In Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd. v. R. Santhakumari Velusamy, (2011) 9 SCC 510, the bench of RV Raveendran and Markandey Katju, JJ laid down principles relating to the promotion and upgradation which read as under:

(i) Promotion is an advancement in rank or grade or both and is step towards advancement to a higher position, grade or honour and dignity. Though in the traditional sense promotion refers to advancement to a higher post, in its wider sense, promotion may include an advancement to a higher pay scale without moving to a different post. But the mere fact that both-that is, advancement to a higher position and advancement to a higher pay scale-are described by the common term “promotion”, does not mean that they are the same. The two types of promotion are distinct and have different connotations and consequences.

(ii) Upgradation merely confers a financial benefit by raising the scale of pay of the post without there being movement from a lower
position to a higher position. In an upgradation, the candidate continues to hold the same post without any change in the duties and responsibilities but merely gets a higher pay scale.

(iii) Therefore, when there is an advancement to a higher pay scale without change of post, it may be referred to as upgradation or promotion to a higher pay scale. But there is still difference between the two. Where the advancement to a higher pay scale without change of post is available to everyone who satisfies the eligibility conditions, without undergoing any process of selection, it will be upgradation. But if the advancement to a higher pay scale without change of post is as result of some process which has elements of selection, then it will be a promotion to a higher pay scale. In other words, upgradation by application of a process of selection, as contrasted from an upgradation simpliciter can be said to be a promotion in its wider sense, that is, advancement to a higher pay scale.

(iv) Generally, upgradation relates to and applies to all positions in a category, who have completed a minimum period of service. Upgradation can also be restricted to a percentage of posts in a cadre with reference to seniority (instead of being made available to all employees in the category) and it will still be an upgradation simpliciter. But if there is a process of selection or consideration of comparative merit or suitability for granting the upgradation or benefit of advancement to a higher pay scale, it will be a promotion. A mere screening to eliminate such employees whose service records may contain adverse entries or who might have suffered punishment, may not amount to a process of selection leading to promotion and the elimination may still be a part of the process of upgradation simpliciter. Where the upgradation involves a process of selection criteria similar to those applicable to promotion, then it will, in effect, be a promotion, though termed as upgradation.

(v) Where the process is an upgradation simpliciter, there is no need to apply the rules of reservation. But where the upgradation involves a selection process and is therefore a promotion, the rules of reservation will apply.

(vi) Where there is a restructuring of some cadres resulting in creation of additional posts and filling of those vacancies by those who satisfy the conditions of eligibility which includes a minimum period of service, will attract the rules of reservation. On the other hand, where the restructuring of posts does not involve creation of additional posts but merely results in some of the existing posts being placed in a higher grade to provide relief against stagnation, the said process does not invite reservation.

Read full judgment here.

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