On 16th November 2020, the Division Bench at Kerala High Court, consisting of Honourable Justice A.M. Shaffique and Honourable Justice Gopinath. P heard the case of Union of India v. Union of India.
Facts of the Case
Arya Sree. T who was the 1st Respondent was selected to the Indian Forest Service (IFS) by the Union Public Service Commission through examinations conducted in the year 2016. She secured Rank No.18 amongst the list of persons found eligible for appointment to the IFS and belongs to the General Category.
Surjith P, who was the 3rd Respondent secured Rank No.80 amongst the list of persons found eligible for appointment to the IFS and belonged to the Other Backward Community (OBC) category. During the medical examination, it was found that he was unfit for appointment on the ground of not meeting the minimum height requirements.
Out of the three people from Kerala who qualified for IFS in that year (including the aforesaid 3rd Respondent Surjith P), only the 1st Respondent and one, Hari Krishnan P.J, who was also a General Category candidate with Rank No.53 were given letters of offer to join the IFS. Based on the Cadre Allocation Policy applicable in the relevant year, there was one insider vacancy and three outsider vacancies.
The said insider vacancy was notified as being set apart to be filled up with a Scheduled Caste Candidate. As per the policy, if there was no Schedule Caste Candidate, it would be converted as one available for a Scheduled Tribe Candidate and, if a Scheduled Tribe Candidate was also not available, it gets converted to be filled up by an OBC candidate. Further, if no OBC candidate was available, the said vacancy was to be filled up by a candidate belonging to the General Category.
It was the specific case of the 1st Respondent that no insider candidate was allocated to Kerala in the relevant year. Since the 1st Respondent was the OBC candidate, who qualified in the examination, namely, the 3rd Respondent, who would have otherwise obtained the insider vacancy on account of the absence of any SC/ST candidate, was found ineligible for reasons indicated earlier.
The 1st Respondent, therefore, claimed that in the absence of SC/ST/OBC candidates, the insider vacancy for the relevant year should have been filled up by a General Candidate and since the 1st Respondent had obtained the 18th rank, it ought to have been offered to her.
The Petitioner contended that the Tribunal overstepped its jurisdiction in interfering with the cadre allocation orders issued by the competent authority strictly in terms of the Cadre Allocation Policy which was applicable at that point of time. It was also argued that the selected officers have no right to insist that they should be allocated to a particular cadre and since a member of the Indian Forest Service is liable to serve anywhere in India, the 1st Respondent had no legal right to claim that the insider vacancy available in the relevant year must be filled up by permitting an inter cadre transfer as was sought for by the 1st Respondent.
The Respondents contended that the 1st Respondent, Arya Sree. T had every right to be adjusted against the insider vacancy of the relevant year as that vacancy ought to have been filled up by appointing her, as, in the absence of any SC/ST/OBC candidate that vacancy should have been reverted to a General Candidate.
The Court, in this case, observed that this was an issue where the Petitioners have admitted that there was an insider vacancy for IFS in Kerala during the relevant year. It was also not disputed that in the absence of any SC/ST candidate, the said vacancy was set apart for being filled up by the 3rd Respondent who was an OBC candidate. It was also not disputed that in the absence of SC/ST/OBC candidates, the vacancy would revert to a General candidate.
The Court found no reason to interfere with the direction issued by the Central Administrative Tribunal. However, the Bench made it clear that the order of the Tribunal and this judgment was not to be treated as a precedent.
The Court stated that the decision was being rendered in the peculiar facts and circumstances of the case and since the candidate allocated to fill up the insider vacancy for the relevant year could not be appointed since he did not meet the prescribed height requirements. The Court directed that the order of the Tribunal which it upheld, shall be complied with by allocating the 1st Respondent to any existing or the next arising insider vacancy in the IFS Cadre in Kerala.
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