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Indian Service’s Jurisprudence Doesn’t Permit Negative Equality: Calcutta High Court

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The Calcutta High Court on 8th March 2021 allowed the Writ Petition by ruling not to interfere with the promotional process already granted with the directions to the High Court Administration to conduct a separate and independent written test and the interview for the petitioner for the post of Assistant Registrar to Deputy Registrar and should be offered a promotion on success. 


The instant petition was filed with the interpretation of Rule 5(3) of the Notification of the High Court issued by the Chief Justice under Article 229(2) of the Constitution of India, concerning the promotion to the various posts. According to the said Notification, a list of 15 eligible candidates was published on 4th December 2019 for promotion to the post of Deputy Registrar which the petitioner used to hold.

Amongst 40 eligible Assistant Registrars, only fifteen were called to participate in the promotion of the post as they formed the zone of consideration due to seniority based on Notification issued by the Chief Justice also under Article 229(2) of the Constitution of India. Formation of the zone of consideration was considered necessary by the administration as only three vacancies were available in the post of Deputy Registrar. 

Petitioner’s arguments

Learned counsel for the petitioner relied upon the judgements, inter alia, in J. Jayalalithaa & Ors. v. State of Karnataka & Ors. [(2014) 2 SCC 401] and Promoters & Builders Association of Pune v. Pune Municipal Corporation [(2007) 6 SCC 143] state that a Statute or a Notification or a Rule framed under powers conferred by the Statute must be followed strictly. Thus, even Administrative instructions or other practices followed wrongly in the past cannot be a precedent.

It was therefore argued that when merit was the only criteria for the promotion process, the Administration was unjustified and thus, acted illegally in applying the zone of consideration principle by inviting only 15 participants in the selection process based on seniority.

Respondent’s arguments

Learned Counsel further, relied upon the judgement in S. B. Mathur & Ors. v. Chief Justice of Delhi High Court & Ors. [1989 Supp (1) SCC 34]. Thus, it was pleaded that the zone of consideration formed by the High Court Administration in the promotional posts though not specifically mentioned under the Rules wouldn’t be fatal. 

It was also submitted that the said 1983 and 1986 circulars issued by the Chief Justice operate in completely different fields and thus, cannot exclude the zone of consideration completely from being applied to promotion. Moreover, the 1983 Circular wasn’t challenged by the petitioner though it was introduced by the Administration in the affidavit-in-opposition. 

Court’s observations

The Hon’ble Justice Rajasekhar Mantha remarked that the indirect methods of introducing criteria and promotion cannot be allowed even when the object and purpose behind the same may be laudable or justifiable. The Court further held that there wasn’t any rational nexus in forming the zone of consideration rule with the object sought to achieve the best available candidates for the three posts of Deputy Registrar advertised by the Administration. It was further observed that a precedent that was followed with deviation in the past thereby wrongly benefitting another person, cannot be pleaded for equal benefit thereto. Therefore, the application of the zone of consideration principle by the Administration in the promotion to the post of Deputy Registrar as published was held to be arbitrary and unconstitutional. 


The Hon’ble Court allowed and disposed of Re: CAN 2 of 2020 petition along with the connected application, CAN 1 of 2020 with no order as to costs.

Case: Sri Bappa Chakraborty vs Registrar General, High Court at Calcutta & Ors. [W.P.A. 23331 of 2019 with CAN 1 of 2020 CAN 2 of 2020]

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