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Field Occupied by Statutory Rules Cannot be Governed by Executive Instructions: Tripura High Court

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In Sri Abhishek Majumder vs Tripura Gramin Bank & Anr, Chief Justice Mr Akil Kureshi dealt with a petition that sought to set aside a distinction made between general and specialist cadre exclusively through executive instruction for the purpose of promotion. 

Facts of the Case

Petitioner joined as a clerk in the Respondent Bank after being selected through a competitive examination in 2011, a year later he was selected as a direct recruit to the post of Computer Engineer, further in 2014 as Officer Middle Management (Scale II). In 2019, promotion to Scale III was announced, with 4 vacancies, 2 each for normal channel and fast track promotion. For fast track channel, eligibility was 5 yrs experience in Scale II to which Petitioner applied. However the application was not considered and the reason cited was that the applicant was selected to Scale-II as a specialist cadre, distinct from the general stream. Such rejection has been challenged by the Petitioner.

Arguments Advanced

Petitioners contend that there is no demarcation between general and specialist cadre as per recruitment rules which mentioned the eligibility criteria which is 5 yrs experience. Such distinction has been made artificially without statutory backing and therefore such executive instructions run counter to rules.

Respondents contend that the Petitioner was appointed as specialist cadre due to knowledge in information technology; the Bank does not have a sanctioned post in specialist cadre under Scale-III. Respondents have relied on NABARD communication which stated that a specialist officer can’t be promoted in general category vacancy. The Petitioner was recruited while the recruitment rules of 2010 were applicable and which made a clear distinction between specialist and a general cadre.

Court’s Observation and Decision

The Regional Rural Banks Act was enacted to provide for incorporation, regulation and winding up of Regional Rural Banks with a view to developing the rural economy. Section 17 provides that a Regional Rural Bank may appoint such a number of officers and other employees, as it may consider necessary or desirable, for the efficient performance of its functions and may determine the terms and conditions of their appointment and service. Sub-section (1) of Section 29 provides that the Central Government may, after consultation with the National Bank and the Sponsor Bank, by notification in Official Gazette make rules for carrying out the provisions of the Act. In exercise of powers conferred under Section 29 read with Section 17 of the said Act, the Central Government framed the “Recruitment Rules of 2017”. Sl. No.2 in the Third Schedule of the Recruitment Rules of 2017 pertains to Officer Middle Management (Scale-II). Out of the vacancies for direct recruitment, 10% would be filled up from Specialist cadre such as Information Technology. Sl. No.3 in the Third Schedule of Recruitment Rules of 2017 pertains to Officer Middle Management (Scale-III). Promotion to the post under fast track process has been elucidated as having 5 yrs experience in Scale II on full time and regular basis. 

With respect to whether Candidates who were recruited under the Specialist cadre be kept out, the Court observed that the 2017 Rules were framed with the exercise of statutory basis and hence has statutory force. These rules make no distinction and therefore it cannot be made through executive instructions. If there are gaps in recruitment rules, it may be filled by executive instruction, however, executive instructions cannot run counter to rules. Consequently, the communication of rejection by Respondent was set aside and the application by Petitioner is liable to be considered for the selection process.

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