Supreme Court: The Division Bench comprising of Hemant Gupta* and V. Ramasubramanian, JJ., set aside the impugned order passed by the High Court of Kerala, by which the High Court had directed Union government to allocate Kerala cadre of All-India Service to the respondent.
The applicant-respondent had cleared the Civil Services Examination-2006 and was allotted Himachal Pradesh cadre. The grievance of the applicant was that she had a better merit than one Sachindra Pratap Singh (Merit No. 26) who was allocated the Maharashtra cadre as an OBC candidate. The argument of the applicant was that she was higher in merit as an OBC candidate, therefore, she should have been allocated the Maharashtra cadre.
Findings of the Courts below
On the above grounds, the Central Administrative Tribunal Union government to allot and accommodate the applicant against the outsider OBC vacancy in the Maharashtra cadre by virtue of her merit over the candidate already identified and allotted the Maharashtra cadre. Similarly, the High Court observed that the Kerala government had submitted requisition for a minimum of 7 candidates. Even as per the Union, the cadre was of 124 direct recruits and the available officers were 119, therefore, there was a cadre deficiency of 5 officers. Accordingly, the High Court held that admitted deficit vacancies were required to be filled up by following the outsider-insider ratio in the given cycle of 30-point roster, then there would be an insider vacancy, to be given either to the Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes or the OBC. Since there was no SC/ST candidate, it had to be filled up by insider OBC, i.e., the applicant.
The High Court also observed that Administrative Service (Cadre) Rules, 1954 contemplates consultation with the State Government in respect of matter of allocation of cadre. Since there was no consultation with the government of Kerala, the Union was in breach of the mandate of Rule 5(1).
The applicant, though an OBC candidate, came on general merit without resorting to the relaxed standard for the candidates belonging to OBC.
Scramble for the Home Cadre
The number of vacancies of IAS for CSE-2006 was 89 and there was requisition for 108 posts by the States as against the 89 posts available for allotment. Kerala had sought 7 to 14 officers as against 2 officers allocated to it. Noticeably, there were total 595 districts in the country whereas Kerala had 14 districts at the time of distribution of vacancies for CSE-2006. Therefore, the vacancies in Kerala were determined as 14/595*89= 2.09 (rounded off to 2).
Therefore, in terms of the Recruitment Rules, the applicant was assigned Himachal Pradesh cadre as a general category candidate as the applicant had not availed any concessions/relaxations as admissible to OBC candidates and was being considered as a general merit candidate while Sachindra Pratap Singh who was an OBC candidate had ranked 26 in the merit list and had availed concessions and relaxations available to such OBC candidates unlike the applicant. Therefore, as an OBC candidate, he was allocated the first vacancy of OBC to Maharashtra cadre as it was the first State in the grouping of cadres to be followed for cadre allocation. The Bench observed,
“The fact that the Kerala Cadre is deficient in respect of number of officers cannot be disputed by a successful candidate as such candidate had no right to claim additional vacancies so that the applicant can be assigned home state.”
Hence, the Bench opined that the High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction to order allocation of Kerala Cadre to the applicant without examining the policy decision of the Union to fill up only 89 vacancies. The Bench added,
“The argument to claim that the entire deficient cadre should be made by allocation to one State in preference to other 23 States in the country is preposterous. The balancing of claims of all the States is to be carried by the Union and not by one State or by the Courts.”
Consultation with State
The Bench was to examine whether consultation in respect of allocation of cadre was required to be done with the State from which the candidate belongs or with the State to which the candidate was being allocated.
The Union government had argued that consultation contemplated under Rule 5(1) of the Cadre Rules was held with the State of Himachal Pradesh where the applicant was allocated. Noticing that the applicant was on merit as a general category candidate, and as a general category candidate, there was no occasion for consultation with State of Kerala as the applicant was not even eligible to be considered for allocation to the said State in terms of the allocation order, the Bench opined that no consultation was required to be carried out in respect of the applicant with Kerala State. Similarly, considering the fact that the applicant was allocated to the State of Himachal Pradesh and there was a consent duly given by the State of Himachal Pradesh for her allocation to that State, the Bench held that mandate of Rule 5(1) of the Cadre Rules was satisfied when consultation was made with the State to which allocation was made.
Opining that the applicant had taken chance in appearing in the selection process but when she was unsuccessful in getting the home cadre, attempts were made to get into the home cadre on wholly untenable grounds, the Bench remarked,
“An SC/ST or OBC candidate selected against unreserved vacancy as a general merit candidate cannot make a grievance in respect of allocation of cadre but has a right to seek service as a reserved category candidate if that improves the selection of service.”
Considering that the first vacancy meant for insider from a Kerala candidate was filled up by one Prasanna N (person higher in merit) and the other vacancy was meant for outsider OBC, the Bench held that the findings of the High Court were unsustainable in law. Similarly, the findings that the action of the Union was arbitrary as the allocation to certain States were more than the cadre gap was again not sustainable as the 89 vacancies were allocated to the States on the basis of the norms.
In view of the above, the appeals were allowed and the orders passed by the High Court and the Tribunal were set aside.
[Union of India v. A. Shainamol, 2021 SCC OnLine SC 962, decided on 22-10-2021]
Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has put this report together
*Judgment by: Justice Hemant Gupta