stage commences if
    and when the leave to appeal is granted and the
    special leave petition is converted into an appeal.
    (iii) The doctrine of merger is not a doctrine of
    universal or unlimited application. It will depend on
    the nature of jurisdiction exercised by the superior
    forum and the content or subject-matter of challenge
    laid or capable of being laid shall be determinative of
    the applicability of merger. The superior jurisdiction
    should be capable of reversing, modifying or
    affirming the order put in issue before it. Under
    Article 136 of the Constitution the Supreme Court
    may reverse, modify or affirm the judgment-decree
    or order appealed against while exercising its
    appellate jurisdiction and not while exercising the
    discretionary jurisdiction disposing of petition for
    5
    special leave to appeal. The doctrine of merger can
    therefore be applied to the former and not to the
    latter.
    (iv) An order refusing special leave to appeal may be
    a non-speaking order or a speaking one. In either
    case it does not attract the doctrine of merger. An
    order refusing special leave to appeal does not stand
    substituted in place of the order under challenge. All
    that it means is that the Court was not inclined to
    exercise its discretion so as to allow the appeal being
    filed.
    (v) If the order refusing leave to appeal is a speaking
    order i.e. gives reasons for refusing the grant of
    leave, then the order has two implications. Firstly,
    the statement of law contained in the order is a
    declaration of law by the Supreme Court within the
    meaning of Article 141 of the Constitution. Secondly,
    other than the declaration of law, whatever is stated
    in the order are the findings recorded by the
    Supreme Court which would bind the parties thereto
    and also the court, tribunal or authority in any
    proceedings subsequent thereto by way of judicial
    discipline, the Supreme Court being the Apex Court
    of the country. But, this does not amount to saying
    that the order of the court, tribunal or authority
    below has stood merged in the order of the Supreme
    Court rejecting the special leave petition or that the
    order of the Supreme Court is the only order binding
    as res judicata in subsequent proceedings between
    the parties.
    (vi) Once leave to appeal has been granted and
    appellate jurisdiction of the Supreme Court has been
    invoked the order passed in appeal would attract the
    doctrine of merger; the order may be of reversal,
    modification or merely affirmation.
    (vii) On an appeal having been preferred or a petition
    seeking leave to appeal having been converted into
    6
    an appeal before the Supreme Court the jurisdiction
    of the High Court to entertain a review petition is lost
    thereafter as provided by sub-rule (1) of Order 47
    Rule 1 CPC.”
    (emphasis added)
    This view has also been adopted in a plethora of decisions
    of this Court, including the recent decision in Khoday
    Distilleries v. Sri Mahadeshwara Sahakara Sakkare
    Karkhane Ltd., (2019) 4 SCC 376.
  7. Applying these observations to the present case, it is clear
    that there has been no pronouncement by this Court
    constituting the law of the land as to the interpretation of G.O.
    Ms. No. 162. In such a situation, it is open for us to proceed to
    decide the instant appeals uninfluenced by the prior orders of
    this Court dismissing SLPs against the grant of relief to drivers
    placed similarly as the Appellants herein.
  8. It is evident that the entire controversy in this case hinges
    on the interpretation of G.O. Ms. No. 162. Vide this order, the
    Tamil Nadu Revised Scales of Pay Rules, 1998 (for short “the
    1998 Rules”) were notified, revising 25 standard pay scales on
    a pay scale-to-pay scale basis for State Government employees
    and teachers. While Schedule I to the 1998 Rules indicated the
    revised pay scales, Schedule II specified the Selection Grade
    7
    and Special Grade pay scales applicable for each revised
    Ordinary Grade. Further, it was stated in paragraph 4 of the
    G.O. that for posts with no promotional avenues, the Selection
    Grade and Special Grade scales as indicated in Schedule II
    would be applicable.
  9. It is not in dispute that drivers in various departments of
    the Government of Tamil Nadu were entitled to revised
    Ordinary Grade pay scales as per Schedule I. Further, since
    they did not have any promotional avenues, Selection Grade
    and Special Grade pay scales under Schedule II would become
    applicable as and when they completed 10 and 20 years of
    service respectively. The dispute here lies with respect to the
    entries under Schedules I and II applicable to the post of
    drivers. It is the submission of the Respondents that prior to the
    revision of pay scales under the 1998 Rules, drivers were
    entitled to the pay scale of Rs. 975-1660 as determined by G.O.
    No. 818, Finance, dated 09.09.1989. Accordingly, the
    corresponding revised Ordinary Grade pay scale under
    Schedule I of the 1998 Rules would be as per Entry No. XX
    below:
    SCHEDULE -I
    LIST OF PAY SCALES
    Grou Existing Scale Revised Scale
    8
    p
    (1)
    (2) (3)
    Rs. Rs.
    I 5500-200-6500 17400-500-21900
    II 5100-150-5700 16400-450-20000
    III 4500-150-5700 15000-400-18600
    IV 4100-125-4850-150-5300 14300-400-18300
    V 3950-125-4700-150-5000 12750-375-16500
    VI 3700-125-4700-150-5000 12000-375-16500
    VII 3000-100-3500-125-4500 10000-325-15200
    VIII 2500-75-2800-100-4200 9100-275-14050
    IX 2200-75-2800-100-4000 8000-275-13500
    X 2000-60-2300-75-3200-100-3500 6500-200-11100
    XI 2000-60-2300-75-3200 6500-200-10500
    XII 1820-60-2300-75-3200 5900-200-9900
    XIII 1640-60-2600-75-2900 5500-175-9000
    XIV 1600-50-2300-60-2660 5300-150-8300
    XV 1400-40-1600-50-2300-60-2600 5000-150-8000
    XVI 1350-30-1440-40-1800-50-2200 4500-125-7000
    XVII 1320-30-1560-40-2040 4300-100-6000
    XVIII 1200-30-1560-40-2040 4000-100-6000
    XIX 1100-25-1150-30-1660 3625-85-4900
    XX 975-25-1150-30-1660 3200-85-4900
    XXI 950-20-1150-25-1500 3050-75-3950-80-4590
    XXII 825-15-900-20-1200 2750-70-3800-75-4400
    XXIII 800-15-1010-20-1150 2650-65-3300-70-4000
    XXIV 775-12-835-15-1030 2610-60-3150-65-3540
    XXV 750-12-870-15-945 2550-55-2660-60-3200
    (emphasis added)
  10. Relying on this, the Respondents submit that the drivers
    are entitled to a revised Ordinary Grade pay scale of Rs. 3200-
    4900 only. As regards the Selection Grade and Special Grade
    pay scales applicable, the Respondents claim that the
    Appellants are entitled to pay scales of Rs. 4000-6000 and Rs.
    4300-6000 respectively as per Serial No. 6 of Schedule II, which
    is corresponding to Entry No. XX of Schedule I. On the other
    hand, the Appellants claim that they are entitled to the revised
    Selection Grade and Special Grade pay scales of Rs. 5000-8000
    9
    and Rs. 5500-9000 respectively as per Serial No. 8 of Schedule
    II. It would be useful to refer to Schedule II in this regard:
    SCHEDULE – II
    REVISED SELECTION GRADE AND SPECIAL GRADE
    SCALE OF PAY
    Sl.
    Nos
    .
    (1)
    Ordinary Grade (2) Selection Grade
    (3)
    Special Grade
    (4)
    Rs. Rs. Rs.
    1 2550-55-2660-60-3200 2650-65-3300-70-
    4000
    2750-70-3800-75-
    4400
    2 2610-60-3150-65-3540 2750-70-3800-75-
    4400
    3050-75-3950-80-
    4590
    3 2650-65-3300-70-4000 3050-75-3950-80-
    4590
    3200-85-4900
    4 2750-70-3800-75-4400 3050-75-3950-80-
    4590
    3200-85-4900
    5 3050-75-3950-80-4590 4000-100-6000 4300-100-6000
    6 3200-85-4900 4000-100-6000 4300-100-6000
    7 3625-85-4900 4300-100-6000 4500-125-7000
    8 4000-100-6000 5000-150-8000 5500-175-9000
    9 4300-100-6000 5000-150-8000 5500-175-9000
    10 4500-125-7000 5300-150-8300 5900-200-9900
    11 5000-150-8000 5500-175-9000 6500-200-10500
    12 5300-150-8300 6500-200-10500 8000-275-13500
    13 5500-175-9000 6500-200-10500 8000-275-13500
    14 5900-200-9900 8000-275-13500 9100-275-14050
    15 6500-200-10500 8000-275-13500 9100-275-14050
    16 6500-200-11100 9100-275-14050 10000-325-15200
    17 8000-275-13500 9100-275-14050 10000-325-15200
    18 9100-275-14050 10000-325-15200 12000-375-16500
    (emphasis added)
  11. Indeed, the genesis of the entire dispute lies in the fixation
    of Selection and Special Grade pay scales of certain drivers by
    certain local departments as per Serial No. 8 of Schedule II.
    Pursuant to this, the Joint Secretary to the Government,
    Finance Department, issued Letter No. 96900/PC/98-2 dated
    10
    31.12.1998 to all Secretaries to the Government and Heads of
    Department, on the basis that such fixations were erroneous
    and needed to be reviewed, with a direction to effect recoveries
    wherever excess payments had been made.
  12. In 2006, the Secretary, Personnel and Administrative
    Reforms (E) Department rejected the representation of the
    Tamil Nadu Government Department Drivers’ Central
    Association seeking fixation of Selection Grade and Special
    Grade pay scales at Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-9000
    respectively, vide the proceedings in Lr. No. 13921/K/2005-1
    dated 25.04.2006. This was challenged by the drivers’
    association before the High Court in W.P. No. 34800 of 2006,
    which was allowed on the ground that the said proceedings did
    not refer to G.O. Ms. No. 162. The association was directed to
    make a fresh representation before the Finance Department, to
    be decided in accordance with G.O. Ms. No. 162.
  13. Such representation, however, was also rejected by the
    Finance Department vide letter No. 63685/CMPC/2006-1, dated
    01.10.2007, which states as follows:
    “3. Therefore, the Drivers are entitled for the
    Selection Grade / Special Grade scales of pay as
    ordered in Schedule-II of G.O. Ms. No. 162, Finance
    (PC) Department, dated 13-4-98, based on the
    11
    ordinary grade scale of pay granted to the posts of
    Drivers. As such all categories on par with Drivers in
    the Ordinary Grade of Rs.3200-4900 are entitled for
    the Selection Grade of Rs.4000-6000 and Special
    Grade of Rs.4300-6000 respectively. The above
    Government Order has been issued based on the
    recommendations of the Official Committee, 1998
    and the Drivers are not denied the benefits ordered
    in the Government Order cited. Hence, your request
    has no merit to consider as requested.”
  14. A batch of writ petitions challenging the above order was
    subsequently filed before the High Court. These writ petitions
    were allowed by the High Court vide judgment dated
    30.09.2008 in W.P. No. 4288/2008 and connected matters
    thereto, with a direction for the fixation of pay scales in
    accordance with G.O. Ms. No. 162. This was affirmed by the
    Division Bench of the High Court vide judgment dated
    01.09.2009 in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009.
  15. Subsequently, several other writ petitions were filed by
    other similarly situated drivers seeking the benefit of the same
    higher pay scale. These petitions were also allowed on the
    basis of the previous decisions discussed above, with the
    notable exceptions of the judgment dated 18.11.2013 passed
    by the Single Judge of the High Court in W.P. No. 1418/2001
    12
    and matters connected thereto, and the impugned judgment
    herein.
  16. Concluding that the drivers were not entitled to the higher
    claimed pay scales, these two judgments differed from the
    consistent view taken in the preceding judgments and orders
    based on a scrutiny of G.O. Ms. No. 162 and the prior history of
    pay scales payable to the drivers. They justified differing from
    the decisions of the Division Benches of the High Court on the
    premise that there was no specific direction by the learned
    Single Judge in W.P. No. 4288/2008 (supra), or the Division
    Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009, granting the Selection Grade
    and Special Grade pay scales of Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-
    9000 respectively. With respect to subsequent writ petitions
    granting these higher pay scales, it was noted that they had
    been disposed of at the admission stage itself (in some cases
    even without notice to the government) and could thus be
    disregarded.
  17. Given this departure in the impugned judgment from the
    consistent view taken by prior coordinate Benches of the High
    Court, it is necessary to ascertain whether the High Court
    should have instead referred the matter to a larger Bench for
    consideration. This merits a closer reading of the decisions of
    13
    the Single Judge in W.P. No. 4288/2008 (supra) and of the
    Division Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009. As discussed above,
    the principal issue before the Courts in these decisions was the
    validity of the order dated 01.10.2007 passed by the Finance
    Department rejecting the claim of the drivers’ association for
    Selection Grade and Special Grade pay scales of Rs. 5000-8000
    and Rs. 5500-9000 respectively.
    18.1 The Single Judge in W.P. No. 4288/2008 (supra) and the
    Division Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009 both set aside the
    order dated 01.10.2007 based on the fact that the claimed
    higher pay scales had already been granted and were still
    being received by certain other drivers in several government
    departments, as per G.O. Ms. No. 162. Further, and more
    importantly, it was held that the letter dated 31.12.1998
    wherein such higher pay scale fixations were deemed to be
    erroneous, would not have the effect of reducing the
    entitlement of drivers, as such a letter could not act as a
    substitute for modification of the G.O. itself. Thus, even though
    the Court did not give any express direction to grant the higher
    pay scales as per Serial No. 8 of Schedule II of the 1998 Rules,
    we find that the same was implicit in the Court’s directions for
    fixing the pay scales in terms of G.O. Ms. No. 162. In other
    14
    words, it cannot be said that the High Court in W.A. Nos. 383-
    391/2009 did not affirm the drivers’ claim that they were
    entitled to the higher Selection and Special Grade pay scales of
    Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-9000 respectively.
    18.2 However, in the impugned judgment, the High Court
    only focused on the fact that the conclusion reached by the
    coordinate Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009 was for
    appropriate fixation of pay scales under G.O. Ms. No. 162 only,
    and there was no specific direction for grant of the Selection
    Grade and Special Grade pay scales of Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs.
    5500-9000 respectively. On this basis, the High Court
    proceeded to determine the question of pay scale entitlement
    and took a view diametrically opposite to that of the coordinate
    Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009, finding that the Appellantdrivers were only entitled to the Selection Grade and Special
    Grade pay scales of Rs. 4000-6000 and Rs. 4300-6000
    respectively. In our considered opinion, such an approach is
    based on a narrow reading of the decision of the coordinate
    Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-391/2009, as it fails to appreciate the
    implicit direction in this order to grant the higher pay scales to
    the drivers, as mentioned supra. Thus, it appears that the High
    Court differed from the view taken previously by a coordinate
    15
    Bench based on a misreading of the same. In such a situation,
    once it was found by the High Court that it was in disagreement
    with the holding of its coordinate Bench in W.A. Nos. 383-
    391/2009, it should not have proceeded to decide the matter
    by itself, and in the interest of judicial discipline, should instead
    have referred the matter to a larger Bench for its consideration.
  18. Be that as it may, in the interest of expeditious disposal of
    the matter, we do not deem it fit to remand the matter to the
    High Court for fresh consideration at this stage. Thus, we shall
    proceed to decide it on merits accordingly.
  19. In our considered opinion, apart from claiming parity with
    similarly placed individuals, the Appellants have been unable to
    justify how and why they are entitled to the Selection Grade
    and Special Grade pay scales of Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-
    9000 as specified in Serial No. 8 of Schedule II to the 1998
    Rules, in terms of G.O. Ms. No. 162. On the other hand, on
    perusing the series of revisions made to the pay scales
    applicable to drivers employed with the State Government, we
    find that the applicable pay scales for the Selection Grade and
    Special Grade would be as per Serial No. 6 of Schedule II to the
    1998 Rules, i.e. Rs. 4000-6000 and Rs. 4300-6000 respectively.
    16
    20.1 As the High Court has also noted in the impugned
    judgment, the pay scales of the Appellants can be traced back
    to G.O. Ms. No. 666, Finance dated 27.06.1989, by which the
    State Government issued the Tamil Nadu Revised Scales of Pay
    Rules, 1989, implementing the recommendations of the Vth
    Tamil Nadu Pay Commission. Under these rules, the original
    and revised pay scales of 30 common categories of posts were
    specified. The scale of pay for drivers was mentioned at Serial
    No. 11 in the first part of the Schedule to these rules, having
    been revised from Rs. 610-1075 to Rs. 950-1500.
    20.2 The next revision came through G.O. Ms. No. 818,
    Finance, dated 09.09.1989, whereby drivers’ pay scale was
    increased to Rs. 975-1660. Later, under G.O. Ms. No. 304,
    Finance dated 28.03.1990, Special Grade and Selection Grade
    scales of pay were introduced for persons who had completed
    10 years and 20 years of service respectively. For the post of
    drivers carrying the Ordinary Grade pay scale of Rs. 975-1660,
    the Selection and Special Grade brackets were set as Rs. 1200-
    2040 and Rs. 1320-2040 respectively.
    20.3 Finally, when the 1998 Rules were introduced through
    G.O. Ms. No. 162, the post-wise determination of pay scales
    was replaced by a pay scale-to-pay scale basis determination.
    17
    As already seen in Schedule I of the said rules, the pay scale of
    Rs. 975-1660 applicable to drivers was revised to Rs. 3200-
  20. For this, the corresponding Selection and Special Grades
    specified in Schedule II were Rs. 4000-6000 and Rs. 4300-6000
    respectively.
  21. Against this backdrop, we find substance in the
    submission of the Respondents that the Appellants are not
    lawfully entitled to the claimed Selection Grade and Special
    Grade pay scales of Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-9000
    respectively in terms of G.O. Ms. No. 162.
  22. The only question to be settled, therefore, is whether the
    Appellants are entitled to claim parity with the drivers who
    have so far been granted benefits vide the orders of the High
    Court and this Court, as mentioned supra in paragraph 5.
  23. In this respect, we find that the High Court in the
    impugned judgment was correct in concluding that the
    Appellants cannot claim such relief on the strength of Article 14
    of the Constitution of India, when once it has been found that
    they are not lawfully entitled to the same. It is well-settled by
    now that a person cannot invoke Article 14 to claim a benefit
    extended to someone similarly placed if he is not lawfully
    entitled to such benefit in the first place. Article 14 embodies
    18
    the concept of positive equality alone, and not negative
    equality, that is to say, it cannot be relied upon to perpetuate
    an illegality or irregularity. In fact, this Court has opined that
    this principle extends to orders passed by judicial fora as well.
    Thus, the jurisdiction of a higher court cannot be invoked on
    the basis of a wrong order passed by a lower forum. In this
    respect, it would be fruitful to refer to the following passage
    from the decision of this Court in Basawaraj v. Land
    Acquisition Officer, (2013) 14 SCC 81:
    “8. It is a settled legal proposition that Article 14 of
    the Constitution is not meant to perpetuate illegality
    or fraud, even by extending the wrong decisions
    made in other cases. The said provision does not
    envisage negative equality but has only a positive
    aspect. Thus, if some other similarly situated persons
    have been granted some relief/benefit inadvertently
    or by mistake, such an order does not confer any
    legal right on others to get the same relief as well. If
    a wrong is committed in an earlier case, it cannot be
    perpetuated. Equality is a trite, which cannot be
    claimed in illegality and therefore, cannot be
    enforced by a citizen or court in a negative manner. If
    an illegality and irregularity has been committed in
    favour of an individual or a group of individuals or a
    wrong order has been passed by a judicial forum,
    others cannot invoke the jurisdiction of the higher or
    superior court for repeating or multiplying the same
    irregularity or illegality or for passing a similarly
    wrong order. A wrong order/decision in favour of any
    particular party does not entitle any other party to
    claim benefits on the basis of the wrong decision.
    19
    Even otherwise, Article 14 cannot be stretched too
    far for otherwise it would make functioning of
    administration impossible. (Vide Chandigarh
    Admn. v. Jagjit Singh [(1995) 1 SCC 745 : AIR 1995
    SC 705] , Anand Buttons Ltd. v. State of
    Haryana [(2005) 9 SCC 164 : AIR 2005 SC 565] , K.K.
    Bhalla v. State of M.P. [(2006) 3 SCC 581 : AIR 2006
    SC 898] and Fuljit Kaur v. State of Punjab [(2010) 11
    SCC 455 : AIR 2010 SC 1937].)”
    This proposition was also recently affirmed by a 3-Judge
    Bench of this Court in State of Odisha v. Anup Kumar
    Senapati (Civil Appeal No. 7295/2019, judgment dated
    16.09.2019).
  24. Thus, it is evident that the Appellants cannot claim the
    Selection Grade and Special Grade scales of pay of Rs. 5000-
    8000 and Rs. 5500-9000 respectively, solely on the strength of
    earlier decisions of the High Court, without showing how they,
    themselves, are entitled to such benefit in the first place. In
    such a situation, we are of the considered view that the
    Appellants can only be granted the benefit of the Selection
    Grade and Special Grade scales of pay to which they are
    lawfully entitled in terms of G.O. Ms. No. 162, i.e. Rs. 4000-
    6000 and Rs. 4300-6000 respectively.
    20
  25. Therefore, in view of the foregoing discussion, we find no
    reason to interfere with the impugned judgment. The instant
    appeals are hereby dismissed, and the impugned judgment is
    confirmed.
    CIVIL APPEALS @ SLPs [Diary No. 42301/2017]
    Delay condoned. Leave granted.
  26. These appeals have been filed by the State of Tamil Nadu,
    represented by its Principal Secretary, Finance (Pay Cell)
    Department against the judgment and order dated 05.01.2015
    of the High Court of Madras in W.P. No. 2363 of 2013, and the
    final judgment and order dated 11.09.2017 dismissing Review
    Application No. 153 of 2016 against the same, with respect to
    the pay scale entitlements of certain drivers employed by the
    High Court of Madras in terms of G.O. Ms. No. 162.
  27. These appeals arise out of virtually the same factual
    background as those disposed of above. W.P. No. 2363 of 2013
    was filed by the concerned drivers employed with the High
    Court of Madras, seeking quashing of paragraph 5 of Letter No.
    63305/Pay Cell/2010-1 dated 08.11.2010 issued by the State
    Government, on which basis the Government had denied them
    the benefit of Selection and Special Grade pay scales as per
    21
    Serial No. 8 of Schedule II of the 1998 Rules under G.O. Ms. No.
  28. The petitioners therein also sought a direction to the State
    Government for appropriate fixation of pay scales in the above
    terms.
  29. The Division Bench allowed the writ petition on the ground
    that the drivers were not entitled to any promotional avenues,
    and hence were entitled to the full benefits of the appropriate
    pay scale under Schedule II of the 1998 Rules. It was further
    found that the drivers were entitled to benefits under Serial No.
    8 of the said schedule, looking to the disposal of similar matters
    by the High Court and this Court. The review application filed
    against the same also came to be dismissed by the High Court.
  30. As discussed supra, it has not been disputed before us
    that the drivers concerned were not entitled to any promotional
    avenues. Thus, it is evident that the High Court rightly
    concluded that the drivers were entitled to the full benefits of
    the appropriate pay scale under Schedule II of the 1998 Rules.
    However, in light of our foregoing finding that persons
    employed in the post of drivers in various departments in the
    Government of Tamil Nadu are only entitled to Ordinary,
    Selection and Special Grade pay scales in terms of Serial No. 6
    of Schedule II of the 1998 Rules, i.e. at Rs. 3200-4900, Rs.
    22
    4000-6000 and Rs. 4300-6000 respectively, we have no
    hesitation to hold that the High Court erred in directing fixation
    of such pay scales to drivers employed at the High Court in
    terms of Serial No. 8 of the Schedule II, fixing Selection Grade
    and Special Grade scales of pay of Rs. 5000-8000 and Rs. 5500-
    9000 respectively.
  31. The appeals are therefore allowed partly, to the extent
    that the State Government is directed to fix the pay scale
    benefits available to the Respondents in the instant appeals in
    terms of Serial No. 6 of Schedule II of the 1998 Rules under
    G.O. Ms. No. 162.
    …..……………………………………..J.
    (MOHAN M.
    SHANTANAGOUDAR)
    ….………………………………………J.
    (KRISHNA MURARI)
    New Delhi;
    December 18, 2019
    23