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Delhi High Court’s Disposes Petition Questioning Previous Judgments, Gives Clarified Vision of Recruitment Process

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In the present case, a petition was filed by the Petitioners, challenging the judgment made by CAT. Further, the Court dismissed such petitions and reiterated the view of the CAT. Amit Bansal, J. decided that previously CAT had correctly applied the dicta of K. Meghachandra Singh case and thereby correctly proceeded to quash the seniority list to the extent it placed the Petitioners above the Private Respondents. By explaining the two prominent cases a clarified vision was given for the recruitment process of direct recruits, promotees, and transferees. 

Facts of the Case 

In the present case, the Petitioners were appointed as Inspectors in the Delhi Commissionerate of the respondents in the year 2016 under the direct recruit quota.  Likewise, Private Respondents were also direct recruits recruited in the year 2011 in various zones outside Delhi. But they were transferred to the Delhi Zone in the year 2014 as per their request. It is to be noted that on 31.07.2014, a substantial restructuring was done in the department, following which a steep increase in the number of posts of Inspectors in Delhi Zone was seen. Furthermore, on account of the increase in the number of vacancies, the private respondents took a transfer to Delhi Commissionerate from their parent cadre and were placed at the bottom of the seniority list. The Petitioners who were appointed on direct recruitment basis against the vacancies for the year of 2014, joined the cadre only in the year 2016. Thereby,  On 15th March 2018, the Respondents came out with a seniority list of Inspectors in which the respondents herein were placed below the Petitioners. The seniority list was prepared based on OM No. 20011/1/2012-Estt. (D) dated 4th March 2014 which in turn had been prepared in terms of the ratio of the Hon’ble Supreme court in Union of India & Ors. Vs. N.R. Parmar & Ors., (2012).                                                     

The Private Respondents made various representations against the said seniority list. Thereby, On 30th September 2019, fresh OA No.2955/2019 was filed by the Private Respondents challenging the seniority list dated 15th March 2018. The main ground of challenge in the said OA was that the Petitioners who had joined the department after the joining of the Private Respondents cannot be placed above them in the seniority list.   A reference was made to the decision of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in K. Meghachandra Singh &Ors. Vs. Ningam Siro & Ors., (2020), earlier in which the judgment of N.R. Parmar was overruled.  The Tribunal allowed the said OA 2955/2019 and the seniority list dated 15th March 2018, to the extent it placed Petitioners who were appointed and joined Delhi Commissionerate after the date of the transfer of the Private Respondents, was set aside. But the Petitioners were not satisfied with this decision of CAT and hence filed the present petition.

Petitioner’s Arguments 

Ms Maninder Acharya, Learned Senior  Counsel of Petitioners argued that even though petitioners were appointed in 2016, they were appointed against the vacancies of the year 2014. Further, It was submitted by the Learned Senior Counsel that the promotees of the vacancies of 2014 were appointed on 1st April 2014 and the cadre re-structuring was held in July 2014, which resulted in the creation of additional vacancies, out of which 459 vacancies were available for direct recruit quota and 229 for promotion quota. Then, 185 applications for inter Commissionerate transfer were pending from different zones to Delhi Zone; and it was decided that 200 out of 459 vacancies of direct recruits should be filled up through transfer, and the remaining 259 vacancies were to be filled up through direct recruitment quota. Hence, on 2nd September 2014, the process for recruitment of 259 Inspectors on direct recruitment basis started and on 7th December 2014, 240 more vacancies were made available to be filled through direct recruitment quota and 120 through promotion quota. Furthermore,  the Petitioners qualified for the SSC (CGL) Examination, 2014 against the vacancies for 2014, and were appointed as Inspectors on direct recruitment basis in the Delhi zone in 2016. Besides this, on 15th March 2018, the Respondents finalized the seniority list of Inspectors up to 31st March 2015, in which the name of the Private Respondents was below the Petitioners.

Further, the Learned Senior Counsel argued that the impugned order of the CAT is erroneous as it fails to consider that while preparing the seniority list, the recruitment year of the candidates is relevant and not the year in which they join the cadre. Moreover, the seniority list impugned before CAT was prepared strictly in terms of OM dated 4th March 2014 which was based on N.R. Parmar’s judgment and therefore, the seniority list was correctly prepared based on the said judgment. The said judgment was overruled by a three-Judge Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme court in K. Meghachandra Singh’s judgment, which was delivered on 13th November 2019, however, the said overruling was prospective and therefore, seniority already decided in terms of N.R. Parmar (supra) would be protected. Then a reference is also given to the transfer order dated 20th April 2013 in respect of the Private Respondents wherein it is specifically noted that transferee officers will be placed below all officers appointed regularly to the post/grade in terms of para 3.5 of the DoP&T’s OM dated 3.7.1986. It was further alleged by the Learned Senior Counsel for the Petitioners that if the directions of the CAT are implemented, it would also disturb the inter-se seniority between the direct recruits and the promotees. Even The official Respondents, represented by Mr Gaurang Kanth, Advocate, supported the case of the Petitioners. Mr Kanth placed a reliance on para 3.3 of the OM dated 3.7.1986 and defended the OM dated 4th March 2014, in terms of which the official Respondents have correctly drawn the seniority list.

Respondent’s Arguments 

Mr Harpreet Singh, Learned Counsel for the Private Respondents contended that the Petitioners had wrongly stated that the Private Respondents are transferees. However, in reality, the  Private Respondents were not only the transferees but were also the direct recruits of the year 2011, and hence they had a right to be combined with the promotees of 2015. Furthermore, Learned Counsel submits that the Private Respondents were placed at the bottom of the promotees and the direct recruits of 2014. Moreover, before the cadre re-structuring, a total of only  12 vacancies were available for Inspectors in the direct recruitment quota.  And a rise was seen in these vacancies after the cadre re-structuring in October 2014. This number rose to 561. So, cadre re-structuring benefitted the direct recruits as the posts increased. And the Requisitions to fill indirect recruitment vacancies were sent to SSC only after they had joined Delhi Zone. It was further contended that the N.R. Parmar judgment was not applicable because the said judgment dealt with seniority between direct recruits and promotees, whereas the controversy in the present case relates to seniority between two different categories of direct recruits since the Private Respondents are also direct recruits. He further alleged that when the Private Respondents joined the cadre, Petitioners were not even born in the cadre. Then the Learned Counsel, Harpreet Singh submitted that para 3.3 of the OM dated 3.7.1986, was not relevant as the same applies only when an employee is appointed by transfer by the provisions of RRs providing for such transfer in the event of non-availability of the suitable candidate by direct recruitment or promotion, which was not the issue in the present case. He further states that the seniority position was not settled when the K. Meghachandra Singh judgment was delivered, as the Private Respondents had filed objections against the seniority list of 15th March 2018 and also had challenged the same before the CAT before the K. Meghachandra Singh judgment was delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court. Therefore, it is wrong to state that the seniority position was settled.

Court’s Observation 

The Court observed that the seniority position in the present case was not finally settled when the judgment in the case of K. Meghachandra Singh was delivered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court on 13th November 2019. The impugned seniority list was issued on 15th March 2018 and immediately thereafter, various representations were filed on behalf of the Private Respondents against the said seniority list. But when no response was received on the said representations, the Private Respondents filed the OA before the CAT, challenging the said seniority list, from which the present petition arises. Was also taken up before the said judgment was delivered. Therefore, it is incorrect on the part of the Petitioners to say that the seniority position was settled and therefore the same has to be protected in terms of the judgment given in K. Meghachandra Singh’s judgment.  The Court then analyzed the K. Meghachandra judgment. And concluded that OMs dated 07.02.1986 and 03.07.1986 were not properly construed in the N.R. Parmar judgment. Besides,  the concerned OMs themselves proved the fact that the seniority of direct recruits had to be fixed from the date of appointment and not from the date of initiation of the recruitment process. Further, the Persons who were aspiring to be appointed to a vacant post do not have any vested right in.  Moreover, the finding of the N.R. Parmar case that the selected candidate cannot be blamed for the administrative delay was not correct as a candidate becomes a selected candidate only upon the completion of the selection process. Also, the N.R. Parmar’s case had incorrectly distinguished the longstanding seniority determination principles propounded in the cases, namely,  Jagdish Ch. Patnaik Vs. The state of Orissa, (1998); Suraj Prakash Gupta Vs. State of J&K, (2000); and Pawan Pratap Singh Vs. Reevan Singh, (2011).

Court’s Decision 

The Court decided that the CAT had correctly applied the dicta of K. Meghachandra Singh’s case in the present case and had proceeded to quash the seniority list to the extent it placed the Petitioners above the Private Respondents. And hence, the petition was disposed of.

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