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Manohar Lal Jat and Ors. Vs. The State of Rajasthan and Ors. - (Supreme Court) (26 Nov 2020)

Seniority of promotees is determined on the basis of date of appointment



Present appeals challenge the common judgment of the Rajasthan High Court. The Division Bench of the High Court by the impugned judgment set aside an order made by the learned single judge of that Court and held that, the present Appellants ("direct recruits" or "DRs") were not entitled to claim seniority over and above the Respondents, hereafter called departmental promotes" or "DPs"). The DRs had approached the High Court in the first instance, claiming that the seniority list, showing the DPs in earlier positions, was untenable; the single judge allowed that petition.

The Appellants argued that, the Division Bench ignored the fact that, recruitments in present case were conducted with two different advertisements for the same post, the Appellants who were from open category against 80% quota were selected earlier and the other set of departmental employees were recruited later. In terms, the DR, answered the description of having been selected earlier, and having participated in an earlier recruitment process. On the other hand, the DPs responded to a different advertisement issued later, and underwent a separate selection process.

On a plain reading of the Rule 27 [1] and the two provisos of the Rajasthan Commercial Taxes Subordinate Services (General Branch) Rules, 1975, it is evident that (a) before the amendment of 2002, seniority of personnel appointed to the "lowest categories of posts" in any department was to be determined as from the date of appointment; however, for promotees, it was to be from the date of selection; (b) after the amendment of 2002, seniority has to be fixed (by reason of Rule 27(1)) as on the date of appointment to the post or service; (c) however, in the case of pre-state integration of state (of Rajasthan) or pre-integration of services, seniority could be "modified or altered by the Appointing Authority on an ad hoc basis"- this clearly was meant to be a "sunset" clause, i.e. operative for a limited period; (d) the second proviso,-which is the one pressed into service by the DRs, states that seniority of those selected earlier will be determined over those selected latter.

Plainly, the principal mandate of the Rule is that, seniority is determined on the basis of date of appointment ("shall be fixed from the date of their appointment"). Proviso (2) lists out two rules. The first is that, those selected and appointed through a prior selection would rank senior to those selected and appointed through a later selection process. The High Court, in this case, was of the opinion that this Rule (i.e. proviso) applied to selections from the same source, i.e. where two sets of direct recruits were appointed, those selected through a previous recruitment process, would rank senior to those recruited through a later recruitment process. This interpretation is, in this Court's opinion, salutary.

The proviso clarifies that, candidates from the earlier process would rank senior, despite the main Rule speaking of a date of appointment based seniority. The same logic would apply to departmental promotees, as well, if two batches of promotees are appointed, through selection. The second limb of the second proviso clarifies that when merit based, or seniority based promotions are resorted to, the applicable norm would be seniority in the feeder cadre, to forestall any debate about the Rule of merit (in the selection) being the guiding principle. The impugned judgment, in the opinion of present Court, is not erroneous; it does not call for interference. The appeals are dismissed.


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