Rajasthan HC: Seniority Can Be Claimed Over Direct Recruits Despite Early Recruitment Procedure

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This appeal was against the decision of Division Bench of High Court of Rajasthan dealing with the question of whether the Direct Recruits can claim seniority over the DPs because of the early start of the recruitment procedure of Direct Recruits.

Facts

On 1.09.2009, the Finance Department, Rajasthan Government approved the creation of 554 posts of Tax Assistants. These posts were to be filled as per the Schedule I of amended Rajasthan Commercial Taxes Subordinate Services General Branch Rules, 1975, in the following manner, by 100% direct recruitment i.e., 80% by appointing authority as per schedule III, were referred to as Direct Recruits (DRs) and the remaining 20% from amongst the ministerial staff of commercial taxes department by departmental examination as per schedule II were referred as Departmental Promotes (DPs). 

The advertisement for the recruitment of Direct Recruits (the Appellant), written tests, typing tests, and results for tests for the appointment of Direct Recruits was done before the advertisement and examination for the DPs (the Respondent) but the appointment of Respondents was made before the appointment of Appellant. Thus, the Appellants were asking for seniority over the Respondents. 

This appeal was filed against the decision of Division Bench of High Court, which held that the Appellants were not entitled to claim seniority over and above the Respondents on account of the early start of the appointment procedure. 

Arguments

The Appellant contended that the express term of Rule 27 regards that the “ seniority of the direct recruits (i.e. the appellants and others like them) had to be determined at posts earlier than or senior to the DPs who were selected later”.  Further, they argued that the Commercial Taxes Department deliberately withheld the issuance of the appointment letter and released an advertisement for the recruitment of DPs. In addition to this, the departmental test was preponed, and the process of result declaration and appointment of DPs was proceeded with unusual speed, thus, implying malice against the Direct Recruits and undue and unfair advantages to the DP category.  

The learned counsel alleged that the General Secretary of the Departmental Employees Association had put pressure on the Commercial Tax Department to recruit DPs earlier. The conduct of the state to speed up the appointment of DP quota was to the utter disadvantage of DR recruits. The department had given unprecedented priority to select candidates for the DP quota.

They further argued against the State’s explanation of delay of appointment of DR (time was consumed in police verification and medical checkup not required for DPs) by emphasizing the fact that the appointment letters were issued to Direct Recruits immediately 10 days after the issuance to DPs. 

Lastly, it was contended that Rule 27 was not rightly interpreted by the Division Bench High Court. The Original Rule 27 was amended to determine seniority from the date of appointment, however, retaining proviso (2) of Rule 27. The proviso was retained for comprehensively determining seniority, in cases where selection for the same posts was done through different sources. Although, after amendment, the main rule refers to determining seniority based on the appointment date, and proviso (2) would deal with reckoning seniority when there are two advertisements for the same posts. Therefore, the main rule applied to recruitment by the same source only, in case there are two advertisements for the same post at different times, it cannot be applied. If the result for the first advertisement is released and another advertisement is issued after that an appointment was made in the former case. This will deprive candidates of their order of seniority in their entire tenure and is against the principles of Article 14.

The respondent contended that the posts were vacant for the last two years from the date they were encadred. The police verification and medical check-up took a little while for such a large number of candidates. The 2 months period for this process was not unreasonable as Rajasthan is the largest geographical state with 35 districts. The written test for DPs was conducted on two dates, they need not go through any typing test, medical examination, and police verification because they are working with the government for a considerable period.

As per Rule 27, those selected earlier would rank to those selected later, which would apply in the case of recruits of the same category. Thus, in the DR quota, there are two sets of selection, the rule enunciated in Rule 27 will be squarely applied, however inapplicable to recruitment from different categories such as promotes and direct recruits. In such cases, the main rule will be squarely applied.  The facts on record show that the cadre was created for the first time and recruitment also occurred as a first-time measure. The different advertisement issued for different categories does not make it a separate selection process, they were simultaneous as state intend the appointment for the same post, thus cannot be urged that DR was appointed for the previous year.

The Recruitment and selection process were a composite one and different advertisements were issued out of necessity because there exist different eligibility criteria for DPs and DRs.  This cannot imply that separate selection processes were held, the department had vacancies in a new post for the first time, recruitment has to be considered common.

Court’s Observation

The Court observed that in the case of the same source, those selected through the previous recruitment process would be senior to those recruited later. In the case of those from the earlier process appointed later, the proviso clarifies that candidates from the earlier process would be ranked senior, despite the main rule stating seniority based on the appointment date. The same would apply to Departmental promotees. The second limb of the second proviso made it clear that when merit-based or seniority-based promotions were considered, the applicable norm would be seniority in the feeder cadre, being the guiding principle.

Court’s Decision

The Judgement of the High Court was upheld. The seniority of promotees given based on the appointment date was justified under Rule 27 in the case. The impugned judgment was not found erroneous and did not call for interference.

The appeal was dismissed, without order on costs. 

Click here to read the Judgement in Manohar Lal Jat v. State of Rajasthan.


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